Best Practices: Addressing Talent Development and Acquisition

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and having the cultural mindset to embrace the needed diversity of the workplace.

Today’s guests are Donal Conn, President and CEO of Donal Conn Associates and Lynn Knight, President of Talent Function. To hear the entire show, click here.

On the show today, two talent experts discuss best practices and process of talent development and talent acquisition based on their years of experience in the field.

Donal Connbest practices

Donal Conn has been in the learning and organizational development field for about 25 years. Before starting his own consulting firm, Conn was the Chief Learning and Organizational Development Officer at Momentive Performance Materials where he established enterprise-wide global learning and development functions for over 11,000 associates located in 43 countries. He was named ‘2009 Vanguard Executive of the Year’ by Chief Learning Officer magazine for this role.

Filling Industry Gaps

While spending a number of years on the learning and training side, he was becoming increasingly frustrated with the selection and quality of the training centers when it came to training talent across cultures on a global level. Either most of the programs were extremely academic, obsessing over theories, or they were very specific to one kind of culture or leadership best practices. So he ended up designing a lot of global-level programs with his in-house team in order to create a different model. While networking at industry conferences he figured that there were many professionals who shared this frustration. Thus, about five years ago he got together with some of these executives and embarked on an entrepreneurial journey and created Donal Conn Associates to fill these industry gaps. The company comprises of award winning Fortune 500 executives. Their programs are very pragmatic with very little theory and lot more action items customized to fit the needs of their clients.

Addressing Cultural Differences

According to Conn, organizations spend a lot of time talking about global company culture but the reality is that the local and social workplace norms are probably going to shape the experience and workplace behaviors of the global employees a lot more than a logo on a paycheck. “We often do a pretty lousy job of adapting to those cultural differences. What might be a best practice in the US may actually be a bad idea in India. If you want to centralize your compensation and benefit section, there are going to be a lot of differences in the local law and regulations. You can centralize your performance management function as long as you have a consistent mission and vision. But real-world procedures have to be flexible enough,” he explains. This applies to the learning and development function as well. A class designed at the headquarters may be a smashing success there but the same class somewhere else in the world maybe less effective. Thus, Conn believes that adapting to cultural norms, and not just corporate culture, is sacrosanct to talent management. This is true even within a country because the sub-cultures in various cities are very different. These cultures should dictate how you give feedback or design training programs or leadership concepts.

Employee Development Programs

“There’s a big difference between education and training,” says Conn. “Often what people design as training programs end up being education programs. It’s like how you learn to drive a car. There are two components – first you need to learn the rules of the road and then you take an education test to prove that you’ve learned the rules but you’re still not ready to actually drive the car. The second component is the road test, which is a training component. Both of these components are necessary to learn driving. However, most of the training programs are only educational programs which result in heightened awareness but there’s never any follow up to prove that the program has changed behaviors or impacted the business.” Conn strongly believes that a real-world training aspect should be incorporated into employee development programs.

What Are You Reading?

Donal Conn is currently reading the “Globe Study” published by Wharton School of Business. It has a lot of data around how managers in large global organizations react to cultural dimensions. He suggests HR and talent professionals to read about these dimensions of culture or culture clusters because they help a lot while implementing different talent programs across borders and cultures.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with Donal via his website

Lynn KnightBest practices

Lynn Knight jumpstarted his career in the talent acquisition field about 20 years ago. He first started working with an employment agency and then moved to an IT direct placement firm and eventually made his way into corporate recruiting. While he still believes he is a recruiter at heart, about ten years ago he became a consultant specializing in recruitment processes and technology and has been doing that ever since. Currently, he is serving as the President of Talent Function, a boutique consulting firm, where his responsibilities involve business development, supporting sales and marketing as well as business partnerships consulting for companies on an ongoing basis. Talent Function’s mission is to reinvent talent acquisition for leading global organizations. The company helps its clients with talent acquisition strategy, business processes that support the strategy as well as identifying, implementing and optimizing technological solutions.

Loopholes in Current Talent Acquisition Processes

From a process perspective, Knight feels that recruiters often get hooked onto buzzwords and focus only on figuring out if a candidate is a skill-set match or not. While it’s important that candidates have the professional and technical competence, it’s just a single part of the equation. When recruiters are going through the process of screening resumes, they tend to just stick to certain keywords that they’ve been fed and pass on the resumes to the hiring managers. According to Knight, it’s also very likely that the hiring managers haven’t been properly trained as interviewers and they end up asking ineffective questions. They look for desired skills but they rarely identify culture fit or leadership capabilities which are essential for an individual to affect the organization as a whole. “We’ve been fooled into thinking that hiring the most skilled candidate will produce the highest achiever. I think that’s dead wrong because there’s a bigger element to it. The skills define what the work is while the culture defines how the work gets done,” he explains.

Revitalizing Talent Acquisition

With the talent acquisition process, companies have the opportunity to fill in the gaps by recruiting, screening, identifying and selecting not just top-performing talent but talent that already fits that organization’s culture. Thus, the onus of making sure the candidates have a great initial experience of interacting with the company falls on recruiters and hiring managers. Just like branding is important for a company’s image in order to do good business, it is important to sell a company’s culture to attract candidates. In order to vitalize the talent acquisition process, a well-defined social media brand is important. It can help attract the best possible candidates just by having the word out there. According to Knight, social media is a great medium to broadcast a company’s mission statement and values. It helps candidates figure out whether they’ll fit into the organization or not. Also, the careers section of the company’s website is the first place candidates visit to find opportunities and get a sense of the company culture. “You can’t just throw job descriptions with buzzwords on that page. You need to build in the cultural element of how you get the job done and not just what you do it,” advises Knight. He encourages companies to add specific references to the culture wherever possible.

Identifying the Right Candidate

Considering the sheer volume of applications that companies receive and the need to screen and weed out resumes based on a number of criteria, it’s really difficult for companies to identify the right candidates. The reason for such high volume of applications, according to Knight, is that either the candidates are not doing their research from the information that’s available to them or the information is not available to them and they don’t understand the requirements. “We would see a lower candidate to job ratio if more candidates were doing their research upfront. If the information is readily available on social media, company website and clearly written job descriptions, then it will result in an outcome that companies desire, that is the candidates will screen themselves and figure out whether they’ll be a fit for the role or not,” he explains.

What Are You Reading?

Lynn Knight is currently reading The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging Peopleby Gary Chapman and Paul White. The book gives an understanding on how people like to be rewarded and how that helps engagement.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with Lynn via his company website or follow him on Twitter @LynnDavidKnight.