Enhancing ‘Talent Agility’!

By Raksha Agrawal & Raman S R 

Q: Why do talented people leave companies for other jobs? 

As we think about this perennial question on attrition problems, let’s ponder over another one.  

Q : Why do we find internal talent for jobs so hard to access? 

If we connect these two questions, we get a third one. Why can’t talented people find internal jobs instead of leaving the company? 

A company’s largest prospective talent source could be its own people. And, when it comes to people, there’s always a story, so let’s look at Abhishek’s story. It’s a story of 3 moments that could have mattered for Abhishek during his journey in a Company ‘X’, a tech company. 

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Moment #1: Abhishek was a campus hire who joined company X from IIT Y, one of the best engineering colleges in India. After joining, he observed a disconnect. The campus presentation by Company X referenced work on niche technologies such as Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of things (IoT), whereas Abhishek joined a team that worked on legacy technologies.  

Ironically, Abhishek’s close friend from IIT Y, Manish, doesn’t get selected for Company X in campus, however, joins another tech-company – a cab-aggregator called ‘Hallo Cabs’ in Bangalore and is assigned a Tech-operations lead role. Both share a flat. Manish tells Abhishek that he works on machine learning technologies. Manish’s role and technology experience seems a notch above to Abhishek.  

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Moment #2: Abhishek speaks to his manager who suggests that he should focus on building his foundational skills on the current technology and enroll for trainings in ML if he’s interested in a career in that space, however, he needs to spend at least 3 years as per the internal transfer policy with his current team. So, Abhishek with a heavy head, reconciles with this fact, and continues to learn the current technology. His disengagement grows over the next 1 year. As he is not engaged, his performance is deteriorates and the Manager communicates that to him. This disengages Abhishek further. However, he cannot apply to jobs yet since companies usually don’t hire someone with just 1 year of experience.  

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Moment #3: Abhishek continues to drag through a couple of years with the current team. In year 3, he is driven to build a good resume to apply for external and internal opportunities and starts enrolling for trainings in the areas that he is interested in. End of year-3, he applies and gets a job with ‘Hallo Cabs’ on machine learning with a significant salary increase. He also applies to internal jobs and gets an offer from another team in Company X in the same legacy technology.  

As expected, he rejects the internal offer, and he says “Hallo” to Hallo cabs and bids “Adieu” to Company X. 

Like Abhishek, there are 100s of similar stories of people who join tech. companies from top engineering campuses in India, but, leave such companies in 2-3 years. 

 As leaders and HR professionals, this brings us to the following question: What can companies do to help talented people like Abhishek find internal jobs that excite them? 

We believe that, there are many things companies can do, in a framework that we’d like to call ACTS

  • Articulate the organizational journey-map of people such as Abhishek from hiring through to the exit stage with specific examples of moments that matter 
  • Capture the moments that matter the most for people during their organizational journey through focus-groups & one-one connects and supplement that with insights from data such as attrition trends and engagement survey feedback. Distill key reasons for disengagement – controllable and non-controllable  
  • Together with the users – whether from business or HR, build a few solutions and then try to experiment with interventions to solve for controllable reasons  
  • Scale successful interventions through an ‘agile’ process – with feedback from participants and data 

We believe that through such ACTS, companies can address their perennial attrition problems with better programs to facilitate internal mobility, which can pay off in multiple areas for companies: growth, employee engagement, and business performance. 

At SAP India, the ‘Talent Agility’ program was conceived to propel ACTS that can help SAP to positively impact moments that matter in pour people’s journeys, help them build skills of the future and accelerate SAP’s journey to the ‘future-of-work’. 

 ACTS is not only a framework for solving people problems. It is a framework that can be leveraged to improve people’s engagement and belongingness with an organization. i.e. help build ‘Organizational Ownership’. This ownership would be similar to an old concept of Organizational citizenship and can be called as O positive or O+.  

Just like the O+ blood group, O+ employees would be universal donors and would be willing and able able to contribute to all the areas within an organization – customers, business, technology, operations, finance, people and more.  

These O+ employees, we believe, will therefore be the pivots for a cultural shift, thereby enhancing ‘Talent Agility’ and leading to an ecosystem of self-driven learning and development and therefore self-curated careers. 

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We believe that companies need to improve O+ behaviors through deliberate ACTS in order to instill a culture of ‘Talent Agility’! 

This is our point of view on the “What”. And that, brings us to the “How”. How do we get people like Abhishek to pursue a career within the company?