Talent Management: Terms & 9 Box Reporting

Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks terms and 9 box reporting. Confused? Read on.

Terms and 9 Box Reporting
This week I’ve decided to write up a bit on Talent Management terminology as a lighter bite for the week. I’ve gone into some functional depth in the last few weeks and so thought it would be good to maybe lighten things for a week.

Hippos and Hippies
I’ll start to drill into Performance Management in the next few weeks, but before I do I’d like to look at the terms so that when I then talk about them everyone is not confused…

Hippos (actually Hi-Po’s) are High Potentials. High Potentials are people in the business who have been recognised as being possible leaders of the business in the future. I actually found a pretty funny website here http://www.highpotentialssociety.org/Society/society.html for people who want to classify themselves as high potentials – but the reality is that in business it is important to be able to identify those people who have the potential in the future to really drive the business forward. To understand who is a high potential, and to understand more just google the term – you’ll find loads of data about this term.

Hippies (actually Hi-Pe’s) are High Performers. High Performers are people in the business who in their current role are performing very well, and are good at what they do. They will normally be very competent in their job role, and will be getting high scores in their performance appraisals.

9 Box Reporting
It makes sense that a person who is a high performer could also be a high potential – but a high performer might not be a high potential for a number of reasons. Maybe the person is happy where they are and does not want the extra responsibility that comes with a more senior position. Maybe the person is in a deeply technical role where there is no value to the business in moving them further up the organisation.

HR Directors have therefore found a diagrammatic way of dropping people into boxes in a graphical report commonly called a 9 box report. It is a matrix where one axis rates people based on their high potential score and the other axis rates them on their high performance score. I like this diagrammatic view.

9 Box Reporting

As you can see, if you put people into the various spaces in the grid, then you know a bit more what you should do with them. Software systems give the business the ability to rate people as Hippos, Hippies, or both – however I would always remember that the system is just a tool – companies still have to rely on the abilities of their managers to rate individuals – a bad rating because of lack of knowledge can still drop an individual in the wrong box…and this can be detrimental to the business and to the individual.

Businesses try their hardest to retain people in most quadrants, and will try to have their churn (rate at which people leave and join) be of people in the bottom left quadrant.

By the way – two interesting things:

1. There is also a 16 box – where the scales are 4 by 4. However the more boxes the harder the management becomes.

2. I once met a senior HR manager at a UK event who presented on this subject. She spent a lot of her time producing a set of 9 box reports for her 100,000 person organisation. She was very proud of the myriad of excel spreadsheets she maintained…a lot of hard work that modern Talent Management systems should now support.

Talent Pools
I would love to define this this week but I’ve come to the end of this week’s chapter – so let’s talk through Talent Pools next week, and then we’ll move into Performance Management after that.


Talent Management & Competency Assessments

Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks about competencies and assessments.

360 Assessment
Competencies and Assessments

Many of us think of assessments as things that are used in learning to assess a user’s understanding of a set of education. Assessments in the Talent Management world are a different beast altogether, and the purpose of this week’s blog is to review assessments in the world of Talent Management.

Last week I talked a bit about competencies – leadership and technical. The critical talent in a business can be the people who are identified as the future potential leaders of that business, but can also be the deep techies, who we can all love to hate, but who at the same time are sometimes the more critical talent of the business. People with the ability to lead effectively are in demand, but some technical abilities can be truly unique and therefore quite often it is the people with technical competencies that can be the critical talent for the business.

At some point each year (and for some businesses and roles at multiple points during the year), the business will want to have a person’s competencies assessed formally. Assessments of this kind normally are not something that you can do via a test – it is not an assessment that we, with our learning backgrounds think of – it is normally more of a subjective measure of the abilities of an individual, and this is where there can be a challenge for the business and for HR.

