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Talent attraction and management are at the top of many leaders’ agendas. Whether it is scouting for the best talent outside or nurturing it from within, the realization that it is people who make or break an organisation is hitting companies hard. Investing in new learning opportunities, instilling a sense of purpose into corporate cultures and employing social tools for employer branding are just some of the ways companies develop on to attract and advance talent. Our own research has revealed 41% of the companies are investing in Talent Tech in 2014.

We decided to talk to an expert on the subject of Talent, Shauna O’Handley. Shauna is the Head of Talent Value Proposition & Performance at Misys, a multinational software company in the financial sector.

Shauna explains that in her experience, the determining factor that underpins the effectiveness of any talent strategy is the level of priority the organisation assigns to it. “Specifically,” she says, “if the talent strategy is not the business strategy then you can expect the results to be compromised. If HR is not seen as a strategic partner in designing and delivering a talent strategy, again, you can expect the results to be less than ideal.”

To understand what role HR plays with an Executive Team, she suggests asking the following questions:

Is HR the employee advocate pushing the people agenda, or are they facilitating the execution of the business strategy?

“They are two very different things and real scenarios for HR teams so depending at what level of maturity of the exec team and the role that HR plays in the organisation the results will obviously be different.”

“So the first key to success in my mind is,” Shauna continues, “an Exec team who is genuine in believing that investing in and managing talent is critical to support the delivery of their business objectives and that their business leaders take an active role in sponsoring, mentoring, coaching and teaching. Seeing organisational talent as a high priority means sharing the business direction and the role that employees play in it.”

This scenario leads to the second key to success – “the opportunity to build a strong connection between what an employee does day to day and the impact that has on the overall organisation – starting to create meaning beyond wha???????????????????????????????t tasks and activities they are doing day in and day out. Facilitating employees to build that connection, to engage with the wider business agenda and helping them understand the role they play as a key contributor to the organisation’s success. This is absolutely a foundation stone for getting the most out of any talent management strategy. That strong connection provides a great baseline to build upon because without a strong context or a sense of the direction the organisation is moving, interventions and the articulation of the employer brand is bluntly disjointed and shortsighted fluff and we end up with a high level of investment with limited return.”

Misys is striving to do just that. The company went through significant transformations in 2013. “The executive team has taken the time to articulate the Misys Story: Why Misys, what we are about and want to achieve and how we are going to do it. The exec has mapped the future state culture and the beliefs and organisational capabilities that are paramount to get us there. It’s all about future focus – creating that journey and taking our people on that journey. Getting the tools in place to facilitate that connection. The combination of that strategy vision delivery with a tech solution has been instrumental in our people transformation journey and the increased perception and trust of the executive team.”

After determining and communicating a vision, make sure you get the right technology to assist you with implementation. For example, Misys chose SumTotal performance management solution, which allows the executive team to give visibility in one place of the organisational and functional goals and the whole performance process directly aligned to this. “We’ve invested in taking the business leaders on that journey, defining their roles in advocating, communicating and helping their people understand what the corporate goals mean, why they are important, the key transformational activities to drive our business growth. It was the first time our employees could get that level of visibility and the first time where they had to align their own individual goals against what the function and organisation was trying to achieve. We created that infrastructure of connection, bringing a stronger meaning and a shift from ‘thinking for today’ to ‘thinking beyond’. We knew this was one of the key stepping stones in the Misys talent strategy – and something I believe that is core to any talent strategy,” explains Shauna O’Handley.


  • What are we doing to attract and retain the best talent?
  • What are we doing to invest in our people?
  • How are we celebrating our success?
  • What does it feel like to be the best?

“These fundamental building blocks of an effective talent management strategy have to be considered and if you don’t have it, don’t kid yourself on the benefits case you built for your talent strategy. You cannot underestimate that genuine exec focus, that organisational and employee alignment and the story and journey that every employee needs to feel part of. This feeds everything else that we always see in relation to talent strategies.”

Shauna elaborates. “The Misys story is a fundamental part of our brand – our USP in the market with our customers and prospective candidates and what distinguishes us from everyone else. Our journey is part of the vision – where are we going, what’s important and how we’re going to get there. We use it for our candidate attraction and managing retention within the organisation – both areas we continue to improve in. It helps with fast tracking onboarding and creating an appetite for the organisation awareness that drives self-directed career management, organisational navigation and strong cross team/border networks. We’re really seeing the difference. There are of course the other well known elements that are part of this: ongoing capability development as part of a high performance culture: what are we doing to grow our people, enable effectiveness and drive excellence as we build stronger future talent pipelines internally? How are we creating that engaging and accessible environment and use of social platforms to get things out quick, fast and engage in real time with employees’ insights and recognize them for their contributions. What we need to do from a talent management perspective isn’t new to any solid business leader, but how you go about doing it and the key drivers will make the difference. I think with talent management, we all know the key ingredients – one of the things I encourage organisations to look at more is how we manage unsuccessful candidates and those that are off boarding.”

We need to see talent management as wider than attracting ‘the’ candidate and retaining the best.

She notes that the power of employees is on the rise, which is why “the definition of talent needs to extend to those that are interested in Misys right through to our alumni. What is the experience that we are providing people in these situations? How is our candidate management processes set up to ensure that candidates are engaged effectively and see their experience with Misys as a positive one – even if it was only for a 30 minute conversation of a three hour assessment center. How can we ensure that our off boarding experiences are positive and respectful? Who are these people talking to? What networks can they leverage in providing talent to Misys? Most importantly: What are they saying? None of this is behind closed doors anymore – they’re actually behind GlassDoor, or Twitter, or Facebook or personal blogs – the reach and damage can be extensive. This is not rocket science but it is something from a management and leadership perspective that we need to create a higher level of consciousness about. I’ve seen first-hand some horror stories in the past- people who resign for legitimate reasons in line with their own career which was a difficult personal choice they had to make. Someone who had a heavy heart about leaving their colleagues and the organisation that they enjoyed. Once the deed was done they were then treated very poorly during their notice period by a member of senior management to the point where everyone in the team was mortified for the person and demoralized. This impact is far more damaging then the fact that we lost a key talent. It’s a shame – because that person may have been someone who could have boomeranged back in two years’ time with a higher level of capability, or drove a pipeline of referrals from leveraging their own networks. We cannot underestimate the power of potential and past talent – the war on talent means we can’t afford to. How you are perceived determines your ability to attract, retain and maximize the outcomes of any investment in talent development, their productivity and their will to drive the organisation forward. We need to mitigate any potential risks to this.”


You can find full interview with Shauna O’Handley here. She covers a range of other important subjects, so we strongly recommend to read it. You can also see her present at HR Tech Europe 2014. Her presentation is on Day 2 in the ‘Talent Management’ track, titled Strategic Talent Management for Real Results.