By Bill Allen and Dhaval Bhagat
Heading into this next decade, all eyes are on HR to navigate us through the complexities of our post-pandemic reality.
This is the second and final instalment of Shefali's Talent to Value journey. If you missed Part I you can read it here.
In 2012, the Salwan family relocated from Singapore to America. Shefali’s husband, Sumeet, had been promoted as head of HR for Unilever, North America. In a crowded and competitive market, fresh off a financial crisis, establishing a coaching practice felt like a swim upstream, without commensurate returns on impact or gratification. Shefali turned to coaching—for herself.
“Learning to dive in my mid-40s felt uncomfortable. In scuba, you have to exhale more in order to sink. You have to do something that feels against self-preservation.” CEO.works Co-Founder, Shefali Salwan is no stranger to swimming in unknown waters. Shefali has lived, worked and managed change in a dual-career household across three continents. The other “careerist” is her husband and CEO.works co-founder, Sumeet Salwan.
“My career has had its ebbs and flows. At times, I felt like I was in a boat crossing a river and at others, walking along the banks. I have had to pick my battles, and suspend the ego. When you are in the middle of it, it feels messy. Looking back, I realize I have always looked to what brings me meaning and where I can have the greatest impact. This has been my steady compass.”
“We have bigger things to do right now than focus on value.”
This is what I have been hearing in many of the conversations I’ve been having with private equity owners and operators in the last while. We live in strange times indeed when value (traditionally expressed as market cap), an all-encompassing indicator of success, takes a back seat.
Is it possible to scale global startups fast enough when windows of opportunity are tight and capabilities need to be supercharged overnight?
That is the question leaders of the LIVEKINDLY COLLECTIVE, a global plant-based foods company, and CEO.Works, the “Talent to Value” firm, were discussing in late spring 2020. “Executive talent sharing” is the modern and practical solution they came up with to address the problem of scarce leadership talent in these unprecedented times.
The way I look at it, onboarding programs should be taken more seriously in the world of talent management. Done well, onboarding can help people in roles critical to a company’s value agenda get traction in their jobs much sooner, accelerate results, and reduce time to value. Onboarding, therefore, has to be more than just a matter of lining up a series of personal introductions. It should be a matter of precisely introducing a person to what is “new” to them—the specifics of their work, the challenges of the business, the anticipated risks they will face, as well as their key working relationships—in a way that will have a significant positive impact on both their performance and their results.
Throughout my three decades in human resources and executive coaching, I have worked closely with high caliber talent to unlock their potential for optimal performance and engagement at work. My goal for each client is to coach value into existence by Connecting Talent to Value™. This value refers to the value agenda set by leaders to drive a company’s bottom line, or the organization’s intended impact.
I have seen many scenarios where it’s clear that someone has exceptional skill and ability and an excellent performance track record to go with it. Then a role change takes place, and the candidate struggles to realize the performance they achieved in the past.
Like most CHROs, I have spent all of my career operating within the universe of talent management. The established, widely accepted practices and processes of talent management, many of which are highly consensual, have stood me in good stead. In fact, I and my C-suite partners have only ever had one serious concern when we look at our well-equipped HR departments: how we manage talent isn’t always linked tightly with what is relevant to the company’s performance.
It is up to you as CEO to calm the chaos and focus your organization’s people and resources on values-based value creation.
Considering the number and scope of the decisions you have to make these days, it’s probably not even humanly possible to look at everything being brought to you. The reality is that the important, urgent issues being thrown at you are not going to stop. The emotions being stirred up are not going to subside quickly. Spreading yourself thin to cover everything won’t get you or your company far in this day and age. What you need is leverage.
By Bill Allen & Shefali Salwan
We in HR live with a paradox. Most of us entered the profession because we believe that humans beings can develop and grow. Indeed, we have many ways to measure and mark the progress of individual talents. Yet, even with this data in hand, many of us are still reluctant to take a chance on people. We tend to assume that placing someone who has not already done what we need them to do in a role that’s critical to the organization would be a big risk, one usually not worth taking. This risk aversion only intensifies the issues around race and gender that we see dominating the news today. It is time we seek out risk in our talent management practices.