The 360 degree Assessment

Let’s give a real example of this in action. Fred is a call centre manager, and at a personal level his manager doesn’t really like him much. However he is good at the job, is liked by the people who report into him, and has a good reputation with the customers. In a normal organisation with a pyramid organisational structure, and in a pressured business environment, it might only be his manager that will formally score him against his competencies, and this might cause an issue since his manager doesn’t really like him. More and more businesses and HR are therefore trying to move to a 360 degree assessment model, where Fred is assessed by his manager, by the people who report into him, and by other people, including maybe even the customers who work with him, and the people who work alongside him.

This is called a 360 degree competency assessment, and there is software out there that will do this automatically. The benefit of this approach is that the ratings become more objective and less subjective if the business involves all the right people in the rating of his ability to do the job. Some software will allow the business to weight the scores, so that maybe the manager’s rating counts for 50% of the score, the subordinates total 30% etc….

There is always a negative to this and the gotcha here is that the more people you involve, the more time it takes, and the more admin it needs – paralysis by analysis again can easily rear its ugly head.

Things to think through with assessments

Competency assessments can be as complex an area as the business wants it to be – consider these questions:

1. Should a rater be named on the assessment, or be anonymous? If someone rates you with a poor score would the business want the person being rated to know who it was that gave him that low score. The ability to set a rater as anonymous is sometimes asked for, but both ways can have positives and negatives – anonymous ratings with comments are often constructively more useful as the rater feels more able to be honestly constructive about the rating. However anonymous ratings may not give the person being rated the ability to ask the rater why a rating was given or how they could improve. So there is not a right answer here.

2. How many people should be involved? – the more the better, but too many and you get paralysis through analysis.

3. Should you have different setups for different jobs? – for instance if you have a retail organisation with high turnover and you set the assessment so that everyone is assessed in a 360 degree way, is it right to have a shelf stacker rated in the same way as a senior manager – of course not – so you need to have a flexible approach where 360 degree assessments may only be used for areas of the business and people where it will benefit the organisation.

4. Do you want comments at all, or just ratings? – comments can help but again take longer to put into the system.

5. Should you even involve the extended enterprise? – customers and suppliers – should they be involved at all in rating your people? Their opinion will count for customer and supplier facing people, but do you want to expose them to your internal appraisal systems.

Trends and my thoughts

There are lots of considerations here, and there is no right answer, but to finish off this week with some high level trends and thoughts:

1. There is a movement away from subjectivity towards objectivity.

2. Some organisation wrap the competency assessment into the performance appraisal – but the 360 degree assessment can be done at any time of the year, and often businesses will isolate one from the other.

3. When linking competencies to learning the last thing most organisations want is to have the rating of a person move upwards automatically after the person involved has attended training related to a competency. Businesses are much more interested in seeing that the training has allowed the person to be more effective in that aspect of their job, and so while we often want to link competencies to training so that the business can allocate suitable training based on competency gaps, the business will want to have a period of time then after the training before the 360 assessment to see how the training has affected the competency of their workforce. Some systems allow the business to visualise the uplift in competencies and link this to delivered training and this is one of the “nirvanas” for the L&D department….

Enough for this week….next week I’ll move on to Performance Appraisals – a subject we should all know well.

Talent Management 2: Competencies, Ratings, Scales & Pitfalls

Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks about competencies, ratings, scales and pitfalls. 

Another week gone; I can focus back on one of my areas of interest – competencies and use of competency frameworks.

Again – like most of the Talent Management space – the use of competencies by clients will vary, but generally competencies fall into two main categories – technical and functional/leadership.

Fundamental Building Blocks
Understanding competencies in a business means that first you need to understand where and how competencies might be used. They are the glue that joins learning to the other areas of Talent Management and they are a fundamental building block if a business is to have success in this area.

