A Look Ahead at Talent & Workforce 2016 / 2017: Customize, Innovate & Respond






Cartoon Woodchuck holding Groundhog Day SignAs many of you know, I came back from leave about six months ago. Upon returning, numerous people asked me if anything had really changed in my absence—one even went so far as to say, “Does everything just feel like Groundhog Day to you?” The answer is a resounding no. There is so much new happening in our space! Today I’m going to share some of the changes I see and how we will help our members understand and respond to them more effectively in the upcoming year.


We live in an era of personalized, networked, and increasingly seamless experiences. Technology enables us to have “customized” interactions at scale, whether it be receiving tailored recommendations from a favorite web retailer, targeted outreaches from marketers, or personalized responses to compliments or complaints about a company via social media. Our Facebook pages integrate all the people from our past and present—from networks both professional and personal—into one never-ending feed of information. Further, a variety of Internet-powered applications enable us to easily connect with information and people from all around the world. These capabilities are, in many ways, simply breathtaking.

Yet despite the prevalence of these experiences, there is one part of life in which they have not made significant inroads: talent management. Despite years of effort, the talent acquisition, performance management, learning, leadership development, and diversity and inclusion (D&I) experiences at most companies can hardly be called seamless, let alone networked or personalized.

To do this, organizations need a new model of talent management. This new approach requires organizations to stop seeing talent management as a transaction or a service (e.g., paying people, clarifying job roles, delivering annual reviews). Instead, they need to view the talent experience as a networked, customizable system with individuals—and their relationships with the organization—at its center. Simply put, our research finds that the organizations that do this have better business and talent results.

To help our members make this shift, we are focusing on the following topics this year:

  1. Understanding the personalized and networked relationships between workers and organizations
  2. Enabling these new relationships between workers and organizations via a seamless connection between performance management, career management, learning, D&I, and engagement
  3. Designing a talent strategy that identifies and enables execution of critical talent priorities
  4. Building a seamless talent system via the use of design thinking, competencies / capabilities, and the creation of cultures and contexts that reinforce the new talent relationship
  5. Supporting the above with relevant tools and technology

Let’s take each of these in turn below.


Topic 1: Understanding the Personalized & Networked Relationships between Workers & Organizations

Changing expectations among workers is requiring leaders to rethink the talent relationship with individual workers. Fundamentally, this means organizations will need to better enable, understand, and interact with their workers, both at the individual and team level. Doing this will require organizations to fundamentally shift their approaches to communicating with and responding to talent:


The Upcoming Shift in Organizations’ Relationships with Workers


Primarily relies on one-way communication from the top, down Begins to listen to workers more in real-time, provides more data and information to workers to make decisions, and begins to respond more rapidly to employee-related insights Moves from top-down to networked communication and decision-making; information distributed as much as necessary to enable the network to make its own decisions

Source: Bersin by Deloitte, 2016.


To help leaders understand this new relationship, we will release research on how to create a “systemic relationship with talent.” The need for this relationship—and how to begin creating it—was one of the top findings from our High-Impact Talent Management research, and we will explore what this means in more detail in a new research report.


Topic 2: Enabling the New Relationship between Workers & Organizations via a Seamless Connection between Performance Management, Career Management, Learning, D&I & Engagement

To begin making the shift from left to right as shown in the Figure above, organizations are employing a host of approaches that combine more continuous and tailored performance management and learning, more transparency around career management, more embedded D&I activities, and more comprehensive and ongoing measurement of engagement. Organizations at the highest level of maturity are combining these practices in an increasingly seamless way.


To help members on this journey, we will be focusing on new research in each of these areas in the coming year:


  • Performance management. We are currently in the middle of a webinar series on how organizations are innovating in this area, with Cisco, IBM, Protective Life, and Raizlabs among the companies sharing their stories. We will also release an updated report on performance management trends.
  • Career management. We have recently introduced our new Career Management Framework, which outlines the four basic approaches to career management and what companies should do to align key aspects of their organizations. This body of research will also cover major trends and leading practices in career management.
  • Learning. Our team is engaged in a very large-scale update to our learning research, which will specifically focus on invisible L&D, the intersection of career management and worker development, the rise of contextualization, the learner experience, and the expansion of the learning technology universe.
  • Diversity & inclusion. This spring, we will publish a new D&I Maturity Model, which will identify the practices our research shows are most critical. In addition, several companies are scheduled to share their leading practices and stories via webcasts.
  • Employee engagement. Our Design a Strategy for Employee Engagement Blueprint, released this past summer, provides a comprehensive suite of reports, case studies, and tools that cover designing an employee engagement strategy, navigating a plethora of vendors, developing a business case, and creating an engagement survey. We will publish additional case studies in this area during the coming year.


