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Change Management Initiatives Can Alter Talent Management Strategies
 

By Pamela Babcock  3/10/2008
 

NEW YORK—Adopting a change management approach to talent management can pay dividends, particularly at big companies where cultural and organizational clashes can run the gamut from institutional "silos" to office politics and turf wars across business lines.

"The process is at least as important as the programs in talent management, particularly with the linkage and alignment you create," Steve Hrop, vice president of executive and organization development for Roseland, N.J.-based Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP), told attendees Feb. 28 at The Conference Board's 2008 Talent Management Strategies conference here.

"How you approach your program's design, implementation and ongoing operation can substantially increase the odds of its success," he said. "Executive engagement is No. 1," followed by research and data-gathering.

Program Need, Launch

Three years ago, ADP launched its Global Leadership Development Program (GLDP), a rotation-based executive development program for high potentials. The program affords executives opportunities to take on "stretch assignments" and lead in different geographic locations, business units and/or functional departments.

It's designed to identify, train, develop and reward executives for broad capabilities to lead growth. It's also designed to create a deeper talent pool with skills needed now as well as later, to help overcome "silo thinking" in career development and to focus on active career development with cross-functional, cross-business and international experience, Hrop said.

The program is intended to give future leaders a broad base of contacts within ADP since talent managers help build networks by introducing GLDP participants to people they might not otherwise meet. ADP has used data and research to help better determine who might best qualify for the program.

ADP, a large outsourcing provider, had revenues of $7.8 billion in 2007. It has more than 585,000 clients and 46,000 associates in more than 50 countries. Historically, its culture has supported a policy of promoting employees, long tenure, decentralized business units and talent movement across lines of business, Hrop explained.

Hrop was hired in 2004 to help build the GLDP. In addition to talent from inside the company, ADP now also recruits top graduating MBAs for its GLDP. "We have never had companywide MBA recruiting before," Hrop said. "This has really helped change the culture and, for us, to raise the bar."

Maximizing Buy-In

To maximize buy-in for global talent management, it's critical to involve key stakeholders, including the senior team, in program design and deployment, Hrop explained. Companies also need to build an internal and external "brand" for executive talent programs and to align and integrate them with other development efforts, he said.

For example, collateral promoting the Global Leadership Development Program has the tagline, "Building Executive Talent for Business Growth." "This has gone a long way toward increasing our internal brand equity so that everyone knows about it," Hrop said.

ADP began building its GLDP with research, including 90-minute interviews with ADP's top 20 executives. The goal was to determine the best ways to strengthen and build "our leadership bench in a more intentional way" and to tap into lessons of experience while getting senior executives to identify "formative, on-the-job business challenges essential for success as an ADP executive," Hrop said.

"These were interviews about their career experience," Hrop explained. "And a lot of this was fed into the GLDP."

The company conducted a web-based survey of its top 600 executives to get a profile of business experience and mobility of the ADP executive population. The survey was sent to all vice presidents and drew a participation rate of 90 percent.

The survey covered a range of demographics, including the number of ADP units and countries worked in to date. But it went beyond simple demographics and asked respondents to rate on a scale of one to four—with four being the highest—their involvement in 32 "business experiences," such as:

  • Integration of a business acquisition.
  • Management of a business turnaround.
  • Closure of a business.
  • Movement into one or more "non-obvious" job changes (such as line-to-staff or staff-to-line rotation).
  • Assumption of lead role in external partnerships (such as alliances or joint ventures).

Painting the Big Picture

ADP then used charts to get snapshots of the career paths of its management population along many dimensions. Among other things, this big picture revealed the:

  • Percentage of executives who had worked only in the United States or Canada, along with those who had worked in one or more additional countries.
  • Number of ADP units executives had worked in, as well as the number of career rotations they had made, which Hrop defined as a change in which someone "has moved more than 50 miles for their job."
  • Percentage of executives who had managed business functions in areas such as service, finance and operations.
  • Percentage of executives who had worked in areas that "grow the business," such as sales, business development and marketing.
Current, Future Payoffs

Hrop said the GLDP launch has had a number of "ripple effects," including executives' direct involvement in interviewing and mentoring MBA candidates, increased exposure to "great talent" outside their business units, and renewed focus on proactive "bench-building" and replacement planning in business units.

It has been a trigger for many executives to take stock of their career objectives and capabilities, Hrop said. "There's now straight talk about performance and potential by managers of GLDP applicants."

Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.

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