A few years before coming to Ingersoll Rand, I was asked to step out of my HR management role to become a general manager at Schlumberger Industries. When I needed to hire experienced project managers in my new position, I clearly saw gaps in human capital management, particularly in the time it took to hire and train the right people.
The experience raised many fundamental questions. Why do organizations have human resource departments? What is their value proposition, since talent management is so critical? Why are some HR professionals not key players in strategic business decisions and solutions?
I realized a hard truth: Many HR professionals think primarily about traditional HR work—recruitment, compensation, benefits, communications and training—rather than business strategy and goals. It’s no wonder line managers are sometimes confused and disillusioned by the value we provide.
The solution, I began to see, is to reshape our role from reactive and tactical talent management to organizational performance consultation—a change in perspective that accelerated when I was given the honor three years ago to lead the HR organization of Ingersoll Rand’s Climate Solutions, an $8 billion global business unit with 25,000 employees and operations in more than 60 countries.
In 2009, Ingersoll Rand formed the Climate Solutions sector by combining Trane and Thermo King. This timing coincided with contraction of the global economy. Like many companies, we were confronting powerful economic head winds and striving to grow globally while reducing costs.
In a tough environment like this, developing and keeping the best talent remains crucial. I’m happy to say that through downsizing, realignment, refocus, divesture and recession, we have retained top talent, minimized disruption and increased engagement.
This is where the real value of HR came in. As consultants to line and operational leaders—and as owners of the “human capital lever”—we began to work with these leaders and with HR professionals in our HR centers of excellence to develop efficient talent plans.
Like external experts, internal performance consultants must focus on:
- Identifying specific gaps or barriers preventing employees and leaders from reaching their goals.
- Finding ways to fill those gaps.
- Developing and delivering talent solutions.
In this new capacity, we began to use a disciplined root-cause analysis to dig deeper. To get to the causes, however, we needed a framework to assess needs.
Our framework, called Talent Solutions, is a simple construct designed to help corporate and HR professionals in business units identify performance gaps and provide solutions.
For this simple framework to be most effective, we think in terms of a differentiated workforce.
That means managing talent as a portfolio of investments, some of which pay high return in strategic areas of business. We make investments in critical roles in compensation, development opportunities, retention, engagement and human capital planning.
For example, at Ingersoll Rand, we are pursuing growth in emerging markets and we know that growth starts with exceptional country managers. To execute our business strategy, we use workforce planning to determine how many country managers we need and when. We develop profiles that describe attributes of high-performing country managers, attributes such as “thinks like an owner,” “bias to action,” “high aspirations” and “a desire to win.”
We then evaluate available external talent. Meanwhile, we accelerate the development of staff members who have the potential to become country managers, while continuing to ensure retention of the best current country managers.
Ingersoll Rand plc
The manufacturer’s brands include Club Car, Ingersoll Rand, Schlage, Thermo King and Trane.
Ownership: Publicly held (NYSE: IR).
Top executives: Michael W. Lamach, chairman and chief executive officer; Marcia J. Avedon, senior vice president, human resources and communications.
Employees: More than 48,000.
2011 revenue: $14 billion.
Locations: Facilities worldwide, including 67 manufacturing plants.
Connections: www.ingersollrand.com, www.trane.com or www.thermoking.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contrast that approach with our talent plan for plant managers. Again, we have a profile for the role, and we know that plant managers turn over rarely. So, the solution is to focus on developing internal talent in the long term.
Of course, all jobs in a business are important, but not all are strategic or have maximum impact on the economic value of the business. The fundamental question for our business leaders is “Does your investment in resources match your business strategy?”
Together with the Ingersoll Rand Enterprise Human Resources team—our centers of excellence and employee services organizations—we developed a Talent Solutions framework to help business managers assess short- and long-term needs and make human capital investments with maximum impact.
We use the framework to develop plans by business unit, working closely with our corporate Talent Acquisition team, Learning & Development organization, Communications group, and Compensation & Benefits team to provide competitive rewards.
