Nurture should be
The value of internal talent
By Julian Hobbs, CEO UK Commercial Finance, Siemens Financial Services
Over the last two or three years, the ‘war for talent’ has become white-hot – something that had started before the pandemic but was then hugely accelerated. A recent report1 says employees are demanding “more flexibility, community, and an inclusive culture, employers must compete across all these elements.” The heightened focus on talent has also given birth to a new ‘science’ – the ‘internal talent marketplace’.
A quick quote from Deloitte illustrates my point. One of the analyst’s Insights says2, “This relatively new talent model offers an innovative and flexible approach to talent acquisition, mobility, and management. The internal talent marketplace… connects employees with opportunities both inside and outside the organization. It enables managers to promote varied roles and helps organizations quickly deploy, motivate, develop, and retain employees.”
While I’m extremely pleased that the importance of internal talent development is now being promoted by analysts and consultancies as an important science in its own right, I’m also slightly disappointed that the work companies like Siemens Financial Services (SFS) have been doing for decades has taken so long to be recognised in this way. In essence, we have always recognised the importance of People as a fundamental of our strategy.
Certainly, the pandemic crisis threw this whole issue into sharp focus. As businesses pivoted to keep themselves up and running, the usual channels for recruiting talent externally were temporarily impacted. So companies were forced by circumstance to look at their internal talent pool to see what potential lay there. Yet that’s just reacting to circumstance. It is my contention that these organisations would be better off actually developing a proactive, long-term internal talent development strategy and pursuing that strategy over time.
The internal talent marketplace… enables managers to promote varied roles and helps organizations quickly deploy, motivate, develop, and retain employees.“
The starting point is to be completely objective about how people come into your organisation. To attract talent in the first place, our doors have to be open to all possible candidates, and that means having visible points of access for everyone. That’s why we prominently offer entry points through work experience places, apprenticeships, internships and graduate schemes. This range of points of access means that we can draw on an incoming talent pool which embraces school leavers and mid-life career changers, as well as the traditional post-university entrant. These entry points are then matched by thoroughgoing but flexible training and support programmes. We’re not looking for any particular qualifications, so much as people with empathy and emotional intelligence. We value positive attitude, resilience, inquisitiveness and curiosity, and most of all a strong desire to grow professionally.
To be nurtured and developed as an employee is particularly important for our current attaining generation of employees – Gen Z. According to the World Economic Forum, “While Gen Z professionals naturally want to learn skills with the immediate on-the-job application, they will be even more engaged in learning if the skills are directly related to career growth. Around 76% of Gen Z employees connect learning to career progress – more than other generations.”
One recent study showed that employers and employees alike cited a clear and open style of management (46% of employees and 50% of employers) is a key way to bolster employee loyalty and create a resilient organisation.
Once recruited, people can go as far as their ambition and their hard work will take them. Culturally, our managers are taught and encouraged to recognise and foster people’s drive and ambition. We have transparent disciplines in place at regular employee reviews which demand that no desire to progress will be unreasonably refused. Of course, there are two sides to that coin, and internal opportunity has to be met with application, effort, energy and intelligence on the part of the employee. We operate in challenging markets, which require tough, dedicated professionals. Ambitious (but not unreasonable) targets will always be set. If someone does not make target, then the general attitude will be to analyse why, and how matters can improve. But ultimately, everyone has to achieve for the business to thrive.
The value of such a management culture is backed up by research data. One recent study showed that employers and employees alike cited that a clear and open style of management (46% of employees and 50% of employers) is a key way to bolster employee loyalty and create a resilient organisation.
I can also report our data on ‘returners’. In one part of our business, of the people who have left us at some point for other career opportunities, 30% have then come back to SFS later on. We have plenty of individual examples of this in sales, marketing, finance, operations, account management, risk – the lot. That’s a hard, measurable benefit from our internal talent development programme. I suppose it is also testimony that British business is not yet paying enough attention to internal talent management – otherwise our leavers would be finding excellence elsewhere and would not have returned to us!
For employees to put themselves forward and state their ambitions, there has to be an atmosphere of inclusivity – evident as much in deeds as in words. To that end we have multiple active groups from many traditionally disadvantaged groups, amongst others focussed on gender, race, disability, and sexuality. Deeds and not simply words are evidenced by a Women’s Impact Program, Disability Confidence scheme and a newly announced initiative to boost the career journey of those from ethnic minority backgrounds “AcceleRACE”. The work of these groups is supported and publicised throughout the organisation – showing that such initiatives are simply aspects of the new normality in a modern, diverse organisation. More generally, sophisticated flexible working programmes have been in place long before the pandemic crisis, which allow people to progress their career while also matching their work-life balance needs – flexibility of both time and location. Wellbeing is also supported through internal champions, feedback forums and practical advice clinics.
In conclusion, it is good to see wider recognition of a systematic and programmatic approach to internal talent management, typified in analysts reports about internal talent ‘markets’. These appear to have been mainly inspired by the talent development challenges arising out of the pandemic years. In reality, forward-thinking companies have been developing strategies and tactics for some time in order to develop talent internally – mentoring, collaboration and business education/training. Yet this nurturing working environment is not yet the norm. It should be.
My full report features real-life stories from some of our employees, you can read it here: www.siemens.co.uk/nurture-should-be-second-nature