Tackling Talent: Advice from HR Pros

In the final installment of our four-part series on crafting an effective talent strategy, HR leaders share their best tips that any executive can apply to their team.

by Guerrero Howe

Lorna Hagen is the chief people officer at OnDeck, an online lending company whose clients are mostly small- to medium-sized businesses. One of her focuses is on diversity training—screening for unconscious bias, for example—but she is hoping that by hiring the right people now, no one will even need that training five or ten years in the future. “Intellectual capital is the future of work,” she says. “Critical thinkers don’t need [diversity training]. They are simply open to what all people have to offer.”

Awareness of the unique facets of an organization and industry is a valuable outlook emphasized by many HR executives, especially Sally Buchanan, the vice president of people & workplace at Twitch and former senior vice president of HR at Sony. In the video-game industry, she explains, traditional HR pillars can seem overly formal. “Our people strategy needs to be aligned with our brand strategy, which includes our product strategy,” she says of her time at Sony. “We recognized that meant adjusting to fit our environment, so that’s what we did.”

This awareness couldn’t come out of the blue. Buchanan conducted an internal survey of the HR effectiveness and alignment at Sony, and found that the department needed to be streamlined in order to function efficiently. Once that streamlining was completed, each HR representative was able to communicate clearly to others what their role was and how it aligned to business strategy and brand.

To properly align initiatives with talent the executive team must first be sure that the talent fits the organization’s strategy. For the senior vice president of HR for Bayer US, Dick Caldera, developing and thinking about that strategy is an important first step. However, making sure that strategy is enacted by the right people is essential. “Without that, strategy is just a piece of paper on a shelf,” he says.

Once that has been established, a logical next step is to develop those individuals to the best of their abilities while simultaneously assessing and planning for the organization’s future talent needs. After assessing the state of talent within the company as a whole and designing the process for succession, the next key step is to keep associates at all levels engaged. “Communicating with them early on will drive needed engagement,” explains Ann Giambusso, executive vice president of HR at Charmer Sunbelt Group. She also notes that testing and assessing the success of that plan ensures the right decisions continue to be made.

Outside of focusing on strategy at the macro level, organizations must ensure that initiatives are beneficial on the individual level as well. Enabling the right people can lead to company-wide success, as well as meaningful development and success for that employee. While executives may not always be interacting with every employee on a daily basis, providing the tools for success and putting a human face on the business can make a major impact on every member of an organization.

As Steven Rotman, chief people officer at Ipswitch, Inc., and former vice president of HR at NaviNet Inc., explains, that drive for development and empowerment is essential. When he first joined NaviNet Inc., the nation’s largest healthcare communications platform, his role was mostly tactical, managing benefits and payroll. However, he became a true partner to the business when he focused on the individuals he worked with. “They don’t work here for the Ping-Pong tables, pizza Fridays, or chair massages—though they love all of them; they work here because they feel that they are recognized, given a chance to stretch their intellectual muscles, and the opportunity to contribute in a space where everyone can feel the impact,” he says.

The word “everyone” is key. Partnering with HR executives on initiatives that value diversity and inclusion can make major impacts on individuals that would otherwise be overlooked, but it can also empower and unlock previously underutilized potential in the workforce. ManPowerGroup’s Mara Swan has found success in highlighting women in the organization who had theretofore been overlooked for growth opportunities. “Women are the most underutilized resources worldwide,” she says. As executive vice president of global strategy and talent at the global human resources consulting firm, Swan has been able to work to transform inclusive workforce practices, which in turn have led to greater success for the organization as a whole.

Additionally, this inclusion can take many different forms. “What I’m most passionate about is how you get the best culture and performance out of all people,” Swan says. Across all functions, if an executive wants the best result for their organization, overlooking any potential talent or innovative thought could be a major detriment to success.

Interested in more from this series? Check out parts 1 through 3:

Part 1: The Talent Challenge
A look at the talent market, by the numbers; evolving workforce needs; and why HR can’t do it alone.

Part 2: Why the CEO Sets the Tone for Talent Strategy
How Ed Wise and Nancy Lakier established a culture where talent development could thrive.

Part 3: Talent Perspectives from Finance, Legal, Tech, and Operations
Read how executives from SurveyMonkey, Paypal, Capital One, and more make talent a priority from their seats.

Share the entire series with your team as a white paper. Download “Every Executive Impacts Talent Strategy (Even You).”