EEF insight: Holistic talent and performance management

Posted on 7 Nov 2012

Shaun Lanceley, National Head of Learning and Development at EEF, explains how better alignment of employee performance reviews, professional development, succession planning and corporate strategy can boost performance and talent retention in manufacturing firms.

Only those companies which can create forward thinking business strategies delivered through decisive leadership and an agile, high performing workforce are likely to flourish in today’s trying business climate. Yet many manufacturers claim that from top floor to shop floor, effective leaders, gifted managers and skilled workers are in short supply.

This quandary ought to make effective performance management a priority, yet many are still to realise a holistic approach to this important aspect of business strategy. Generally, companies are still dealing with the different elements of performance management in a fragmented way; training plans are often driven by employee requests rather than corporate need and ‘Chinese walls’ between functions are leaving barriers to the development of flexible competencies which support employees in moving between roles.

Change is a constant companion to UK manufacturing and in order to put necessary skills in place for the future, an integrated, top-down strategy is needed. But predicting exactly what skills will be needed to keep pace with the technological complexity of your industry or to exploit emerging markets is a tough nut to crack.

“What if” modelling can aid employee sourcing and target the development they require in order to become high value performers and there are affordable SaaS (Software as a Service) applications available for integrated talent management.

These applications can facilitate the sourcing and development process and, while the technology itself won’t drive talent and performance management in the business, it can help to better integrate components within your strategy and highlight competence gaps. A business can then better align training with performance management and meaningful employee assessment, building value in the workforce.

This virtuous circle will give employees a clear vision of their preferred career path while adding resilience to business strategy. The confidence resulting from such a vision will go a long way to ensuring the retention of talented employees who can help the business achieve its ambitions.

Learn about learning

Understanding attitudes to learning is crucial to successful talent and performance management. Younger employees are likely to feel alienated by traditional ‘push’ teaching based on formal instruction.

These digital natives, born into the internet age, are more comfortable pulling down knowledge for themselves when they need it and companies need to leverage the ‘pull’ desire by developing collaborative learning tools that mirror the internet and social networking environments.

Such tools, blended with pragmatic skills and instructor-led training, provide more flexibility for the learner, take up less work time and are generally more cost-effective than traditional learning models.

Optimising performance

The current economic climate, is putting pressure on manufacturers to respond faster than ever to market developments and customer demands. As a consequence, increasing performance levels from a talented and motivated workforce are a must.

To help manufacturers meet this challenge profitably EEF investigated how best to leverage its profound understanding of workplace dynamics in manufacturing and broad experience in developing integrated talent, performance and succession management strategies for manufacturers to provide a suite of HR resources and events.

The result has been a suite of tools and events including: an online HR Change Assessment Tool for benchmarking approaches to change management, free resources to help managers build flexibility into their workforces and a set of resources for improving employee relations.

In October we launched more free online resources aimed at helping manufacturers optimise their talent and performance management including: tools for talent retention and managing sickness absence, templates on succession planning, training needs analysis and advice on protected conversations.