HR Forum — talent management

April-May 2011

The cycle starts with recruiting the right people for the right job, and collaborating to make their integration as seamless as possible.  It’s about helping them to develop their potential and communicating regularly so that employees know what is expected of them and how they can make a valid contribution to the organization’s goals.  It’s also about recognizing their achievements.  Finally, it’s about succession planning – aligning the competencies and career aspirations of the employee to the evolving needs of the organization.

Increasingly interviews are becoming competency-based, with a focus for administrators and supervisors on McGill’s 7 behavioral competencies:  Change Agility, Resourcefulness, Teaming, Self-Awareness and Management,  Managerial Courage,  Client-oriented Service,  and Performance Orientation (see HR Website).

Among the top transferable skills employers look for in hiring people are their analytical skills, communication skills, creativity, flexibility, team spirit, honesty and motivation.  These may be considered “soft skills” but they are necessary in an environment where change is the only constant.  Technical competencies are a given in recruiting candidates, but employers also look for the ability to work in teams, exchange valid information and adapt to changing parameters. This usually leads to employees who are more motivated in what they do. They understand where they can make a difference in the bigger picture and that they are part of the solution.

At a recent HR Forum, talent management was among the topics presented by Associate Vice-Principal Lynne B. Gervais to the HR team.  “Managing talent today is crucial in terms of retaining new employees and continuing to develop our seasoned people,” she explained.  “There is more emphasis now on talent across the University, so we have to ensure that we have the right processes in place to hire, develop, retain and recognize those employees.”

Succession planning:  a key component

Succession planning is a critical area of talent management that deserves immediate attention.  “Today at McGill, over 25 percent of employees are 55 years of age and older.  This poses a challenge in identifying and developing pools of talent for key positions in the future. This also means developing both technical and behavioral competencies to address current and future needs across the University,” said Lynne.  Succession planning must be transparent, objective and fair.  It should be based on knowledge of the changing needs facing McGill.  And it should be sensitive to both the capabilities and the career aspirations of our employees.    In a system as complex and decentralized as McGill, this is no easy feat.

There are several succession planning initiatives currently  being piloted at McGill.  The senior administration team is examining succession for its key positions and ensuring that “one-of-a-kind” knowledge is identified and captured.  Three administrative units – DAR, Enrolment Services and University Services – are also looking at their key positions as well as taking a holistic view of their current talent pool, against the backdrop of our evolving environment.

Through the process of performance dialogue, individuals are encouraged to recognize their technical and behavioral competencies and to set developmental goals that align with their career aspirations, and whenever possible with the growing needs of the unit.  Career conversations are highly encouraged as part of overall coaching with administrative and support staff.

What you can do

Employees are encouraged to be proactive in relation to their career management, starting with ensuring that they are clear about what is expected of them into their day-to-day roles.   As an employee, you need to know how and why your contribution is important – how YOU make a difference.   Consider what you want for your future and what you are doing to develop yourself.  Benefit from opportunities to continue to learn and to build your network across the University through your contributions (committee work, volunteer initiatives, etc.).    Consider how the world is changing and adjust your learning goals accordingly.  There are numerous ways to learn in the workplace – in structured workshops and courses, as well as through mentoring,  job shadowing, informational interviews with people who do the kind of work that interests you, self-directed learning such as reading and webinars and committee work.  What’s important is to follow your passion and to stay engaged.

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