Disrupting the Talent Management Game

A new Korn Ferry report says that finding the best employees may involve remodeling how companies approach talent and human resources.

In the movie The Matrix, the hero Neo dodges bullets in a virtual reality world to save humanity. These days, Neo probably would be navigating virtual reality for a little less-herculean task, like looking for a job. 

Virtual reality, or VR, has been a staple of science fiction movies and videogames for decades, but it’s increasingly popping up at real life career fairs and even corporate sensitivity trainings. One firm has interested applicants don a set of VR goggles to take a tour of its manufacturing plant thousands of miles away, while a car company uses a VR-based game to test an applicant’s engineering skills.

Some may view VR as a high-priced gimmick, but organizations facing a global talent crunch are looking to it and other innovative ways to find new recruits. Traditional HR and talent functions are “like brokers between the business and its employees,” says Paul Dinan, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and co-author of the new report, Disrupting Talent Management. And like with most other broker models, Dinan says, technological and societal disruptions could likely run tradition-bound HR and talent organizations out of business.

“HR and talent leaders should consider rethinking how they create sustainable value for both the business and their workforce, leveraging the power and reach of technology to transform their key talent management capabilities and services,” Dinan says.

The report’s authors identify dozens of techniques being used to disrupt talent management. Then surveyed partners familiar with a diverse set of 18 companies about their disruptive talent practices.

Some of the innovative techniques rely heavily on technology, including using web-scraping tools to screen large pools of candidates and having internet-connected devices monitor meetings to help ensure that everyone has an equal chance to speak. But they aren’t all tech-focused. One firm, looking to broaden its pool of candidates for technical skill jobs, started recruiting tailors, cake decorators, and other people with fine motor skills and an eye for detail.

The report argues that it’s not just individual practices that need to be changed. “Disrupting talent management means rethinking the fundamental purpose of HR and talent functions through the lens of business and workforce value,” Dinan says. “It means reshaping services and how they get delivered and letting go of legacy dogma that’s no longer fit for purpose.” HR needs to not only just focus on finding employees, but also building positive work cultures and developing agile leaders.

Most importantly, firms need to have an overall talent strategy that aligns with the firm’s business strategy. According to the study, 84% of participating companies rated business and talent strategy alignment as an important HR practice, but all of them admit they’re not as effective as they need to be.

“There’s no rulebook telling leaders how to succeed in the new economy. We need to figure it out as we go,” Dinan says. “That doesn’t mean we’re not purposeful or that everything needs to happen in an agile way. But it does mean that we need leaders who can peer into and shape the future, and disrupt the status quo.”

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