Though we did write about Cathy Benko, vice president and managing principal at Deloitte Consulting, closer to when her book, The Career Lattice, came out (she actually co-authored it with Molly Anderson, Deloitte’s director of talent), her message as Wednesday morning’s keynoter at Impact 2013 was inspiring nonetheless.
It was nice to hear (and not just edit) her premise that talent management and employee engagement can no longer be about climbing the corporate ladder, but should instead be thought of as more of a lattice system, with far more employees moving laterally across an organization than waiting to be booted up to higher levels of management and eventually the executive suite.
“There is this tidal wave of change [around talent management] staring us in the face,” Benko told attendees. “We need to accept it and move forward.”
But that’s not easy, she said, citing research findings that show HR is the “least agile” position in business today. With changes in society, including the changing family structure, and with this lattice organization taking hold, employers and their HR leaders are going to have to be even more creative and must lead the way in giving employees something in return for having to give up this ever-dwindling ladder-climbing, promotion-based workforce.
That something, said Benko, involves taking charge and establishing more robust workplace-flexibility programs … programs that actually work on a more transparent basis. Engagement levels will immediately respond to such an effort. “It used to be,” she said, “that engagement meant just showing up; now, it involves many more non-measurable aspects,” including, but not limited to, skills-based volunteering opportunities and corporate-sustainability efforts that the new force of Gen Yers can believe in. And, yes, flexibility.
Benko encouraged HR professionals to not only dismantle the corporate ladder, but focus more now on “systematizing agility” and helping employees stay relevant in their job functions so they can move around better.
“Staying relevant in this business environment,” she said, “is a skill [and job] unto itself.”
She also encouraged HR not to mistake the business models they’re comfortable with for those they should be advancing.
Do not confuse a portfolio of projects, programs and policies — though admittedly all necessary — “with a system of change,” she said.
So how does HR value more of the intangible value of people, all wanting and needing a much more transparent, mobile and engaging experience in a much flatter organization? Benko posed.
For starters, she said, consider the fact that “people trust who they know and choose to follow more than their corporate leaders.” Citing research from Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer, she told attendees that 69 percent of respondents said they “trust those they feel are experts more than their employers or CEOs.”
Research also showed companies that have figured all this out, said Benko, showed 40 percent more profitability, 78 percent more productivity and 100 percent more return on assets.
“Where do you take all this from here?” she said. “That’s your call.”