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How companies maximise talent - four case studies

By Bettina Pickering and Paul Lambert

In a previous article we identified reasons why some organisations are thriving despite the current economic downturn, thanks to a focus on workforce planning, talent management and workforce development.

In this article we look at four case studies of how PA has helped some leading companies put the following ideas into practice:

1.        Aligning capacity and capability with changing business focus

2.        Refocusing talent programmes to reflect recession-proofing priorities

3.        Making performance management really count

4.        Refreshing the employee value proposition in order to build loyalty and            retain top performers.


Leading rail engineering company – aligning capacity and capability needs with changing business focus

This company is a major international supplier of rail control and signalling systems for surface and underground rail systems. Its business success depends on developing the right specialist engineering skills and engineering leadership to meet the challenges of an industry that is increasingly global and technologically complex. Doing so requires forward planning, something that many organisations find complex to achieve.

The rail company has taken steps to identify gaps between its future requirements and its actual workforce. It reviewed its medium- and long-term business plan to understand the implications for required capacity and capability. It also undertook a comprehensive workforce assessment to see what capabilities were already available, and would be in future. It was then able to generate a people capability framework identifying where the gaps were, and a workforce plan to ensure that it could fill them.

Putting this plan into practice has helped the company achieve key strategic objectives such as a move into the emerging markets (China and India) – something that would have been impossible without taking steps in advance to ensure that the right capacity, with the right capability, was available.

Government department – refocusing talent programmes to prioritise employee performance over educational delivery

This government department wants its learning and development function to make a real difference to staff and ultimately to customer service, ensuring a focus on delivered benefit as a result of training. The department has now defined a “learning vision” that states “Learning will support the development of current and future staff skills to enable the department to deliver high performance across the breadth of its businesses”.

This vision is being translated into a new learning organisational structure and approach that focuses on performance improvement support rather than educational delivery.

Global financial services organisation  – making performance management really count

This organisation recognises the importance of maintaining the talent pipeline and as part of its talent management agenda continues to invest in high-performing individuals with demonstrable potential to progress to the most senior levels of the organisation.

One aspect of this ongoing investment is the “Pathway Programme” which supports the development of middle managers. This 18-month programme combines quarterly modules consisting of coaching and action learning. The modules focus on general management skills, including strategy, programme management, customer orientation, change and leadership.

A particularly innovative component of the Pathway Programme is that participants work on projects with nominated charities over the 18 months of the Programme as a form of on-the-job learning. Their brief is to focus on delivering as much value to the project as possible, at the same time putting relevant skills and learning into practice.

Leading telecommunications organisation – creating a compelling employee value proposition

A leading telecommunications organisation is using an innovative, evidence-based modelling approach to understand what makes employees tick. PA applied systems thinking to the problem, developing a causal model that identifies the critical factors influencing an employee’s motivation and performance. An advisor to the project was Professor John Purcell, leader of the University of Bath team that developed the CIPD’s influential People and Performance Model.

In just three months, the PA team was able to assemble the data it needed, model the causal map and provide deep insight into, and evidence of, the effects of certain employee behaviours – as well as show how these could be addressed most effectively.

Each of these examples provides a practical illustration of how talent management interventions can deliver leading performance even in today’s difficult current conditions.

To learn more about how PA can help maximise talent, please contact