Debbie Cohen is Human Resource Director for Razorfish - a consultancy with 2500 employees in 11 countries. They focus on the mix of marketing and technology.
Her talk is titled ‘When Old Ways of Working No Longer Work’, looking at some key areas of talent management in tech companies.
She starts by talking about today’s generation - dubbed the Millennials. She says they are: Confident, Well educated, self fulfilled, tolerant, joiners, socially conscious. Life happens outside of work. Education is a given. They want to know they’ll be working with other bright, creative people.
The reality is that talent is scarce. The birthrate is reducing.
It’s not just the new generation that is changing - the older generations have changed their attitude to work now - partly as a result of the crash. Trust matters, respect matters - and all generations have similar values. They want to work somewhere where politics is not a problem. No-one really likes change. Everyone wants to learn.
Under 30’s number one driver is Strategic Direction and Leadership, two is Rewards, three is Communication.
The key elements to consider in Organisational design are:
- Strategy - lack of this leads to confusion
- Structure - lack of this (in alignment to Srategy) leads to friction. Can be a problem in a growing company.
- Collaboration - if it’s missing, leads to gridlock. Can be a problem as a company grows, or works in distributed ways.
- Reward Systems - if the metrics and rewards don’t support the goals this leads to internal competition
- People Practices - if people aren’t enabled and empowered it leads to low performance
Also, develop your personal brand. If people value leadership as a number 1 driver - what does this mean for what’s required of you? Do you know what you stand for? If you asked your team would they know it?
Life Cycle of Talent Management
1. Attraction and on-boarding
What is the value proposition you have for employees? How do you distinguish your company from others to make yourself the employer of choice? Rarely is money the compelling factor for someone joining your team (and in the rare cases it is, they’re unlikely to stay long).
Always keep new talent in your line of sight. Always know 3-5 more people you could bring into your team, and have your colleagues do the same. Use conferences and events to make these connections. It will cut your time to hire dramatically when a vacancy comes up.
Where do you stand as an employment brand in the digital space? Do an audit.
What is your recruitment process like? The market for talent is hot right now, and you can’t hang around with multi-step interview processes over months. In the interview, listen, don’t talk. Keep momentum in the process and keep it interesting for the candidate.
What information should you give them in advance to give them an idea of who you are as a company, and what your recruitment value proposition is? Will that make them really want the job?
Then when it comes to the interview day, the key questions Debbie asks when interviewing are:
- Tell me the asset you’re walking in the door - what do i get when you join?
- What attracted you to this opportunity now?
- In what kind of environment are you at your best?
- What are your pet peeves? What drives you up the wall at work?
A key thing to do is a ‘chemistry check’. Go for a beer or a coffee.
2. Training and Development
Offer a flexible way to learn, with on the job experiences, coaching and mentoring and self-paced development. Leverage technology. Incentivise for impact
In terms of development, SMART goals are a thing of the past. Educate employees that performance is only a part of the mix for developing their career. There are three things in that mix: Performance, Image and Exposure.
3. Performance Management
One of the biggest errors Debbie has seen is taking a really great tech person and making them a manager - and they hate it and are bad at it. Hire professional managers, and allow your tech people to have a different career trajectory.
She focuses on hiring ‘T’ shaped talent - hiring people with more than just a narrow focus - they have broad expertise, but deep in some areas.
The current generation is looking for broader experiences as they will have 14 to 20 different careers in their lifetime. And it’s okay for people not to live to work - it’s ok for people to work to fund what they love doing outside work.
Pay attention to your ‘solid perfomers’. Don’t think everyone needs to be a rockstar. There are great people who just show up, motor through the work. They don’t get enough love in most organisations.
Look at Skills, Knowledge and Attitude when assessing issues with someone’s performance. If it’s around attitude have a frank conversation and perhaps they need to leave the organisation. If it’s around skills then provide some help but set a requirement for immediate and clear improvement. Knowledge is hard, often it can be through overpromotion that this becomes an issue. Help them to learn.
4. Total Rewards
The one-size-fits-all package no longer works. Allow staff a budget and to spend that in different areas of their rewards. Allow them to shape their package based around their life-stage. There has to be a framework, but perhaps allow them to move their budget between certain areas - eg to get a bigger health plan if their family requires it.
The actual pay packet isn’t what holds people to a job. Although people always want more money, in reality other ‘soft’ elements are more important.
Debbie has boxes of thankyou cards around the office, and they’re used for peer recognition. Anyone can go get a card, write it out and give it to a colleague. People love it.
The anatomy of the team is important, giving really clear structure and clarity about who does what. And you need to recreate the ‘water cooler’ chat if you are a distributed team. It’s important to build relationships in the team.
Debbie says there’s a lot of things to think about in this area - but just to start with looking at what one thing you could do that would make you a desired place to work.