Profiles: The Foundation
Posted by Mark Bennett on July 18, 2008
Continuing Meg’s discussion about realizing the strategic value of integrated talent suites, let’s start with the foundation of Profiles.
The notion of building talent management suites on a foundation of competencies has been around for some time now. Competencies were seen as a natural mechanism for connecting the various talent applications together with a common “currency.” An employee could be rated on competencies in the performance management application, they could locate courses in the learning management application that would help develop competencies, etc. One problem has been that it’s been very difficult for companies to develop competency models that truly impact their strategic success. As Meg described, the result has been more tactical, talent process automation in nature.
Lately, talent management suites are being built on top of a Profile foundation. The concept of Profiles is rooted in the idea behind competencies, but expands beyond competencies to encompass other characteristics (or attributes) as well. These characteristics can include things like certifications, experience, interests, travel preferences, potential, and so forth. Some look at this as a “fall-back” solution to having trouble in developing a competency model, but another way to look at it is as a way to model more things your talent should possess that matter in your company than just through competencies. If it helps to get things started by simply dealing with education, licenses, and so forth, at least it’s a start. More importantly, folks have also pointed out that attributes can more readily describe, and in a more granular way, what it is that makes a person effective in their role, beyond what competencies alone can do.
With Profiles, a company has a way to know, across the organization, who knows what, who has what skills, certifications, who has what experience or practice, etc. What’s also important and starts to make things more strategic is when a company models what characteristics are required in jobs and organizations and how effective someone can be in that role that has those attributes. We can think of this as introducing a kind of “exchange rate” that helps you understand the meaning and value of the attribute “currency.” Competency Gap Analysis has been around for a while, but Profiles takes things to another level. Having a richer set of variables to compare when searching for someone against a role, or when an individual is looking for ways to develop themselves, is very helpful.
With profiles giving you a way to track what your company’s talent has and describe what your company needs, you have the foundation from which to impact your strategic success. Now you can use analytics to find which attributes really do result in higher performance in a role. Some of these might still be competencies, but you also might discover other attributes that either more directly predict better performance or that demonstrate a positive effect on competencies that in turn result in better performance. When you couple that analysis with an analysis of what roles are “pivotal” in your organization, you are really beginning to get a handle on how your talent can improve your strategic success. Now you are starting to see what your strategy needs in order to be effectively executed. In addition, you can also uncover untapped opportunities to leverage your talent to gain even further competitive advantage. Finally, you can even go deeper and find where the “sweet spots” are in terms of how an attribute impacts performance (and how performance impacts business results). For example, at what number of hours of training, number of projects in an area involved in, level of proficiency in a given competency, etc. do benefits start to level off?
To sum up, Profiles give you a better ability to understand how (and where, and how much) improvement in attributes results in better performance and how much improved performance impacts strategic success.
So how does the integrated talent suite fit in? Now, instead of just measuring activities (e.g. number of applicants processed, number of reviews completed, etc.), we can better understand the effectiveness of our HR processes in terms of achieving our strategic goals. We can link the results of the acquisition, development, and performance processes with the results of the business. Furthermore, we can better relate those HR processes to better decision making by line managers. For example, management in partnership with HR can better understand whether to invest more or less in acquisition vs. internal development (as well as for what attributes). Together, they can better understand what works and what doesn’t in making the acquisition pipeline effective. Opening the lens a little wider, HR and management can better decide how those investments in processes should change in reaction to external forces like economic, regulatory and competitive change.