Matching the Right Talent to the Right Roles

By Bill Schaninger, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company

Bill Schaninger, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company

Change is quintessential for success in today’s disruptive global business backdrop,and increasingly, digital transformation helps ready organizations to compete in that environment and drive business value. It also requires focusing on talent to ensure that the right employee is matched to the right role to ultimately create the most value.

While this talent alignment is challenging, when it’s done right, rapidly and at scale by a large organization, the outcome can prove to be a significant performance differentiator. These organizations tend to outperform competitors 2-to-1, based on our research.

Taking a more organized approach to talent matching as part of a major digital transformation triggers several advantages:

Time: Faced with hundreds – and often thousands – of employees and roles, a more organized approach saves time when the information is at your fingertips.

Access: Collecting the data and data points for each position, as well as the organization’s leaders, digitally is far easier to peruse vs. poring over binders.

Effectiveness: Tactically, keeping track of the myriad choices you make during a digital transformation is difficult. Having a visual means for keeping track of options vs. choices makes clear the impact being made.

Applying this approach ensures that this process, which must occur no matter what, happens in the most effective way.

Accounting for unconscious bias

Whether a company is entering a new market, identifying ways to cut costs or becoming nimbler, HR business partners (HRBPs) must find more effective ways to deploy talent. HRBPs and other leaders easily can fixate on individual candidates and roles without a clear perspective of how these placements affect the organization at large.

For large enterprises that must match many employees to new roles, properly realigning talent to available and high-value positions proves especially daunting and game-changing.

When proper and efficient talent-matching practices are missing, filling roles rapidly can become a popularity contest. Positions are filled based on who knows who – which can lead to unconscious bias – rather than on identifying the best candidate to reflect the qualities and qualifications necessary for each position.

Redeploying talent in a value-focused manner is essential. It must consider knowledge, skills, intrinsic traits and experiences to match the candidates best for each role. We recommend taking these steps.

"Positioning high performers in the best opportunities can help to retain star employees by keeping them engaged and ultimately happy"

Understand your value agenda.

Begin by aligning with your organization’s ambition and deconstructing what will drive value across departments. While leading a client’s transformation, we helped it assess and consider more than 2,000 high-potential employees for more than 100 critical positions. The first step required gaining strategic clarity on their value agenda to understand which of these 100 critical positions would be most essential to driving value.

Identify the most important roles.

Without an understanding of the most critical roles based on the value agenda and what matters most in each, it becomes virtually impossible to make informed, strategic decisions. Determine what experiences, skills and traits are needed and back it up with data about your talent pool. The aforementioned organization identified 45 most critical value-adding roles and defined markers for success supported by people analytics. This built a unique competency model tailored toward its values.

Before doing the matching, it’s important to:

• Identify your top talent.

 Identifying the top talent should stem directly out of the performance management process. Going forward, performance management will become more and more data driven to increase objectivity in the assessment of employees.

• Use data to understand success in the position. To choose the best candidate for any given critical role, you will need to first understand what is required to succeed in that role, and then use as much data as possible to understand the fit of the employee.

In both the cases above, the information that will help make better assessment possible, includes understanding how employees use informal networks of influence in the company, and how they engage with colleagues in person and in writing.

Of course, the more data driven companies become, the more implications there are for employees. For example, organizations must consider the Hawthorne effect: When you know you are being observed, you behave differently.

Get the right talent in the right roles. Assess fit and match talent that reflects each role’s markers for success. Solutions such as McKinsey & Company’s Talent Match can prove especially useful for aggregating data and supporting recommendations. The tool helped one client develop a company-wide database of high potentials – identifying future leaders, enabling talent mobility and highlighting top candidates for each job.

By taking a methodical, visual and data-supported approach to making human capital decisions at scale, the benefits abound for large organizations. This approach saves time and simplifies the process. It also can help organizations combat unconscious bias, enabling leaders to keep track of the available options versus the actual choices that were made.

When all companies are vying for the strongest talent, positioning high performers in the best opportunities can help to retain star employees by keeping them engaged and ultimately happy. As the adage goes, change is inevitable. In today’s volatile market, approaching this process in the best way possible can make or break an organization’s transformational success.

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