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Leading Off
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The safety of those you lead will always come first, but as the worst ravages of COVID-19 come under control and more and more offices reopen, your attention—virtual and real—will naturally fall on how people have changed during the pandemic and how they must continue to change. Managing people and their talents is at once the leader’s essential task and leadership’s defining test—one whose degree of difficulty has soared. New business models are everywhere, technology has swept away work boundaries, skills are in hyper-demand, and values such as purpose, equality, and inclusion have risen on the talent-management agenda. So this week, let’s sharpen your talents to better manage the talents of others in this brave new world.
Talent has left the building
“Literally…,” since the outset of the pandemic, write the authors of “The post-pandemic rules of talent management” in Harvard Business Review, “…and we’re now beginning to realize that in many places, it is unlikely to come back.” A whole lot of noodling is already going on about what the ideal hybrid work schedule might look like, while anxiety spikes among employees who say they’ve heard far too little from employers about postpandemic work arrangements. Are HR departments up to the task of crafting strong and durable talent strategies critical to recovery as technology separates workplace and workforce and builds business culture and a true global talent pool far from HQ? Some tips can help.
That’s the percentage of organizations that have stepped up skill building since the beginning of the pandemic. News flash: skill building is red hot as a talent-management strategy, far outpacing other actions to close skill gaps. And leaders from the C-suite to the shop floor should take special note: most of the skills that companies are focused on developing are social, emotional, and advanced cognitive.
A big number exhibit
“We’re learning more and more that the only way to truly build strong capabilities is by doing the hard work. You build capabilities while building the future. You don’t do it in a classroom on the side.”
So says Bjӧrn Annwall, who leads Volvo Cars in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. At Volvo, the pandemic set off a “fire drill” in changes to building and selling cars and forced management to acquire new capabilities on the fly. In this conversation, Annwall describes lessons learned, including how capability building—which had been fragmented and often outsourced—is now being consolidated inside the company to emphasize “long-term competency journeys” closely tied to career pathing.
Deanna Mulligan
Talent management is so critical to the leader’s agenda right now that we’re delighted this week to turn the stage over to two talent authorities. “We need to reorient the way we recruit and hire people and train people based on skills descriptions not job descriptions,” is the message from Deanna Mulligan, the former chair and CEO of Guardian Insurance. Of the 350 million jobs that McKinsey research estimates will change over the next decade, 75 million will go unfilled. In her recent book, Hire Purpose: How Smart Companies Can Close the Skills Gap, Mulligan argues that technology is a critical lever in making needed changes in traditional recruitment protocols.
Where can employers source those workers in a diverse, fast-changing and increasingly digital economy? Consider the 70 percent of the American workforce who don’t have bachelor’s degrees. That’s the focus of Beth Cobert, chief operating officer of the Markle Foundation and one of the few individuals ever to have held the title of chief performance officer of the United States. In this interview, she offers advice to business leaders: be clear about the skills you’re looking for, and focus on them in job descriptions, rather than simply repeating what you’ve asked for in the past.
Time to tune up your escalators
different colored rolls of paper
If your business is like so many others today, it has been raising its consciousness about racial equity and the benefits of building a diverse workforce. Each week brings a new wave of commitments to address these concerns. Sincere as those commitments may be, it’s not news that for a long time, equally sincere commitments have failed to gain traction. Perhaps it is time to explore why. One problem, write the authors of “To build a diverse company for the long term, develop junior talent” in Harvard Business Review, is that too many employers focus too much on hiring and too little on creating the “internal escalators” necessary to raise diverse talent up from within, including measurable training to help workers move up. Another problem is that companies often blame a “pipeline problem,” writes Anne Chow in Fortune. Better, she says, that organizations step back and look at their processes, including where they go to begin the talent search. In the absence of long-term relationships with schools and programs building diverse talent pools, it will be difficult to systematically alter the course and complexion of hiring plans. Finally, too many companies fail to look deeply enough within at diverse groups and their unique challenges. Case in point: research unearths the extra mental-health and remote-working burdens the pandemic has imposed on working mothers, who make up a third of the US female workforce, as well as steps employers can take to support and advance them.
Lead with talent.
— Edited by Bill Javetski, an executive editor in McKinsey’s New Jersey office
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