5 Skills HR Teams Can Use to Improve 2021 Talent Engagement & Mobility

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By Penny Locey
March 02, 2021
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Talent Management/Acquisition leaders and HR business partners are often the first responders for employees seeking career advice or wanting to make a move within the organization, and the quality of our response is critical. This is especially true now, when many employees feel disconnected resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and remote work. Yet we are frequently disappointed with the results from these conversations – how well we can catalyze more engagement, higher retention and advancement rates, and improve talent readiness.

One issue TM/HR pros talk about all the time with employees is, “What got you here can’t get you there” – and we need to take our own advice. Take a business partner, who is highly valued for rapid problem solving, or a talent acquisition star, who assesses candidates and current skills rapidly, focuses on time-to-fill for requisitions, makes great matches and moves on. Their execution is their super power, but is usually the wrong headset for career coaching.

If HR members’ focus is on transactional, quick solutions – rather than on exploration, opening possibilities, and having a deeper career coaching conversation – we may be missing the chance to sustainably engage and/or retain the employee. And while we want to empower managers to do this coaching, we need to hone our skills as well.

Savvy organizations today not only provide training for managers and employees on career development, but also work with their HR teams to increase the team’s career coaching skills and ability to pave the way for employees to have more open and productive conversations with managers.

HR can increase its impact by not rushing to solution. Instead focus on five key things:

1. Choose the right coaching stance

Coaching effectively involves the ability to take three different stances, and the majority of people overuse the first two – “expert” (telling the answer, giving direct advice) and “resource” (pointing someone to a place they can find out more, or connect them to something). The third – “facilitator” – involves asking open-ended questions, helping someone else think, giving them the space to explore.

2. Identify possibilities and paths

Asking questions to identify interests, strengths, motivation, and aspirations, as well providing insight on themes/capabilities and organizational paths, can indicate where these could be applied inside the organization. Do these suggest a vertical or lateral path, a path to explore alternatives, job enrichment, or increasing current job mastery? Key questions here:

  • What would career success look like for you as you see it now?
  • What in your current role uses your best talents/interests?
  • What is missing/isn’t satisfying?

3. Understand brand/reputation/impact

A key way HR is uniquely poised to assist employees is by testing their awareness of strengths they are known for, how they are regarded, and how they could increase their positive visibility. Assisting employees in developing their comfort with talking with managers/peers to get true feedback can facilitate the process, as can working with them on questions to ask, such as:

  • What do you see me as the “go-to” person for?
  • What do you rely on me for?
  • What three skills do you value most in me?

4. Create connections

Assess the strength of employees’ internal networks and equip them with ways to break through barriers in their networks. Providing insights on relationships they might want to develop, or current/anticipated organizational needs they could capitalize on can be energizing. To facilitate the process, ask the employee what areas of the business intrigue them and why? Where do they see a potential need for their skills given the company’s direction, and who in the organization can provide further insights? You can also provide introductions/connections directly.

5. Help create a specific action plan

Having specific goals drives people forward. Just as for a performance plan, you can help by asking:

  • What actions will you commit to in order to achieve your goals?
  • What are immediate next steps?
  • What potential roadblocks might arise and how will you manage them?
  • What strategies can you use to stay on course?

By adopting a coaching-oriented approach to help employees take greater ownership for their career development, talent professionals position themselves to make an even more significant impact on their company’s engagement, retention, and mobility initiatives.

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