By Shefali Salwan and Bill Allen
Talent plays a crucial role in value creation. In times of exponential change, it’s your responsibility as an HR leader to dynamically connect the right talent to the roles critical to delivering that value.
At the onset of the pandemic, as companies grappled with the complexities of remote and hybrid work and the ripple effects of widespread economic and social disruption, a revolutionary process known as the Talent to Value methodology was gaining traction. The process offers a pragmatic approach to driving business outcomes by connecting talent to value. Specifically by connecting the right talent to the work that must be done by critical roles to deliver value.
The following Q&A is derived from a conversation with Steve Courington, former Head of Global Talent Management at a $50B multinational pharmaceutical company where the Talent to Value process was implemented in 2021 to address organizational challenges. Courington has since served as the Vice President of Talent, Leadership & OD at Goodyear®. I caught up with him recently at his new Cleveland-based consultancy.
Why Choose the Talent to Value™ process?
It’s a pragmatic, focused methodology, almost counter-culture in nature.
It could help us identify and focus on just the critical roles that could significantly increase enterprise value. This aligned with my belief that not all roles are created equal. It could also provide us with a set of concrete actions to take to mitigate execution risk and support value creation.
What was the problem you were facing?
The identification process we had been using for critical roles had taken too much time and given us a list that was too long and too controversial. That made it difficult to take meaningful action.
In fact, it had taken us a year to produce a list of 175 roles across the organization. We were struggling to shorten it. We were stuck debating which roles should be on the list versus which ones should be off the list. We couldn’t come together.
How did the Talent to Value approach differ from what you’d done before?
It's specifically designed for the 1% of roles that are most critical to the company—and that’s what we wanted it for. There are many existing talent management practices that are appropriate and practical for the remaining 99%. The good news was that it wasn’t an either/or situation. We could run both approaches concurrently. We just needed to get the heads of strategy, finance, and HR behind this game-changing approach to critical roles.
So we introduced it to our CEO, CFO, CHRO, and Head of Strategy. As soon as we explained its selective focus and linked it back to business outcomes, they saw what we saw and became immediate champions. Enrolling them was important: they became advocates for Talent to Value and got their teams in finance and HR involved in doing the work.
How did the Talent to Value process help?
Within 45 days, we had shortened that unwieldy 175 roles down to a crisp 30, all substantiated by financial plans and data. We did it by setting up a cross-functional team to run critical roles through the process.
Quantification of the value expected in each role helped separate the politics and noise from reality. Fifty-five of the 175 roles proved to be well worth the effort: we calculated that together they would have the potential to increase enterprise value by over 30%.
The trick was to not get hung up in the weeds by trying to be super precise about it. A billion-dollar role versus a million-dollar role gives you sufficient clarity and focus. You are better off getting people started on the work to go after that much value rather than wasting time perfecting the exact dollar figure on the role.
Did you encounter any challenges—and if so, how did you address them?
One thing that was difficult to understand at first was how to quantify the value at risk with our non-commercial roles. Roles with direct P&L responsibilities were straightforward. For example, assigning a dollar value to a transformational leadership role for a non-financial project related to the company's biggest problem was hard. But it was extremely important.
So we collaborated with our finance team to learn how they measured outcomes in these “grey areas” for investment decisions or budget allocations. We also consulted with our Investor Relations department to learn how Wall Street valued the company in areas like R&D. That learning helped immensely when we went back to assign an outcome value to non-commercial roles without direct P&L responsibilities.
What was the most remarkable insight gained by using the Talent to Value process?
After shortening our list to 30 from 175, the focus was on verifying if we had the right talent in those roles to deliver the value. What we discovered was that, in most cases, the problem wasn't the talent. It was that either the role and/or the organization design didn't provide the talent with the resources and decision rights they needed to get their jobs done. That insight helped business leaders identify other issues that weren’t previously considered significant risks to delivering business outcomes and increasing speed to value.
What else did your experience with Talent to Value reveal?
I’d say the elegant simplicity of the process is one of its greatest strengths. This is definitely not one of those cases where simplicity means a lack of depth and practical details. Keep engaging with the process. In time, you’ll realize how comprehensive, integrated, and powerful it actually is for transforming your business in the areas that matter most.