HR Learner in Development

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Books are not the only resource in an academic library. The talent management process of librarians is vital to the success of the student body.

I recently finished reading “Talent Management: Cases and Commentary” as edited by Eddie Blass and found it to hold an exercise that I could produce for the organization that I work in.  As it is structured, the book goes through several talent management philosophies and processes from several different organizations.  Following are the results I deduced for an academic library.  Feel free to flush out the talent management structure of your company by following the same structure.

For the purposes of shared understanding, ‘talent’ as it applies to those individuals deemed as potentials for organizational leadership and success.

Talent Dimensions:

Size of Talent Pool –  In some organizations the talent pool can be quite large, but for the University Library, talent is limited primarily to the librarian roles, which is where I will focus my analysis.  Of the near 300 full-time employees working within the Division in staff, administrative, and technical positions, only 10% are the faculty talent.

Entry Criteria – Becoming a librarian within the Division is determined with great scrutiny.  The interview process alone has several stages where an individual must complete a rigorous interview process and present their current research and how it relates to the librarian position available.  The rate of entry seems to be roughly 1% for every librarian role.

Decision Process – The search committee initially determines entry into the Library Assistant rank.  A search committee can range from 4 to 8 individuals with vested interest in the success of the role.  On top of the search committee, the candidates are approved by both the Division’s Director of HR as well as the Dean of the library.  Reaching the Assistant level and Associate Curator level requires additional scrutiny by tenure track faculty members.

Permanency of Definition – The talent pool is not completely permanent here.  If a librarian is not staying current within the field or is not publishing (publish or perish) they will not move on in the ranks and will be managed out.

Recruitment as a Source of Talent – Talent can be recruited from both internal and external candidates.  The percentages for the past three years has shown roughly 20% internal and 80% external in placing librarians, although once in the librarian roles, these individuals may expand their responsibilities beyond the specialty they were brought on to advise in.

Transparency – The talent management process is made clear to all faculty members.  The Division aims for transparency in this and all other processes.

Development Path – The career path for the librarians is laid out with specific guidelines and milestones.

Development Focus – The focus at the library is on the strengths of our librarians.  As a leading academic library, our librarians need to be current and at the top of their field which demands a high degree of specialty within their subject areas.

Support – Support comes from the organization and within the talent pool.  The atmosphere is collegiate, so knowledge-sharing and collaborative innovation are the norm.  Talent is allowed leave in order to work on further research and they are supported financially while travelling to area-relevant conferences.

Influence on Career – At the end of the day, it is up to the individual to put in the effort to remain current and on top of their field.

Connected Conversations – Our librarians can speak to line managers, directors, and HR for suggestions on conferences or other ways to further their own personal research or publishing.

Organizational Values – The organization values supportive teamwork and collaboration.

Risk – The structure of the university creates a low risk promotion and succession planning model.  Hiring decisions are made by many individuals as a group and are not taken lightly.

Performance Management – Performance management varies in that some degree of output and input is necessary in the operation of the library and its departments.

Talent Management Process – The process is explicit to those who are within the talent pool, but more vague to those outside of it.  While the procedural documentation does exist, those who are non-facutly members do not generally read the faculty manual in order to discern what the success factors of being faculty would entail.

Use of technology – Counter-intuitively, technology is rarely used in the talent management system.  It is upon managers to communicate with employees directly and use paper based evaluation processes to determine the success of the talent pool.  Within the development aspect, however, technology is used as a learning method.

Systems Flexibility – At this point the system is somewhat inflexible.  University protocols call for certain measures to be taken and for the most part, status quo remains the norm for talent management, except for on a case by case basis.

Ownership of talent – The division wants its talent to flourish, but ultimately, it falls on the employee to produce results.  Front line managers may play an encouraging role, but it is up to the employee to fulfill all of the requirements and expectations of their role in order to succeed and move on in the organization.

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In putting a Rewards and Recognition system in place, pay special attention to how the system is playing out. Some of what you are doing may be working against your goal.

I have been reading a bit about Talent Management in a book called “Talent Management: Cases and Commentary,” edited by Eddie Blass and published by Palgrave Macmillan. I came across a passage that struck me as being both counter-intuitive and valuable.

I come from a department that has spent a great deal of time rethinking rewards and recognition, finding it something to strive for as a Division, following our strategic objectives.  However, rewarding talent can also have a dark side.  If the rewards structure is built in a way that pits people against eachother, negative cultures can emerge as follows:

1. Mercenary – Money comes before, and often at the expense of, teamwork

2. Networked – This culture is highly politicized and people know how to manipulate and backstab in order to compete internally

3. Performance – This culture is demanding, with no break for the employees who must always hit the right numbers for the bottom line

4. Communal – Everybody wants internal approval and no body wants to rock the boat making th decision process slow and innovation next to non-existant. 

5. Communication – There is little feedback and things may not be done as said.

The goal, therefore, is to find a framework that provides a proper amount of encouragement and support for people to work together towards the greater good of the group.  Above all, if you are trying to implement a successful rewards or recognition program, always remember to make the process transparent and fair so that people can understand the decisions, and perhaps strive to be in the favored group down the road.