The framework enables us to adapt local solutions for use throughout our organization, leveraging the work many times over and helping the Talent Solutions approach go viral as it’s shared across our networks.
In one region, for instance, leaders faced a perennial problem with sales force turnover. Suspecting that the problem was based on poor recruiting, the leaders developed plans that would improve our ability to attract sales talent, but the turnover problem persisted.
In our analysis, one of our performance consultants uncovered a greater complication. He found that much of the turnover occurred around the two-and-a-half year mark in a salesperson’s tenure—the point at which most salespeople achieve productivity. There was little turnover at the five-year mark and beyond.
The real issue, then, was not recruiting but time-to-productivity—from the moment the hiring manager identifies a need for talent to when the employee begins to provide a return. We suspected shortening time-to-productivity would decrease turnover among these valuable front-line employees.
The consultant commissioned a process-mapping session with stakeholders and identified steps in the hiring value chain. The process was mapped from position requisition and posting, sourcing, recruiting and compensation requisition to offer, orientation, assimilation, training and development.
The map showed that time-to-productivity was 30 months. The team then mapped a target, eliminated waste and arrived at a projected time-to-productivity of 18 months. They identified immediate fixes and projects that required more time and resources.
One easy, high-impact solution created detailed resource plans approved for the year and designed to achieve annual operating plan goals. With pre-approval, the team reduced the position requisition process from an average of four weeks to one day.
The team improved talent acquisition, development, engagement and retention processes, and launched projects designed to create talent pipelines, robust assimilation plans, and better learning and development plans. Though the unit is not yet at the 18-month mark, it is on its way. It has improved business results, decreased turnover, reduced cost to serve and improved employee engagement.
Perhaps most important for the future of HR, this work helped improve business performance and reinforced a sense of partnership and community among the HR people and business leaders. In short, they now understand what HR can do when we function as performance consultants.
Six Questions About Your Strategic HR Goals
We determine our strategic impact by asking ourselves:
Do we have a workforce strategy? In Climate Solutions, we concluded three years ago that the answer was no, a wake-up call that spurred development of a talent process.
Does our workforce strategy support the business strategy? A workforce strategy is not purely an HR strategy, based on best practices. We realized that we had a golden opportunity and an obligation to affect the business directly, not simply to manage talent.
Do the actions of our HR teams align with business priorities? Are we spending the bulk of our time removing human capital barriers or performing HR business as usual? Three years ago, we decided we needed to remove some barriers. This decision helped us determine what we should be doing vs. what we were actually doing.
Are we proactive or reactive? After identifying a talent gap, proactive leaders now use a disciplined process of root-cause analysis to go beyond symptoms, find the real causes and introduce robust countermeasures.
Are we merely transactional or are we strategic or operational? Historically, HR departments have offered a menu of services under the rubric of talent management, working in transactional mode. An HR department that is genuinely aligned with business priorities works as a full partner on the challenges and opportunities that are critical for business.
Do we create friction or flow? Friction makes it more difficult for people in critical roles to win with customers. Flow removes barriers and promotes better performance.
Where We Stand
In Climate Solutions, such partnerships yield significant operating and business benefits. First, by creating standard practices and deploying global systems, we have increased our ability to:
- Predict workforce needs.
- Accelerate identification of candidates.
- Assimilate new hires into their roles quickly.
- Shorten time-to-productivity.
- Retain and engage workers.
Second, managers’ thinking about human capital has evolved from talent management to Talent Solutions. HR is no longer seen as a support function providing a menu of services. It is now seen as a valued strategic partner ready to close capability gaps that could derail strategy.
As our Talent Solutions approach expands throughout Climate Solutions, the benefits continue to multiply. While these benefits are quantifiable, the enthusiasm they have engendered is incalculable. With a newfound ability to pull the human capital lever more effectively, business and HR leaders are more confident we can achieve ambitious growth objectives.
The author is vice president of human resources and communications for the Climate Solutions sector of Ingersoll Rand in Davidson, N.C.