Talent management: Prepare for the recovery

Winning in a Changing World
22 April 2010

Lieve Creten Rolf Driesen, Consulting Partner and Lieven De Groodt, Human Resources Director

At Deloitte, talent is a core business. With the economy on the brink of recovery, companies must switch from defensive to offensive talent management. Consulting Partner Rolf Driesen, Talent Partner Tom Declercq and Human Resources (HR) Director Lieven De Groodt explain the how and why.

What does talent mean to Deloitte?

De Groodt: Our capital consists of our talented employees working to solve problems and questions for our customers. Managing and investing in that talent pool is vital in developing and keeping our qualified employees. As a ‘people’ firm we aim to provide accurate innovative solutions during both a crisis and a recovery.

Declercq: Our most recent pulse survey (January 2010) indicates that three to one respondents feel the worst is behind us and that we are seeing the first signs of recovery and growth. This means that companies should shift HR policy from a defensive to a more offensive one.

What characterises a defensive HR policy?

Driesen: A defensive policy is useful for surviving through difficult times, when companies are forced to focus on saving in costs and limiting the impact of a declining business. Often, the result is layoffs and restructuring, as well as setting new priorities. In most scenarios the talent agenda is under pressure and tough choices have to be made. This typically translates to less career opportunities, reduced training offer, and less fun and team activities.

We have achieved new dynamics by innovating in HR.

Tom Declercq, Partner Deloitte

With recovery on the horizon, companies are switching to a more offensive HR policy?

Driesen: As indeed they ought to. A period of recovery mostly focuses all attention on the market, customers, new business, takeovers. Company management is in need of a partner to help them succeed, to make that difference by mobilising the right people. HR priorities change drastically over some three to four months. Suddenly it is all about deploying the best forces where they will have the maximum effect. Creating new functions to give upcoming talents new opportunities for development becomes the order of the day again. HR must be armed to take part in the debate on growth and putting the right employee in the right place, while taking into account the ambitions of the talent pool. The lure of the competition will play a role as well, meaning a coherent policy must be in place on many front lines to maximise the commitment and loyalty of teams. At the same time important projects are being reviewed, such as the content and efficiency of leadership and management development programmes. Why? Difficult times demonstrate the efficiency of such programmes. Lessons are integrated into the strategy to better arm our talents.

Declercq: In addition to flexibility in their work, our people also expect flexibility in building their careers. Different people have different personal and professional needs during their career. Wherever possible we work out a solution – a ‘custom made’ career if you will – with the employee.

De Groodt: Our considerable investment in a new process for system and performance management and competence development has created clear expectations, an open communication and transparency for our employees. It has allowed us to translate a firm strategy to individual goals and focus. At the same time it shifts attention to competence development and makes the career ambitions of our employees crystal clear. All our employees have an individual coach helping them to align their achievements with the firm strategy, and that is yielding rewards. It is the foundation for further construction of our coaching culture.