While thinking about the culture of your organization may seem a no brainer, starting the conversation can be quite puzzling.

Culture, as dictionary.com puts it, is defined in part by  “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture”.  Every business, company, branch, department or any subsection of an organization has a culture of its own.  Thinking strategically, the organization’s culture should trump all other subgroups in a way that creates a coheisive culture for the whole.  Of course different branches or departments could have different ways of carrying out what needs to be done, as they should.  However, making a coheisive culture throughout is a bit more complicated.

But how is a company’s culture formed?  Following best practices, the culture should come out of the strategic plan for the organization.  If you don’t have a strategic plan, business plan, or other company goals, now would be the time to rethink your business strategies.  Take the time to understand your business and the needs of your clients. From there, you can determine what sort of people and what sort of behaviors fit within your organization.

Most of all, actions speak louder than goals. It’s great for a strategic plan to have lofty ideals of why the company was founded and where it’s headed.  It’s quite another for business leaders within the company to take some actions to bring those goals to fruition.

But honestly, does the strategic goal make sense?  I mean that in two ways.  First, does it set forth goals that fit with what your company is all about?  Does it address the needs of the organization and the services that it provides? It is important that these questions are asked not only once but on a continuous and routine basis, so that as the company’s need changes, so too will the goals change to fit it, along with the company practices. Second, do people know what the heck it’s trying to say. Strategic plans need to be clear, concise, and understandable to everyone.  Not only that, but the plan needs to be reachable by everyone.  Without theplans being widespread throughout the hieght and breadth of the company, there is no chance that the goals will actually be acheived in any manageable way.

So what kinds of actions need to take place to bring the strategic plan to life? These ideas can and should come from anyone who works in the company, but the final call falls to the leadership of the company. Just thinking, however, about all aspects of a business, the strategic plan should have a grasp on processes all throughout the organization.  The following is just a short list of the many which need to be closely tied to a company’s strategic plan:

Recruitment and Hiring Decisions

Retention Practices

Advertising and Marketing

Research and Development

Company Metrics

Promotion and Compensation Decisions

Learning and Development

Overall Policy Decisions

Of course I am missing many, but I hope to be able to touch upon many of these in future posts.  I have reviewed my Division’s strategic plan, framed it in work conversations, and analyzed it some more with additional reading on my own, and I wish to impart a little of what I have found.

Be on the lookout for employees to pack up and leave. Keep your team feeling appreciated and challenged to reduce the risk of mass exodus.

A lot of businesses and organizations have seen an increased number of people willing to stay with the company for longer periods of time over the past year or so. 

As the economy starts to improve and people feel more comfortable with the job market, people are likely to start looking around again.  The challenge of the company to retain these valuable resources, or when all else fails, to find better ways to make their talent’s knowledge transferable.

 Unfortunately for organizations, if they haven’t made steps to retain by this point, they are in serious risk of loosing a good number of employees in the near future.  During a period of recession, it is in the best interest of the company to train and cultivate their talent.  If employees are being retained for longer periods of time, people understand their jobs better, and they understand their role within the company.  The true struggle is for the company to get the employees to buy in to their mission, or even just their benefits.

Several key ways to retain your ‘flight risks’ are to:

1.  Identify potential flight risks – It sounds simple, but identifying the groups that are more prone to leave is a vital part in identifying ways of retaining them. 

2.  Identify the needs of these groups – Whether that be more money, more responsibility, more time off, or what have you, try to glean this information from your talent.

3.  Identify the needs of the company – During the economic realities of today, the company may not  be able to support of the needs of those the company wishes to attain.  However, recognizing the amount of latitude a company’s budget and resources has can really point to what can still be done to reward, recognize, and support that talent group.

4.  Review the strategic goals of the company and the department.  If you don’t know what they are, find out.  If the strategy is poorly defined, clarify and make it strong.  In reviewing the strategies, identify areas which can be enhanced.  Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.  Your company may have had to downsize due to economic hardships over the past few months.  You may be tempted to recreate the same structure when the economy does improve, but don’t.  Realize that you now have solid talent that has been with the company for a good amount of time, most likely performing the same tasks for a long time and more.  Some of these people may now be qualified for a position twice the level they are in currently.  Take advantage of their specialties and their knowledge of the company, and restructure in a way that gives the company a better edge.

5.  Align the needs of the individuals with the strategic goals of the company – While the money might not be in place to move your talent to roles which would meet their career goals and intellectual needs, identifying the potentials and giving them the support that they need to get to that future state now will improve the chances that when the growth can be made, the talent is already in place to move up.

6.  Show them you care – By doing the steps above and more, you will be showing your talent pool that you appreciate them and would like them to continue.

There is more than one way to attain your goals and actualize your dream career, and you don't have to do it alone.

As mentioned before, I am on the bottom rung of my career development.  Working myself up from assistantship is my current goal, and my long-term goals revolve around being a point person for learning and organizational development.  Career development is at the forefront for me right now, but I hope that I never lose my drive for self-improvement, or my status as an advocate for career growth.

