Value Coaching Insights
with Steve Courington
Steve Courington, in his role as Head of Global Talent Management for a multinational pharmaceutical company, oversaw the introduction of the Talent to Value process across the enterprise. He worked with a cross-functional team to focus on 55 enterprise roles (for which he personally worked on 15 Role•Talent Cards) that were critical to the success of the $50B pharmaceutical. The future value creation from these roles had the potential to increase the company by over 30%. We caught up with Steve in April 2020, a few months after he had assumed a new role as Vice President of Talent, Leadership & OD at Goodyear®.
Substantiate Your List
I have always believed that not all roles are created equal. Until now, that meant focusing on identifying the right handful to go on a “critical” list. The process of identification itself was highly controversial, took far too long, and always ended up producing a long list with which it was difficult to take meaningful action.
We had already taken a year using another process to produce a list of 175 critical roles. We couldn’t shorten it and the majority of our time was spent debating which roles to place on the list versus using it to drive our business. We were stuck. Then we introduced our CEO, CHRO, CFO and Head of Strategy to the Talent to Value methodology and they quickly became champions. Within a mere 45 days, we were able to go through our financial plans and data and focus that unwieldy 175 roles into a crisp 30, all of which we could substantiate.
The Talent to Value process is pragmatic. It’s focused on driving business outcomes. And it’s not just another “list exercise”. It gives you concrete actions to take to deliver results from the roles you’ve identified.
Focus on Outcomes
As a Value Coach, you need to bring the heads of strategy, finance and HR together. Talk to them about why you’re doing this instead of doing something else—and then link it back to business outcomes. Both the finance and HR organizations will need to champion the Talent to Value process and enroll their teams in doing the work, so build awareness and capability within both.
This counter-culture methodology goes against most everything you will have learned and done in talent management so far. What you have to realize is that it is intended for the 1% of roles that are most critical to the company—not the 99% for whom much of your existing talent management practices are still appropriate and practical.
I know from experience it is possible to run both approaches at once: you just have to get comfortable with managing this fundamental paradox and be willing to “break the rules” where needed in order to help your company deliver its value agenda.
One thing that was difficult to understand, at first, was how to quantify the value at risk with non-commercial roles. Roles with direct P&L responsibilities were straightforward. But putting a dollar figure on a transformational leadership role for a non-financial project related to the company’s biggest problem was hard—and extremely important. In these cases, we worked with our finance team to understand how we measure outcomes in these areas to allocate budgets or decide where we will invest. We also spoke to Investor Relations to understand how Wall Street placed a value on our company in areas such as R&D. While not easy, it helps to assign an outcome value to these roles so you can prioritize them and track progress.
Quantification helps you separate the politics and the noise from reality. But don’t get hung up on being super precise about it. A billion-dollar role provides focus, and you are better to start the work to go after it versus perfecting the exact dollar figure.
As we worked on our 55 Role•Talent Cards, looking across them produced valuable insights. Initially, our focus was on questioning if we had the right talent in these most critical roles. We quickly learned that in the majority of the cases it wasn’t the talent that was our problem in delivering the value. Using the powerful Talent to Value process, we learned our role and organization design was creating roadblocks by not providing our talent with the resources and decision rights to get their jobs done. This helped our business leaders identify issues that were discussed, but not previously viewed as creating significant risk to delivering the business outcomes and increasing the speed to value.
I’d say the elegant simplicity of the Talent to Value process, with its five steps and two outputs, is one of its greatest strengths. Some people assume its simplicity means the thinking behind it lacks depth and practical details. That is definitely not the case. Keep engaging with the process and, in time, you will fully understand how comprehensive, integrated and powerful it actually is for transforming your business in the areas that matter most.