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Nurturing Dialogues, Fostering Talent How Data & Tech Help Humans Grow

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” “Do you feel less at ease lately? Why?” If you find it hard to answer these questions, you’re not alone.

Looking in the mirror is difficult. And your boss? She also struggles to pick up on signals. Luckily, Randstad RiseSmart and TalentLogiQs partnered up to empower both employees and managers when reflecting on careers. The entire organization benefits, as talent thrives and becomes the strategic asset it should be.

The Talent Marketplace requires much more than a tech platform. But tech could make human interactions more valuable for both employees and employers. That’s how Randstad RiseSmart and partner TalentLogiQs look at HR challenges companies face today. Keeping talent close, healthy, happy and in the right role at all times, to name a few.

A generous sun towers the sky when we meet up with Gretel Vlogaert, National Manager Career and Talent Development with Randstad RiseSmart and Lesley Vanleke, co-founder and partner with TalentLogiQs, a UAntwerpen spin-off and developer of talent management tooling.

The chase shouldn’t be better than the catch

On the labor market, things look a bit more cloudy, as a fierce battle for talent rages on. But there is a sunny side.

Gretel: “The war on talent helps putting the issue of retention management high up on the agenda, where it belongs. Without that sense of urgency, the focus on talent fades after the hiring process. This comes at a cost: dwindling motivation, suboptimal performance and, ultimately, untapped talent leaving the company. Which triggers a panic reaction and a vicious circle: ‘help, we need to hire new talent’! What we advocate is to break that cycle and switch to proactive internal talent management.”

Lesley: “You even see it in the numbers. 81% of HR budgets spent on tooling, is for recruitment purposes. Organizations do tremendous efforts to reel in talent, but afterwards they miss out on the opportunity to actively manage it. While those are the people who already said ‘yes’ to your company. The question is: how do you get a clear overview of the actual talent situation? This is where our combined services and tools provide added value.”

Gretel: “It’s actually very odd when you look at it from a distance. Vast budgets go to employer branding, in order to develop a promise. But once you’re on board, there’s little investment in delivering that promise. But it’s exactly then and there that you need to start building sustainable careers.

To talk, you need a language

How do you go about creating an environment in which both employees and employers reap the benefits of a talent-focused culture? It all boils down to an ancient human craft: sitting down for a good talk.

Lesley: “Sustainable careers rest on the corners of a triangle: happy – productive – healthy. To keep the balance between those three, meaningful dialogues are key. It’s the only way to create that win-win: career ownership for the employee, and maximization of potential for the employer. But both parties often lack the proper vocabulary. Employees struggle finding words to clarify their aspirations or disappointments, just as managers seek the right questions to ask. Or to analyze the answers, for that matter. Because they are partly signal, partly noise. With our Talent Review Profiler, we aid both partners in lifting the veil. It gives clear insights into the type of potential an employee harbors. You get to understand aspirations as well as talent risks – before they turn into problems, that is.”

Gretel: “We teach executives to conduct different types of conversations. We all know the classical evaluation. But this is hardly the right framework for a 360° talk on career opportunities or talent development. Besides, employees themselves must be challenged and trained: first, to pauze and overthink what they actually want out of their career and second, to express those goals in a way their manager can understand.”

Lesley: “The tool is multi-rater. It proposes statements to different stakeholders, amongst whom the employee and the coach. It also corrects for well-known biases in scientific literature and then combines scales to generate metrics. At the output side, it generates dashboards for management and reports for employees. The tool objectifies a process that is prone to human flaws. This has a huge impact on the way the career coach or manager is perceived: he or she is no longer a biased judge who drops a hypothesis. Because the data is already there. And it has been objectified. The analysis has been done.”

Gretel: “These kinds of talks used to be a snapshot, highly influenced by the context and by unspoken assumptions on both sides. With this approach, we remove flaws. Time and mental space is created for a genuine conversation. We also notice the method creates more willingness to engage with red flags or warning signs about performance or wellbeing. Precisely because the message emerges from a solid review process.”

Changing mindsets, switching roles

The impact of this new angle to human decision making can hardly be underestimated.

Gretel: “We are still very much used to the idea of someone else making career choices for us. With our method and tool, the employee gets to sit in the cockpit too. They become a partner in their own career management – a combination of empowerment and responsibility.” Lesley agrees: “And because of that objectified process which shares ownership and responsibility, they feel that the talent review process becomes more transparent and objective. They build more trust towards their organization and its management.”

The Randstad RiseSmart approach aims at fostering a broader, more holistic stance on talent assessment. They coach team leaders and executives across the entire organization to conduct talent meetings on a regular basis. There are several long term effects of acquiring this good habit.

Gretel: “Management develops a broader perspective on the meaning of ‘potential’. They can take a peek over the walls of departments, and less evident opportunities suddenly become visible. Like ‘Oh, maybe Dean from Accounting could become that great new sales rep we’ve been looking for. Well, let’s have a look at the data and talk to him.”

Lesley: “It’s a way to avoid jumping to conclusions based on biased assumptions. Will a mother of three really refuse that promotion? Is a 55-year old really not flexible enough to take on a new role? Instead of just guessing, you can now look into it with a data driven, talent-focused mindset. In the end, the decision is still up to humans, even more so than before because the employee too is involved; it’s the process behind it that is automated.”

Always in function of business needs

With the sun still bright above us, we ask Lesley and Gretel how they perceive the entrance of technology into the HR field. Where will HR tech lead us next? What is a desired destiny?

Gretel: “I think we’re in the early days of a major leap forward”, says Gretel. “Up till now, coaching is largely seen as giving the right feedback, making sure people learn from mistakes. But we have to teach managers the art of feedforward, of HR as a proactive and strategic branch of the organization. I think tech will speed up that evolution. Still, it will always have to be embedded in a holistic process with an intrinsically human approach of coaching, facilitating, … .”

Lesley: “You wouldn’t want a CFO who can’t give you a budget forecast. But today, HR is still largely about descriptive data. For instance, you can see how many people left and, if exit interviews are conducted, we can even say why and offer some kind of diagnosis. The ambition, however, should be to move even further up the ladder. From identifying who your company risks losing and why to eventually the exact opposite: ‘if we do this and this and this, he and she will stay.’”

Both agree on the fundamentals of implementing the Randstad RiseSmart – TalentLogiQs solutions.

Lesley: “You need an experienced partner to guide you in setting up the process and the tool. And you need to flank it with a mix of other initiatives. As we sometimes say: a fool with a tool is still a fool.” Gretel: “What’s the problem you want to fix? Are your people leaving too soon? Are they being bought away? Is your company lacking innovative potential in a fast moving environment? The better you know where you want to end up, the better we can help get you there.”