Just today, my boss told me that he is pleased to see me taking an active role in my career development.  He went so far as to say that I have a better base right now than my current supervisor had coming in to his position.  At the same time, he gave me the impression that I should be moving on soon.  My internal struggle tends to be how long is too long, and how quickly is too quick?  These questions make up the subtle nuances of career development that I am not yet versed enough to understand.  In the meantime, I do have a few workable tips for career development for you:

1.  Ask for feedback – One of the most valuable ways of finding how much you are growing and how much you still need to improve is to ask those around you (not just your supervisors but your colleagues as well) to provide feedback.  Feedback can be a double edged sword.  Given correctly, it can really motivate the recipient to take an active role in improving performance and taking charge of results.  Done incorrectly, it can discourage.  My advice to you is to not shy away from a negative session.  While discouraging and disheartening, keep an open mind.  Was there truth to what was said?  Is there anything you can turn into a positive?  Always keep in mind, however, that negative feedback needs some time to breath.  Don’t be rash.  Take some time to mull over what was said.  Definitely don’t lash out at the giver of advice.  That can be very dangerous to your current position, and possible future prospects in the company and in the industry.

2.  Talk to your supervisors about your goals – There may be projects that they might be able to assign that will bring you closer to learning more about your areas of interest, or give you skills that will bring you closer to your goals.  Be aware, however, that not all supervisors appreciate this candor.  You need to assess your relationship with your supervisors in order to determine whether this is a feasible option for you.  For instance, as petty as it sounds, there are some supervisors who really don’t want their key team members to progress because they hope to utilize their skills, expertise, and man hours for as long as possible.  Others really want to see their junior employees to fly the coop and grow.

3.  Speak to those people in positions you wish to attain – Try to get advice from the people you idolize.  Perhaps you really want to serve in the role that they currently have in a few years, or even in a decade or so, after additional training.  Ask them how they got there, if they have any advice, and what skills are useful for the position.  Ask what it is about the position that they truely enjoy, and what it is that they have grown to accept as a part of the role they must play.  Ask them about the interplay between their role and how it plays in the greater scheme of the department, divsion, and organization.  You may learn that you would not enjoy being in that position as much as you initially expected, or you may learn about some means of getting there that you weren’t aware of before.  Either way, you will be making a contact out of someone who has been there.  This mentorship will benefit you, whether you decide that path is for you or not.  Please be aware that this relationship, like that of the supervisor, will also need to be handled tactfully.  Hopefully you are not gleaning advice from this mentor only to gain tips as to how to steal the job away from that person.  I am not here to judge, but be aware that your perpective mentor may not be as open to share with you if he or she thinks that his or her position is in danger.   Try to find someone who can be open about what it is they do, even if that means branching outside of your own department or company.

4.  Take classes – If your company offers any professional development courses internally, try to sign up for them.  If your company offers tuition reimbursement, take advantage of it.  Don’t think of these things as perks, but as a part of your take home salary.

5.  Step outside of your comfort zone – Whether that means speaking to your supervisor about possible learning opportunities for you, or volunteering for a work committee, expanding your horizons is not only a great way to learn more about other people and other opportunities, but it is one of the best ways to learn about yourself.  Learning what you are capable of and what your areas of growth could be are key in personal and professional development.

6.  Keep an eye on where you’ve come from – It is all too easy to improve one area only to let another area suffer.  Keep a rein on where your strength areas are, and where your growth areas are.  You don’t want them to flip around.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking those strengths are safe.  Be especially careful of times of stress; these often bring out the worst of the worst, and the worst of the best.

7.  Finally, keep your goals in sight – Know what you are aiming for, and evaluate what is attainable.  Having lofty goals can often be completely demotivating, so make sure you can have manageable goals with set milestones or steps.  If there is a milestone you are struggling to achieve, perhaps you need to reassess your goals.  However, as mentioned before, don’t forget to utilize your contacts and your network – social, professional, or global – in order to obtain some additional assistance or advice to overcome some hurdles you may be struggling with.

The start of a blog is a new adventure for me.  I’ve never really done this before, so forgive my noob tendencies – I’m sure they will present themselves pretty frequently.  But the true purpose of delving into this world is for my own self-fulfillment.  I am a young professional, often getting too far ahead of myself, and I’d like a place to develop my professional voice, mindset, and overall share of thought.   My field?  Human Resources.  As a current Human Resources Assistant, I’m truely at the bottom of the barrel, but I know I am capable and can grow within the field.  My true interest lies in a mishmash of Training, Coaching, Talent Management, Change Management, and Organizational Development. 

Therefore, as I delve into learning more about the track that I am on, I hope that you, reader (if you exist) bare with me, pitch in when you want to give your two cents on a matter, and hopefully grow with me.  I hope to really bring some thought provoking ideas to this board, and I won’t stop until I have some solid information under my belt.  With the help of SHRM, ASTD, the Harvard Business Review, Professional Development courses and a massive library at my disposal, research is at my fingertips, and hopefully I can put something of what I learn to good use – if not for me, then for some reader out there without these resources.