When I say a fundamental building block, if you compare a Talent Management strategy to a large house, then competencies are the foundation bricks that allow you to then construct the rest of the house. Think about it this way…if you assume that Learning is not there purely to put a tick in the box for compliance, and you think about the broader business drivers for a business wanting to deploy learning, then you have to start to think about the business being able to quickly get it’s people well trained at the jobs they do. People in the business who are already well trained (and competent) will want to use training as one of the components to enable them to move upwards in the business. The business will want to use training to fill any gaps in knowledge where they are possibly considering a person for a senior and critical position for the business (this is part of succession planning).
All of these situations first of all require the business to have a defined set of competencies, and without them none of these activities will work.


Gartner’s View of Talent Management
At this point it’s probably worth going back to my blog last week – I said then that there was a fairly simple diagram that I liked about Talent Management – and this is it:

Gartners View of Talent Management

This is Gartner’s view of  Talent Management – and the reason why it’s good to bring it out now is that you can see two things from this: Competencies go across the entire strategy & learning is only one of 7 pillars.

So moving from Learning into Talent is a big step.

Implementing Frameworks
The next questions to think through are:

1. How long does it take to define a competency framework?

2. Who needs to be involved?

3. Do companies sell frameworks?

Unfortunately the answers to the first two are not easy….I spent a full day at Disney in Orlando a couple of years ago sitting in a room in one of their hotels defining and mapping the competencies for 2 fictional jobs that we used for an exercise with about 10 clients. Defining

competencies can take a long time, and you typically need to involve the business leads – the people who know what is needed to do the job well. Therefore there is time and cost involved in defining the framework.
One interesting aspect to question 3 – you will tend to find that a lot of companies sell leadership based frameworks as Leadership is fairly well understood and the competencies of a leader therefore tend to be fairly well defined. However technical competencies are often specific to the business, and often therefore take more time to define – as the business needs to do this from scratch normally.

Paralysis through analysis
HR Directors can be quite critical of competency frameworks – some of them have already gone through one round of trying to implement them and if you’re not careful implementing a framework too deeply can cause paralysis through analysis – the business takes so long defining, and then measuring scores for individuals relative to their job/role that it costs the business too much money and things grind slowly to a halt.

Focus on strengths
Not many systems out there allow businesses to focus on strengths – most systems look at competency gaps – and this tends to make businesses focus on weaknesses and not strengths – I got a lot of feedback in my time from HR Directors who when selecting key Talent wanted to focus on strengths – often the most Talented people can actually be quite annoying people, and they often have some real weaknesses – but this is outweighed by their strengths. So don’t think that competencies and using them is the panacea for everything Talent related….

Competency rating scales
To be most effective each competency has to have an associated rating scale. This then let’s a business rate their people on that scale. Person A might have a rating of 1 out of 5, and person B has a rating of 4 out of 5. Training requirements will differ for person A than person B.

Next week
Next week I’ll talk about ratings for competencies and how these can be done. This will bring us onto 360 degree assessments and performance appraisals.

What is Talent Management?

Business people jumping in the airA big welcome to Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions who is our guest blogger for the next six posts.

In this series of blogs, Steve will give us an over-view of Talent Management, taking in competencies and ratings; competency assessments; terms and box reporting; performance appraisals and PDPs; and succession planning. In this first blog post, Steve provides a top level overview of talent management.


What is Talent Management?

The reality is that Talent Management has been around ever since people hired people. As companies got larger and larger it became more and more difficult to sort out the good from the bad, the workaholic from the lazy, etc. Human Resource Management groups were born, and as software evolved then groups like PeopleSoft came to the fore to sell solutions to these groups. I worked for PeopleSoft for 8.5 years and even though nobody ever used the term Talent Management, there were still a group of applications that did the functions that Talent Management systems of today try to do.

