Talent Strategies which make your organization “Ready for Change”

As I prepare my keynote for our upcoming research conference, IMPACT 2009:  The Business of Talent®, I came to the realization that one of the most important issues in management today is the need to build talent and learning processes which make organizations ready for change.

Why “ready for change?”  Because “Enduring Organizations”, those which survive and prosper over long periods of time, have one strong quality:  they adapt.   They have an uncanny ability to identify market shifts, make decisions, and move into new markets faster and more effectively than their competitors.  

In my keynote and throughout the conference we will highlight some of these companies – and show you precisely what they do which makes them so flexible, nimble, and effective at getting out of bad businesses and positioning themselves quickly to take advantage of new markets.

As we all know, change is difficult.  But in many ways, today, change is the new constant.  A recent IBM study of 1,000 CEO’s showed that in 2008 83% of organizations rate “rapid market change” as their #1 potential barrier to success.  These changes fall into three categories: market changes, technology changes, and most important of all people changes.

I don’t need to remind any of you of the changes we are facing today: plummeting oil prices, shifts in buying patterns to low priced goods; focus on green products and services; and tremendous shifts in credit markets, construction, retail, and consumer demand.

As we look at the enduring organizations in our research, we identified Seven Keys to building talent management strategies which make your organization “ready for change.”  IMPACT 2009 Research Conference

  1. Transform Engagement into a business imperative.
    Change-ready organizations like Lowes, Kaiser Permenente, and Wal-Mart,  are focusing on line leaders and line employee engagement programs. Cedric Coco from Lowes will be talking about the company’s “talent business model” for engagement.
  2. Build Learning Environments, not learning programs.
    Today more than ever adaptable organizations want to build a “learning culture” not just a set of training programs.  We will show how Accenture, IBM, and the US Airforce create flexibility through their corporate learning environments.
  3. Drive specialization:  depth not breadth.
    Enduring organizations are experts.  Their business strategy allows them to focus on bing world-class at a few things, demanding high degrees of specialization.  You will hear more about how Qualcomm and Boeing use specialization as an enduring business strategy.
  4. Renew the nobility of first line management.
    Organizations run on their line managers – line managers create, lead, and implement change.  Companies like Pfizer, Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, and Vestas will talk about their focus on line leadership as an enduring business strategy.
  5. Design for talent mobility.
    When changes happen we must be ready.   Change-ready organizations like Aetna, Caterpillar, Pemex, and IBM have systems and processes to rapidly move people to new positions and roles when needed.
        These companies can downsize strategically without losing critical skills.
  6. Learn from “we” not “me.”
    The collective wisdom of the organization learns far faster than individuals.  Change-ready companies are now leveraging social networking to rapidly share insights, information, and learning.  Sun and BT will demonstrate their internal sharing systems at IMPACT.
  7. Focus and consolidate:  “do less with less.”
    Regardless of the state of the economy, change-ready organizations constantly look for ways to simplify, consolidate, and reduce expenses.  We will talk about how Cisco, Starbucks, and others are “doing less with less” and becoming better businesses as a result.


At the conference we will show you how companies like Accenture, IBM, Vestas, ARAMARK, Kaiser Permanente, Qualcomm, the US Airforce, Lowes, Sun Microsystems, Boeing, Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, Deloitte, Pemex, Booz Allen Hamilton, BT, Starbucks, Cisco, and more create talent strategies which are specifically “architected for change.”

Come to IMPACT 2009 on April 14-16 in St. Petersburg, Florida, join more than 300 senior HR, L&D, and solution provider executives, and hear more.


Josh Bersin

2 Responses

  1. Hi Josh,

    Regarding key #2; “build learning environments, not learning programs”, I think you’ve identified synonyms. A great learning program places a lot of emphasis on environment and leaves a lot of room for spontaneity. The “program” piece can exist and have plenty of structure, provided it can be scaled back if appropriate.

    Programming is a springboard or catalyst for learning, and is powerful, although not universally necessary. The thing to remember is that all programs are not created equal. A good program takes advantage of and nurtures a good environment. The “sage on the stage” model doesn’t breed engagement, but I’ve seen engagement, learning, and even the catalyst for transformation in good workshops.


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