This article was originally published on UPSTART360 by James Wendelken

In our last issue, we discussed the background of talent management, and left you with the question: “How do companies successfully organize the talent management process for stakeholder employees to concentrate on those improvements when they are so busy with their projects and maintaining operations?”

Companies should work with their employees to relate human capital plans to improving work practices, standards, and reliability.  Stakeholders want to improve work practices, their standards, and reliability as it is simply human nature to not want your efforts wasted and to be reliable.  Getting employees involved in improving work, standards, and reliability through talent management lets them see the light and inspires them.  They see the point of making jobs cleaner and helping them to be more productive, which in turn helps the company.  They can then work with HR or talent management process owners to help them develop and allocate employees according to work improvements.

HR and stakeholders can then inspire each other to simultaneously advance both work standards and talent management; they essentially help each other “organize who should concentrate on what” to see results.

Examples of this include oilfield service companies creating specific qualifications for their field engineers to run their particular tools out on oil rigs and field engineers being trained and assessed on design engineering practices as part of their career paths.  Field engineers do like going through the qualification process to run tools because it helps them ensure their own safety and clarify how best to perform their jobs.  It further helps companies to demonstrate the quality of their personnel to customers and also meet the ISO 9001 standard, “Quality Management Systems – Requirements” which calls for companies to ensure personnel are “competent on the basis of appropriate education, training, skills and experience.”

Training field engineers on design engineering practices as part of their career paths better prepares them for different future roles within the company while helping improve quality in R&D and out in the field.  If people clearly see how decisions from talent management improve their work standards, they come together to make advances.

This is what truly sets companies up for success at developing, allocating, and retaining employees effectively.  People and organizations are expressing the importance of this more and more.

U.S. News & World Report held their second annual STEM Solutions National Conference in June in Austin, Texas.  STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and there is a growing movement in this country to advance STEM education and workforce development.  Many leaders at the conference expressed the need for companies to incorporate ways to better manage valuable STEM talent such as creating and supporting career paths that are rewarding for STEM employees and that can benefit their industries.  STEMconnector is an organization that connects stakeholders in STEM, and during the conference they released their new book 100 CEO Leaders in STEM that includes great quotes from leading CEOs expressing the importance of STEM and sharing what steps they believe need to be taken.

Thomas B. King, US President of National Grid stated in the book: “Energy is on the public agenda-expectations for reliability, efficiency and safety are only increasing.  The utility industry is facing a lot of challenges, including renewable energy, a knowledge gap, aging infrastructure and equipment, generation operations and cyber security.

At National Grid, we feel a great responsibility for delivering the energy systems of the future and we can only accomplish this by advancing STEM jobs/careers.”

He also pointed out: “If you build it, they will come.  It’s about being pro-active-understanding what you need and working as a team to make it happen.”

Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil said in the book: “ExxonMobil’s success as a U.S. company in a global economy depends on the quality and ingenuity of our workforce, and we are certainly not alone.”

People like talent management when it helps them confidently make quality decisions.  This is very important.  Talent management programs need to help managers and employees with specific decisions they face.  However, it is not uncommon for unrealistic plans to be rolled out that don’t assist actual decisions managers make.

Programs that don’t become part of company decision making are eventually forgotten and often cause significant grief for employees along the way.  Yes, as you may very well already know from first-hand experience or reading up on the subject, talent management programs many times try to do too much and don’t have clear purpose. Indeed, there are certain pitfalls to avoid to make sure plans are truly realistic and will actually be used by people in their short term through long term decision making, and it is important for stakeholders to go through the process of making sure they avoid these pitfalls to confirm usefulness of talent management plans.

Leaders and stakeholders should proactively go through tradeoffs to arrive at ideal solutions for their companies and to execute talent management most effectively.

The challenge with talent management isn’t so much people not being good decision makers.  By and large, people are good decision makers and also don’t want their efforts wasted, and thus, talent management has the potential to continually improve businesses the same way engineering designs and safety standards continually improve quality of life.  Talent management is no less inspirational and collaborative than these other two continual improvement initiatives, and similarly, it must be well organized and inspired to achieve the best benefits.