Season 5, Episode 10:
deep dive into HR, The Talent Continuum Explained
Steve sat down yet again with Joan Morehead to discuss her talent continuum, a concept for summarizing everything that HR should be doing for a company.
From bringing in new talent to managing employee transitions within a company, Joan and Steve cover it all in this week’s Recruiter Fuel.
The Talent Continuum in a Nutshell
Joan and Steve have both discussed how confusing HR can be, even for herself as an HR practitioner.
“For my own sanity, I put together this model that said, “what are the key phases of HR?”
But she emphasized that it wasn’t a life cycle:
“I don’t look at it as a life cycle, I look at it as a continuum, because to me, life cycle assumes death cycle.” Instead, Joan views it as a continuous, circular cycle rather than one with a start and a stop. It goes all the way from attracting new talent to retaining them – and beyond.
“And then there’s transition. And people always saw the transition as [the employee going] out of the organization. But it doesn’t have to be. Transition can be into your next role inside the organization. And guess what happens then? You start the cycle all over. You’re attracting them.”
Steve mentioned how drastic of a transition this can be, switching roles within a single company.
“[They’re transitioning] into that new position, that new responsibility, into that new role. Because potentially if they’re in a new division reporting to somebody new, it’s almost like a new job all over again.”
Joan concurred. “It is! And there’s one transition that happens really hard, is that individual performer to leader. And we forget how to orient people to that new set of expectations. So that’s why I like that continuum, because you start over again at the very beginning and you leave nothing for chance.”
After providing an overview of the continuum, Joan dived into each step more in-depth.
How Do We Focus on Customer Expectations?
“There’s a piece on the outside, the focus on the customers. It all has to tie back to, how do we support our customer expectations? So that we can do the same thing with our customers, we can attract them, we can bring them in the organization, we can help show them how we’re going to perform for them. So it’s slightly different, but the phases really are applicable to customers as well.”
Steve and Joan agreed that when you think about it, there’s a lot of similarity between how organizations attract and retain customers and how they treat talent. The common thread is that it’s all about meeting the customer, candidate, or employee’s expectations.
A Give-Gain Proposition
Joan then talked about the give-gain proposition at the core of the continuum. They talked about how at the heart of employee-employer relationships, there’s a give-gain proposition: an employee gives their organization their time, talent, energy, skills, etc. in return for compensation.
Joan also emphasized that employers need to be consistent with their “give.” Employers and employees need to remember that they have to generously give in order to gain the most. But that doesn’t always mean monetary compensation. It can also include events, parties, mentorship, professional development, and a host of other benefits or perks an employee may want from their employer.
“And it works really well when we have economic changes. Because if you’re going to treat me one way when the economy is good, and another way when the economy is bad, guess what…it changes the game, right? And it’s the same thing for the customers. So the model works well for customers too. It’s that give-gain proposition.”
To recap Joan and Steve’s past conversations on attraction, Joan always talks about it as a “magnet.” It’s about employer branding and having a reputation and image that makes people want to work for you. Since the two had discussed this concept at length in past episodes, they spent less time on this step here.
“Some companies are just using the poles of the magnet wrong. So instead of attracting people, they’re pushing them away.”
Joan tossed the ball to Steve to explain recruiting.
“I think the key to recruiting is no longer – never was – skills, you know resume, that was the only thing that so many people have looked at for so long…we follow a process called results-based interviewing. And it’s really about what are the key things that they have to accomplish in that role. We’ll backtrack to what we think they need to have in order to accomplish that. So we’ve gotta find folks that have accomplished something similar in a perfect world – because if you did it once you’ll probably do it again – then we’ve gotta make sure the fit is good there as well.”
“We’ve talked about this – we became a Predictive Index certified partner some time ago so we can really focus on that fit even better, so that we can focus on the whole human being, not just knowledge skills and abilities, which we always go after, but what’s in their head and ultimately what’s in their heart. And if we can do all of that…[you] leverage your attraction piece, we’ve got the recruiting.”
