Talent is the Cornerstone. Yes, you read it right, I'm making the claim that Talent comes first. So, it really is "People" then "Process and Technology." Rather than starting with the processes or the systems, companies should focus on finding and hiring knowledgeable people who fit the corporate culture and can (and will) support the transformation very early in the transformation journey. Based on conversations I have had with other Sourcing and Procurement leaders, I think there is clear consensus that finding and retaining the right talent is the most important contributor to the success of and the most difficult part of the transformation journey. In this article I have tried to describe both what we tried to do and what we did from a talent perspective as part of the transformation in my former role with a major payments processing company. If done right, this stuff works.
So, how do you find and retain the right people? Let's start with finding the right talent.
Finding the Right Talent
Think networks. Not the kind with cables and routers, but the kind that is made up of webs of people. There are generally three approaches (there are many more not discussed here) that companies can take to find the right people.
First, think personal and professional networks. Reach out to people you know - essentially contact the people whom you and your key leaders know who will understand the vision and buy into what the company is trying to do.
Second, use LinkedIn and other social networking tools when searching for the right talent. With LinkedIn, managers and recruiters are able to post open positions and provide visibility to those positions to an ever-expanding network of people. With a network of over 65 million users, LinkedIn adds approximately one user ever second, world-wide. That's a lot of potential talent that can see postings and potentially contribute to the company's success.
Third, in addition to networks of sourcing people, think broader and get radical! Think outside the box on the types of talent who possess the skill sets to make a big impact on a Sourcing or Procurement organization, but who may not have a background in the space. We had tremendous success finding Sourcing talent in non-traditional channels. Former lawyers, investment bankers, asset management professionals, and salespeople became "game-changing" deal-makers for us and helped us think about Sourcing and Procurement in different ways. In any transformation, change management professionals, project managers, and others can make a big impact on process, continuous improvements, systems and more.
In addition to these three approaches, we also had our internal recruiters scour the Web for talent in organizations where we knew strong Sourcing and Procurement organizations exist. The point here is that everything should be considered when sourcing talent; and everyone who applies should be considered. Resumes do not always do justice to the capabilities of the applicant. Look at everyone who submits a resume. You never know what you might find.
Retaining the Right Talent
Now that you have hired the ideal candidate, how do you keep them? Retaining talented employees involves three strategies: engagement, transparency, and acceptance.
The numbers vary depending on the source, but generally speaking studies show that engaged employees are more likely to be satisfied in their roles and stay with their employers longer than employees who are not engaged. Employee engagement involves communication and participation.
Communication of the vision and communication about how it will be achieved are critical change management elements that help ensure success of the transformation and engagement of the employees. Employee participation in the transformation as part of working teams and collaborative design sessions is critical and adds significant value. All companies have their unique challenges based on how they developed and how they operate. Having engaged employees allows teams to identify those challenges and incorporate solutions into the transformation plans to deal with them. The more people who can be engaged in developing solutions, the better the solution can be.
Transparency is critical to the success of any transformation initiative. Leaders should be up front with their teams about what is being done and what is working. And they should not be concerned about communicating bad news or about admitting to their teams that proposed solutions do not work. A leader I once worked for used to say, "bad news doesn't age well." This is true. But not communicating frequently and openly also creates problems. I suggest communicating on regular intervals using multiple forms of communication (e.g., town hall meetings, weekly update calls, blogs or other online posts) to ensure that the messages about the transformation, including the good, the bad and the ugly are received and understood by all.
Acceptance is key to ensuring that talent sticks with the organization. Acceptance is about valuing the individual and acknowledging their contribution. It does not mean that everyone's ideas are always going to be accepted and used. But giving a forum for employees' ideas to be considered and acknowledging their contribution and participation will go a long way to keeping employees in the organization. Acceptance is also about understanding that employees contribute in different ways and at different times based on their background and experience. The trick for leaders is to ensure that employees feel their contribution will be valued when and where it happens.
Finally, acceptance is about accepting the changes that will occur. I worked for a boss once who used to say, "different is not always better, but better is always different." Change is a part of transformation and employees and leaders have to accept the fact that things will change and have to be prepared to embrace that change when it comes.
Get it Done
It is also important for leaders to be able to affect the changes needed in a timely way and for employees and the rest of the organization to see that change is happening. If this does not happen in a timely fashion or if the staff believes that upper management is has not bought into the change, they will become frustrated and may consider leaving. Many people are uncomfortable with change. So being able to demonstrate that "things are getting better" is important to retaining talent. People will put up with a lot of discomfort if they can see that the bright light at the end of the tunnel is not the train.
Finding and retaining the right talent is challenging but rewarding. Transformations are difficult enough - trying to complete one with employees who do not fit or who do not stick around long enough to see the transformation through will almost certainly result in the failure of the transformation. Get the talent piece right and the transformation is more likely to succeed.
Good luck on the talent front and with your transformation efforts!