Building a talent bank

More companies are looking to fill positions internally, especially leadership and executive roles. HRM finds out what programmes are helping businesses build resourceful internal pools of candidates.

Having the right talent, at the right place and at the right time is a crucial part of business for every organisation.

This is especially so when it comes to ensuring business results and successful business outcomes.

Seen as a strategic initiative, talent mobility helps companies to optimally leverage their organisational talent pools to fuel business growth.

At present, a rising number of firms are falling short in equipping their employees to take on new responsibilities, or in allowing them to move quickly into new roles.

Respondents to the 2015 Talent Mobility Research Report suggest one of the reasons could be because managers are neither coached on when or how to hold effective career conversations, nor held accountable for developing their employees.

A well-conceived talent mobility strategy has been shown to drive engagement and mitigate retention risks.

As a result, a company will typically benefit from a deep pool of employees that are capable of taking on new challenges, assuming higher levels of responsibilities, and meeting increased demands to drive business growth.

According to Genevieve Godwin, Regional HR Director, J. Walter Thompson (JWT), harnessing internal talent pool is a concept that aligns the evolving industry with the increase in competition for talent from both industry and non-industry competition.

“Our environment needs to be focused on our people to ensure we develop our talent internally,” she shares.

Internal hires also help to retain organisational knowledge and get up to speed in their new roles more quickly than external hires.

“Hiring internally increases and promotes employee engagement,” says James Foo, Head of Group HR, ABR Holdings.

“They are also able to settle in quickly and start performing due to their familiar culture, and can familiarise themselves with the employees as well as organisational and work processes.”

If a company hires externally out of desperation, it may find itself having to offer more than the set budget or even hire candidates that may not be the right fit.

In turn, this can trigger another departure and cause more business distractions.

“The most effective way to avoid this is to build internal talent bench strength and to train, develop and promote from within,” Foo explains.

Schemes in place

ABR’s talent bank places a strong focus on building future leaders for both the short and long term, and provides a platform for the business to grow locally, overseas and across brands.

Its programmes are customised and based on individuals spanning between 12 and 26 months.

Besides internal training and external classroom learning, the training programme matches employees to a particular department or brand, for attachment.

They then partake in certain ad-hoc projects to gain more insight knowledge in that field.

“The programmes help to align our talent management with our company strategy, define consistent leadership criteria across all operations, and identify key competencies for continuing learning,” Foo says.

The talent bank has since helped to equip staff with the relevant skills for leadership roles. It has also enabled the business to identify potential internal talents.

One example of this impact is the ability to quickly plan outlets with a core team to prepare openings locally, overseas, and across the different brands.

As part of an effort to address company and industry changes, ABR’s talent programmes are reviewed periodically.

With this in place, the firm is able to identify the skills required by individual talents and whether they need more training.

The team at JWT, however, looks to continuously improve its talent programmes to harness internal talents.

“Culture is at the heart of this as we believe our talent programmes and our culture need to be intertwined for success,” Godwin explains.

“In 2015, our culture was redefined for our business creating the “C4 values” of curiosity, courage, collaboration and capability, which embraces our pioneering spirit and the way we work.”

Aligned to this, is the “High Potentials Programme”, which is an annual event that targets rising stars across the business.

The firm also holds several leadership development programmes aimed at low, middle and high level managers.

Each of these programmes is designed to build the key leadership and industry skills required for the respective roles.

“The communication of goals is one of the keys to aligning our talent strategy with business strategy,” Godwin shares.

At JWT, managers regularly look for opportunities to conduct open dialogues between various levels of leadership and teams.

“We want everyone to understand the direction of the business, and by aligning their goals, understand how they are contributing to it,” she adds.

Seeing results

Through talent programmes such as these, Foo believes that ABR has improved its talent attraction and retention efforts.

“Our leaders recognise the performance of our staff and every staff member has equal opportunity for growth and development,” Foo says.

“Thus, it actually helps our employees become more committed to our company and achieve higher levels of job performance and staff retention.”

Since the implementation of their schemes, Godwin also points out that JWT has been on track with achieving its diversity targets.

Measuring the success

The 2015 Talent Mobility Research Report revealed that organisations are not always using available technology, systems and processes to acquire, track and measure information about their workforces.

Nearly 50% of respondents indicated that their firm rarely or never used talent management software.

A third of them also cited that their organisation rarely or never tracked internal talent moves, with another quarter of them stating that their respective company did so only “sometimes”.

While software applications are often overlooked, they do allow organisations to run their businesses more efficiently.

They provide key data and insights to help them assess, manage and develop the skills and experience of employees.

Godwin shares that good analytics are key to measuring successful talent programmes.

JWT conducts annual employee surveys through a “pulse check” on the workforce to identify areas of successes as well as of concern or potential improvement.

Monthly and annual reviews of internal and external acquisition metrics are also conducted as part of an effort to indicate how successful the advertising firm has been at building talent internally.

“The detrimental effects of buying too much talent externally for our business may involve high costs to hire and train staff, skills gaps and low employee morale,” she says.

ABR has an alternative approach to measuring the success of its talent programmes.

It does so by conducting employee satisfaction surveys and by evaluating employee retention, the cost of turnover and the impact these have on the company’s profit margin.

Seeking the external market

Retaining talents continues to be a challenge across the region.

To overcome this issue, Foo notes that the implementation of internal staff development plans, benefits and engagement programmes are useful.

He adds that the decision to hire internally or externally is largely based on the nature of the role, internal supply of talent, and the organisation’s strategy.

The lack of “bench strength” may compel external sourcing and may be a result of specific or needed skills that are not already available within the talent bank.

Yet, buying talents does have advantages, as it allows hiring managers to access the far larger supply of candidates from the open market.

“The external talent also brings fresh ideas and new skill sets into the company,” Foo concludes.

Talent poaching on the rise

Poaching talent from other companies is more likely to happen in Singapore than in any other country, according to a Robert Half survey.

Seventy-nine percent of firms responding to its research had lost a good employee to a higher paying company over the preceeding 12 months.

China trailed closely behind as country with the next highest frequency of talent poaching, with 71% of firms having suffered from it. This was followed by the United Arab Emirates (65%) and Japan (65%).

Globally, 52% of firms stated that they had lost a good employee to a better offer.


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Sandeep Aggarwal, Chief Financial Officer of Aon-Hewitt Asia-Pacific, shares his thoughts on the Workday finance and HR analytics platform. He says the cloud-based system is intuitive and easy-to-use, but still provides powerful insights across the functions.

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