“But now I’ve gotta do a hand-off, now what happens?”
Joan talked about how bringing a new hire into the organization should be a group effort between HR and the hiring manager. From the get-go, simple things like parking should be made clear to the individual so that they know what to expect and where to go on their first day.
It may seem trivial, but having a positive first impression and onboarding process is critical for retention and engagement. Joan discussed how we can understand the expectations of new hires.
“It is really important. And people know what the base is. But then you have to ask the question, somebody who’s starting with this team, in this role, “what are they going to expect?” And one way to understand that is to ask them: “what do you expect in your first day, in you first week?”
Joan and Steve agreed that few organizations would think to ask that question. Instead, we typically adopt an attitude toward new hires along these lines: “this is what we’re going to give you, work with it.”
Joan clarified that onboarding goes past the first few days. “It’s not just that first day or the first two days – it’s using something that I call visual mapping. It takes you into certain checkpoints, maybe that first week, maybe the first 30 days, 60 days, 80 days.”
“If you put in a visual format what that looks like, and some of the key touchpoints underneath those, then the employee knows what to expect and the leader knows what to expect, and HR knows what’s going on too.” It ensures everyone is on the same page.
Joan talked about when performance management comes in, namely after onboarding. Typically, in the first 30 days or even six months, an employee is not as useful. They’re still learning about the organization, managers are still learning about the employee, and everyone’s trying to find their balance as a team. So we bring in performance management once the employee is more acclimated.
“You’re now setting expectations for the future. No surprises. If you operate out of a framework of no surprises, then it opens the dialogue, there’s better understanding.”
Managing in this fashion eliminates assumptions, and we all know what they say about assumptions!
Rewards Follow Performance
Joan then broke down rewards – and the section wasn’t exactly what we expected. When someone performs, they’re rewarded. Compensation could be monetary or non-monetary. But that’s not all:
“There’s upside and downside rewards. Downside rewards are called consequences for not performing. That is still a reward- you get what you performed for. But you know the rules, that’s critical. And so, again, no surprises.”
Steve and Joan then noted how all of these components help build a positive culture. Culture is a very ambiguous term, but when you break it down into individual pieces, it’s easier to understand and make necessary changes. That directly leads into the next step…
“We want to keep people who are performing.”
Joan did point out that there’s no point in retaining non-performers.
“You’re not doing anybody any favors by holding onto people that maybe are miserable in their job, maybe they didn’t know how to do it in the first place, we didn’t bring them in right, we didn’t understand what their talents were, and their strengths…” Regardless of the reason for lackluster performance, if you’ve tried to boost the performance and it’s just not happening, it’s best to let them go.
“That retention piece is driven by everything you’ve done up until this point.”
“Transition has always been looked at…as someone leaving that organization. It doesn’t have to be. They’re moving across, maybe they’re moving to a subsidiary.”
And yet, starting a new role in a different division, with a different team, new manager, and so forth is very similar to starting a new job at a new company. Which is why we start over at the beginning of the process again.
“You use the visual mapping, you use the systems that you have in place, for that person as they evolve into different roles, and again, no surprises. The conversations are enlightened, rather than top-down driven, two-way conversation. And you’re really doing something that I think a lot of organizations have a huge gap in, which is that succession planning piece.”
Bringing it All Together
Steve commented that he felt like this was the best way he had ever seen the role of HR explained. Often organizations handle the different steps of recruiting and onboarding as very clunky with lots of stops and starts, but Joan’s method flows smoothly between each phase.
When they joked about the colorful diagram, Joan emphasized the importance of communicating these big concepts clearly:
“I’ve long said, if you can reduce something to a coloring book and crayon story, it doesn’t mean you’re trying to dumb it down for anyone…it means that you’re trying to simplify it so that other people can understand it. We’re just translators…we take what we understand really well, and if we translate it for other people who aren’t experts, and if we can tie it back to the business, the goals, the outcomes…then that’s where the magic happens.”
Simple, but not easy – and definitely not as confusing as HR is often made out to be!
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