HR Gyan: In Conversation with Metrus Group CEO William A. Schiemann


William A. Schiemann, Ph.D., is the Chief Executive Officer of Metrus Group, Inc. Dr. Schiemann and his firm are known for their pioneering work in the creation of performance gauges and scorecards to measure strategy implementation, and establishing linkages between employee, customer, and financial outcomes. His team has led many of the developments in employee and strategic surveys.

Prior to founding the Metrus Group, Dr. Schiemann was Senior Vice President with Sirota & Alper Associates and Vice President of Opinion Research Corporation. He has also served as an organizational consultant with AT&T. He served for six years on the Board of the SHRM Foundation, and as Chair of the Board in 2010.

Dr. Schiemann has authored three books: The ACE Advantage: How Smart Companies Unleash Talent for Optimal Performance (SHRM 2012), Reinventing Talent Management: How to Maximize Performance in the New Marketplace (Wiley, SHRM 2009) and Bullseye! Hitting your Strategic Targets through High-Impact Measurement (co-authored with John H. Lingle; Free Press 1999). He has also written extensively for many publications, including the Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Business Strategy, Journal of Cost Management, Journal of Strategic Performance Measurement, among others.

A business graduate from the Stuart School at Illinois Institute of Technology, Dr. Schiemann received a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Illinois.

In an interview with SHRM India’s Rajeshwari Sharma, Dr. Schiemann responds to questions on talent management. 

SHRM India: The changing business environment makes it imperative for HR professionals to take a hard look at how organizations manage talent. Are traditional talent management models up to the new challenges?     

Dr. Schiemann: The short answer is “no.”  There are many important gaps such as how do we optimize all labour, not just high potential talent.  We define talent as all knowledge, skills, experiences and behaviours that are important to executing an organization’s strategy. Today, smart organizations are using many different forms of labour, which brings us to mass customization.  It is an emerging practice to differentiate more across labour categories and to mass customize labour resource investments across these categories.  What is needed for large production workers, and many subcategories of this group---younger generations versus Baby Boomers, working women, different skill groups, and so forth? What is needed for managerial or high potentials employees?  What is needed for pivotal roles?  This kind of thinking helps us rethink assumptions behind the talent models we use.

SHRM India: What are best-practice organisations doing to change how they manage, measure, and motivate their organization’s human resources?  

Dr. Schiemann: They are doing many things that I have discussed in my book, Reinventing Talent Management: How to Maximize Performance in the New Marketplace, well beyond what I can address here briefly.  A few ideas include doing a better job at diagnosing the hidden organization.  In discussing the People Equity model with senior leaders, I find that they are frequently surprised by the oft-hidden profile showing gaps in how they are optimizing their talent.  There are often gaps in how well talent is aligned with customers or corporate goals. Capabilities are frequently missing, which can choke growth or prevent solid execution of strategy. Engagement is often viewed far too narrowly, with many organizations looking at Engagement as how satisfied or committed employees are.  It should be far more than that, and include advocacy and volunteer activities, for example.

SHRM India: What specific action steps could be taken to significantly leverage talent for greater -- and measurable -- impact on key financial and customer outcomes? 

Dr. Schiemann: There are a few key ones.  First, make sure that the talent strategy is linked to the business strategy, not just in concept but also with strategic measures that connect them. Every organization should not only have a talent strategy but also a connected talent scorecard that measures the key talent drivers of success in executing the talent strategy.  Another opportunity is in educating and coaching leaders in behaviours that optimize talent.  Third step is to relook at the assumptions behind your talent processes.  Are they appropriate for your brand or business strategy, not simply a general ‘best practice’? 

SHRM India: Please tell our readers about your People Equity model.  

Dr. Schiemann: I have been talking about the People Equity approach, which I have found to be a valuable framework for understanding and growing talent.  People Equity is the best way we know how to optimize talent.  It comprises three factors — Alignment, Capabilities, and Engagement — that when balanced and improved, generate higher productivity, lower turnover, higher quality, higher customer loyalty and strong financial performance.  We have found that the best way to measure all three is through the eyes of employees in surveys or other approaches.  After all, employees see and understand organizational processes, operational challenges, customer issues, how well units work together, innovation and many other important success factors key to executing the business strategy.  This is not achieved through traditional employee surveys, which typically try to find out how satisfied employees are with a variety of factors.  Instead, the People Equity approach uses the eyes and intelligence of the workforce to fine tune the organization to higher performance.

SHRM India: How will the upcoming talent crunch as predicted by McKinsey – by 2020 there will be fewer college graduates than needed – impact businesses across the globe? 

Dr. Schiemann: It will generate the usual supply and demand issues.  Organizations will have to raise wages to attract talent and they will need to play a stronger role in education. More labour will require training and corporations will have to provide it if they want to have sufficient skills. In addition, companies will need to be more innovative in looking at how they source talent—considering alternative work models, broader geographies, new skill-building and training models, to secure the talent that they will need.

SHRM India: Does recruiting and managing talent in the current global downturn require a different strategy? 

Dr. Schiemann: Yes, it requires being cautious that you are hiring candidates who not only have high capabilities, but also ones who have the potential to become aligned and engaged in your culture and to your strategy.  As with any economic change, expectations will change over time but must be managed in the short term. Talent that has been able to jump from one place to another may settle down a bit more, but it also provides employers with an opportunity to do a better job finding the ‘right’ talent. 

SHRM India: What are your views on issues like presenteeism versus absenteeism?

Dr. Schiemann: Not sure how I can address this question with a short answer. The presenteeism issue relates to my earlier points that in high-growth environments, organizations tend to throw higher wages, benefits and perks to employees. That attracts all comers. The problem is that some of them are not good fits for the organization and when the organization does not match them well, they become disengaged, leading to people who stay for the ride, but are not enjoying it much — or adding much value to the company.

SHRM India: What advice or tips would you offer to executives managing talent in the “new normal”?

Dr. Schiemann: In general, the only new normal is constant change and a lot of variance, which translates to managing risk — especially human capital risk.  Leaders today need to think about the various types of human capital risk they face, such as retention of the ‘right’ talent, ethics issues, attracting talent in critical skills areas, leveraging workforce productivity and so forth.  If a competitor can do these things better than your organization, you will struggle to remain competitive.

Rajeshwari Sharma is Editor, SHRM India.

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