Topic 3: Designing a Talent Strategy That Identifies & Enables Execution of Critical Talent Priorities

We all know organizations face increasing degrees of complexity and change, which in turn affects workforces and HR. A talent strategy enables organizations to respond effectively by aligning their people resources to their business strategy and then creating a compelling, clear vision for the investments they will—and will not—make in their people. Our High-Impact Talent Management research shows that organizations that have a clear and integrated talent strategy are more than nine times more likely to be at the highest level of talent management maturity and more than twice as likely to be highly effective at coaching and developing people for better performance, managing performance problems, and identifying and developing leaders.


As Bersin members know, we have already begun our research on creating a talent strategy. This winter, we will publish parts three and four in our research report series on the topic. In these studies, we will provide examples of a talent strategy and a strategic talent plan. We will also discuss how to communicate and maintain alignment on the strategy.


Topic 4: Building a Seamless Talent System via the Use of Design Thinking, Competencies / Capabilities & the Creation of Cultures & Contexts that Reinforce the New Talent Relationship

If, in this new world of talent relationships, we are putting the worker and their relationship with the organization at the center of the talent system, we then need to approach designing our talent management activities differently. A highly effective approach to doing this is design thinking, a methodology that puts end users at the center of the design process (as we discussed at last year’s IMPACT conference and in Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report). We will build on that content, producing new assets on how to use design thinking in the HR context. We have already published a research bulletin in this area and plan to release additional case study examples. We also had a webinar with IBM on this topic describing how they used design thinking to redesign performance management.

While design thinking is part of the solution, it is not totally sufficient to building a seamless talent system. To enable this, we are returning to two topics we have written about many times over the years:

  • Competencies (or capabilities, as they are called in many organizations). Competencies provide a common talent language and are the most frequent way organizations create consistency in their talent practices. To that end, we are releasing two reports this winter—one on maintaining and updating competencies and another on integrating them into talent management activities. We have also just released a case study from General Electric’s Aviation group on how they used competencies throughout their different talent management activities.
  • Integrated talent management. Using our High-Impact Talent Management data, we have analyzed how talent management integration correlates with talent maturity and business results. We will share how organizations are using integration to create more seamless and personalized talent experiences for workers.

Finally, organizations need to create cultures that reinforce the new talent relationship with workers. We are going to build on our High-Impact Learning Culture and High-Impact Leadership research studies by launching an entirely new research practice area in 2017; this practice will focus on organizational change and culture. Stay tuned for some of the details on what will be included in that new practice.

Topic 5: Supporting These Efforts with Relevant Tools & Technology

Finally, we know that organizations need tools to support the work we’ve described above. We are therefore providing “landscape” reports on the following areas:


As you can see, there are many new and exciting developments in the talent management space. So is it Groundhog Day? Not even close! Instead, I’d say it is a new day for talent management—and we couldn’t be more excited!


If you are doing innovative work on any of the topics I touched on in this blog, please let me know. We are actively conducting research on all of them, and are always looking to conduct interviews that will push our thinking. You can reach me at sgarr@deloitte.com.


Also, please join the Bersin Research Exchange: Data in, insights out! Share your leading practices and receive research-based rewards such as reports, diagnostics, and white papers. Register now: http://tiny.cc/BRETM.

Stacia Garr

Vice President, Talent & Workforce Research Leader / Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Stacia leads talent management research for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. A frequent speaker at conferences and on webcasts, Stacia is widely published on topics including talent strategy, integrated talent management, performance and career management, employee engagement and recognition, workforce planning, and diversity and inclusion. Her work has been featured in The Economist, the New York Times, as well as in trade publications including Talent Management and CLO magazines. Stacia has an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, and bachelor’s degrees in history and political science from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.

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