The second real truth. Not one vendor of software has a fully functional Talent Management solution. Not one. Many vendors claim to have Talent Management solutions, and some cover a number of the vertical pillars of Talent Management but nobody does it all. It is actually very difficult to provide all of the vertical components; even Oracle is not able to do this yet…so if you get into a debate with a client always bear this in mind. So back to what it is… I will shortly share a diagram that I liked about it, but basically, Talent Management covers recruitment, workforce planning, performance management, succession planning, learning, and goes all the way through to compensation management. It is a full circle approach to the management of the people within your business, where performance affects compensation, compensation affects performance, learning affects performance, performance and potential affects succession planning, etc etc. I’ll cover much more detail on each part and what to think about when selling and talking about it at a future stage…but back to the high levels…

Who do we sell Talent Management to?
We then come to the conundrum of selling Talent Management….most companies that you sell into do not have an integrated Talent Management strategy. I found over the years and am still finding it today that a business’s internal structure will tell you a lot about what you can sell them. Most companies still have someone responsible for L&D, and you will often find three things about this person:

  • They don’t talk very often to the HR Director.
  • They know nothing about performance and Talent, and if they do, they have very little influence over any decisions related to this.
  • Their budget and their empire is very much focused on Learning.

Talking to HR Directors you find that most of them have very little real interest in Learning. HR Directors are focused on three things:

  • How do I support the CEO’s aim to maximise shareholder value – otherwise known as operating profit?
  • How do I make my business an *attractive place for people to want to work? E.g. How do I attract the best Talent?
  • How do I minimise the churn rates in my business?

They are often looking two or three years in the future, but at the same time you often find in talking to them that fire-fighting takes much more of their day to day activity than they would like. IT systems are often seen more of a challenge, and with Learning only being one component of a full solution, in actuality they are more likely to take the view that a single corporate view of people from a single system would add a lot more value than multiple silos for learning, development, performance, compensation etc. However since the business has a group who just looks after the L&D requirements you are actually likely to find that the HR Director has a HR business that is not ready to take on an integrated system – so most businesses will still come to market with a specific part of Talent Management and with an RFP where the “strategic direction” they want from the software vendor is for an “Integrated Talent Management Strategy”. In reality most businesses current structure will make this a difficult thing to implement…

Ok – so I hope this helps – top level on Talent Management, and top level on who NetDimensions sells Talent Management solutions to. I intend to drill down in the coming chapters into the different functional areas, and next week’s blog will link us from learning into competencies and the management of these things – the positives and the negatives, how most vendors talk about competencies, and the average HR Director’s view.

Bye for now, Steve.

Information Overload: Why Your Knowledge Dump E-learning Will FAIL

By Maresa Molloy, Instructional Designer

Man at computer surrounded by filesWe love when clients come to us full of enthusiasm for a new e-learning programme but comments like: “Our staff need to know our policies – let’s put them online into an e-learning programme,” or “We need to make sure they’ve read all the material – an e-learning programme is perfect!” can set the alarm bells ringing.

Educating staff on new information, and identifying whether or not they’ve read and understood the material, are perfectly good reasons for developing an e-learning programme. Bombarding your staff with everything you know about the information and making sure they can recite it word perfect is not.

Imagine trying to educate your staff on Health & Safety and providing them with pages and pages of policies and procedures on Health & Safety and then expecting them to list these verbatim. This is clearly not a good idea – they’ll never remember all of the material and they’ll get bored fairly quickly.

Now imagine providing your staff with a course which teaches them the key information on these policies and procedures and showing them how to apply these in their work. This is clearly more effective.

But how do you split the wheat from the chaff?

At Aurion Learning, we believe that the key to designing a successful, performance based e-learning programme is to identify current performance gaps. To do this, we use what we call our ‘DIF analysis’:

  • What tasks do your learners find Difficult?
  • What tasks do they find Important to their jobs?
  • What tasks do they do Frequently?

Once you know these tasks, you can design a course which targets what they really need to learn, and furthermore, you can spend more time and resources focusing on making this content more interactive and enjoyable.

Don’t Do
Assume that your goal is to increase their knowledge. Identify what they need to do differently.
Provide all of the information you have on the subject. Provide only the information that can help them do something differently.
Ensure that they know all of the information. Ensure that they can use the information.

(Source material Cathy Moore)