HR and talent management are not known for being flexible or adaptable. But with the changes that COVID-19 has brought about worldwide, adaptability is now critical. At TechHR India 2020, Dr. Allan Church, SVP Global Talent Assessment & Development, Pepsico Inc, shared PepsiCo's experience with reshaping the HR and talent management mindset to the post-COVID future.
What does adaptive talent management look like?
Talent management, according to Dr. Church, focuses on segmentation and making choices about the few, such as who is promoted and who is given the opportunity to have what experiences. Possibly because of this, the talent management function tends to be maladaptive: it is trapped in a mode of responding to HR reactions and decisions rather than taking a forward-thinking approach. HR functions, meanwhile, are reactive rather than adaptive, despite the proliferation of tools and technologies available to ease their work.
The solution, Dr. Church says, is for HR leaders to develop an integrative way of implementing these technological tools. They need to create a structure within which people can think deeply about what needs to be changed, and why. That in turn will free the talent management function from responding and reacting, and allow some room to consider its objectives.
PepsiCo's experience: reconfiguring work, digitizing processes, and overhauling EVP
PepsiCo is actively looking at and designing around three major areas:
1. Reconfiguring the nature of work and careers
The first question PepsiCo is attempting to answer is: what does it mean to have a career today? This affects myriad aspects of work, from how people are or want to be promoted, to what kind of experience they have, and even fundamentals such as how long they stay with a company.
In the near future, Dr. Church predicts, structures will become leaner in response to cost pressures; organizations will become reconfigurable—more flexible and agile—and this, ultimately, will have role implications for the people in those organizations. "How do you account for people's careers in other companies if they are coming in and out?" he asks. "How do you account for different types of reward systems?
What's more, as organizations embrace the gig economy, questions arise around managerial responsibility, performance management, how to reward and recognize, and other very basic aspects of people management that take on new significance as the work paradigm changes. "There are all kinds of organizational cultural implications that we have to work through," he notes.
2. Ruthless process digitization
The second area of focus is around intensive digitization of all processes, and here Dr. Church has a few words of caution. "Technology does wonderful things, but I would be cautious about where we use it. We should really use it where it adds value, and be careful about using it where it doesn't. And I think in some cases, it adds complexity even if it's meant to be simplistic."
What PepsiCo has done, he shares, is to adopt a "Process Shredder" approach that holds up everything that every person in the organization does, from C-suite to front line, against the organizational values and analyzes all these processes for their relevance and usefulness. Employees are encouraged to make suggestions about what can be changed, improved, or eliminated, essentially crowdsourcing the list of things that need to be simplified.
"If you think about processes and why they're there, we do some things because there's a science behind it, and we do some things because somebody wanted it five or ten years ago and nobody asked to take it out," he points out.
"Anything we do can be examined, taken down, re-evaluated, removed. There are improvements that can be done anywhere, processes that can be taken down completely."
3. The new face of engagement and employee value proposition
And the third question to answer is: what does engagement look like in a world where careers and jobs and entire organizations are different, where the way people reach out and connect is almost entirely mediated by technology, and particularly where face time is still a critical part of culture despite all these changes?
There are a few things to keep in mind, Dr Church suggests. Firstly, a rethink of moments that matter. "We should think about moments that matter relative to not just the life cycle, but based on where they are in their hierarchy of needs," he says.
For example, COVID has made safety and health needs much more important than they were six months ago, and so HR should consider how to make moments that matter relevant to safety and health right alongside performance, rewards, and the other usual aspects served by HR processes.
Another thing learned from employee surveys, he says, is that employees place an enormous amount of importance on flexibility. "Employees really don't care about going back to the office," he points out. "For the most part, people want true flexibility, and we are thinking about that in terms of choice."
Meeting that need, though, is still a work in progress—because even as choice empowers employees, it creates a certain amount of chaos for managers.
Does everything really need to change?
Yes and no, says Dr. Church. If there is a good, science-based model that is well-integrated into the organization and works for the organization, it doesn't need to change. Whether leadership, values, or culture, the only things that ought to change are the parts that actually can be tangibly improved. "You don't need to throw it out because of COVID," he points out. "I would much rather have people doing a better job of getting the data right, the measurement right, and using that information, than throwing out their model just to put in something new and cool which may not have any value at all."
Ultimately, he suggests, even as change is necessary, it must be done in a well-considered and forward-thinking manner.
"It's very important to realize that the decisions we make now about how organizations are structured and how they operate, how they go forward and what kind of cultures we create—that's going to last," he says. "We are the group that will set the stage for how organizations will be in the future."