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Bring Your HR Practices into the 21st CenturyBy Dr. Linda Sharkey

Still putting HIPOs in a 9-Box? That’s so 20th Century.

Old labels and competency models are also dangerous to the health of your company.

Why? People probably won’t be with you long enough to make an impact.

Jobs then, now, and in the future

The massive onslaught of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and the changing nature of work is causing seismic changes in the human side of organizations. But we’re still using tools based up-on the industrial models which don’t apply today.

Traditional jobs are being eliminated at a staggering clip. Some research predicts that 10,000 jobs per day will soon be going to robots and AI. New jobs are being created, but many of these new roles haven’t even been invented yet.

Kellogg Business School cites that most millennials will have 35 different jobs in their lifetime. (Yes, your organization is one rung in a thirty-five-step career ladder. Let that sink in.)

More and more people will work on projects with a team, and when the project is complete, they’ll move to another project and another team—perhaps in the same company, but increasingly outside traditional company hierarchy.

The same is true with leadership roles, and leaders will change depending on the project require-ments. Tenure with organizations will be shorter and shorter, and in most cases, less than three years.

It’s not if you’ll change, it’s when you’ll change

The revered 9-Box no longer applies when people may only be working with you for a year on a project. Hierarchies that controlled process and output are no longer needed, so why perpetuate them?

We need new and flexible toolkits for the people side of the organization to unleash talent—not control them. (Besides, the only ones who loved the 9-Box were the HIPOs.)

But don’t we need talent management?

HR professionals, boards, and senior leaders need some form of talent calibration, discussion, and roadmaps. Here are four approaches to bring your people-practices into the 21st Century. Talent management, as we know, it is dead. Sure, we need a process to develop and align talent for innovation.

Here are the four steps to building a talent powerhouse in the age of constant change:

  1. Create a map: Dumpster the 9-Box and use a talent capacity model. Review the capacity of your teams against the business strategy, or goals, of your unit. Determine what broad skills you need to advance the project—right now. Then determine who can lead (right now), who might need development to get up to speed, and who is simply not a good fit for your team. We call this your talent capability map. Use this map to create your project-teams to meet strategic goals and leverage these teams as development resources for those who need to ramp up quickly on skill-sets.
  1. Search your network: Assess the network connections within your organization and see who the go-to people are, who might be overloaded (a potential bottleneck), and who is dis-engaged. Use this information to help populate, reinforce, or adjust your thinking in step one. As Rob Cross advocates, network maps can reveal vital relationships, go-to people, and how things really work in the organization. These network maps can and should be used to inform the talent process.
  1. Redefine “competency”: Discard your old competency models—and particularly the “levels.” Competencies will be obsolete by the time you have the models defined, and no one will use them. (By the way, managers don’t really use them now, so it’s time to face that hard fact.) Instead, define skill sets and behaviors that support the culture of your organization. So-called “soft” skills (repulsive to 20th Century clingers) keep people collaborating, innovating, solving problems, and constantly learning.
  1. Select leaders the 21st Century way: Know the go-to people who get things done with teamwork and put them in leadership roles—no matter what. Select leaders, across networks, based on their ability to influence and build relationships. The status quo of relying on HIPO assessments or hierarchy will not move your company forward. The days of “Bob is a jerk, but he sure gets things done,” are over. Join the real world of how work gets done today.

Above all, and in each of the four shifts above, keep it simple, transparent, and let people know where they stand.

A belated welcome to the 21st Century. Competition is fast, flexible, and fierce—are you?