The talent challenge – creating a global integrated approach to talent development

accapr —  14 November 2013 — Leave a comment

By Arvind Shankar, managing director, Accenture Business Services, and Julie Spillane, EMEA director and Ireland director, Accenture Business Services

When evolving to a global business services (GBS) model, a key challenge is how to quickly grow, at scale, in an offshore environment with the depth of capability and tacit knowledge typically held in the onshore environment, which has been developed over many years.

Immediately, from a sourcing talent perspective, the question becomes how you seed the operation with the right mix of capabilities, and whether you buy some of that talent in externally, borrow it from the onshore environment or build the skills locally. This is particularly important when you recognise the breadth of management and business capabilities you need in a GBS environment typically extends beyond traditional functional boundaries. The approach to sourcing and developing talent and the ‘build, buy, borrow’ question will not be addressed fully by looking at talent recruitment and development solely through a Global Business Services or solely through a functional finance lens. An integrated approach is needed that views talent through both lenses.

As GBS itself is cross-functional in nature, GBS organisations often find it easier to cultivate an ‘integrated’ approach internally; for example, providing opportunities for employees through programmes such as rotational assignments in and out of different areas to grow individual capabilities and skills. The demarcation between technical, business and functional knowledge also starts to disappear in GBS where roles are created in areas such as programme management, service management and quality management. In short, there are more opportunities for employees to grow and enhance their skills given GBS multi-function structure.

As the GBS organisation continues to grow its reputation and its mandate increases, it is more able to push the talent agenda. There are, of course, challenges in the GBS environment; while in some senses the talent base and pool in more cost-effective locations may be much broader, the turnover is also higher. Robust succession plans, training programmes, and knowledge transfer processes become critical in these environments.

In contrast, traditional functional finance organisations often find talent management challenging, and that’s a reflection of historic practices and functional structures. It is also a reflection of the impact transformation has had particularly on the retained finance function, the re-articulation of its role, its capacity in the future in terms of career opportunities and the engagement levels of staff. Those in the retained organisation that have embraced the shift towards global business services are better placed to capitalise on the opportunities. This is particularly true if they have experience on both sides of the ‘fence’. This puts them in a strong position from their own career point of view. From an organisational perspective we have to be very mindful of these challenges and differences in the two organisational models when developing an integrated approach to talent.

Solutions – creating a global integrated approach to talent development

  1. The development of integrated approaches to talent is essential. In a global, matrixed business such as Accenture, it is essential to adopt an integrated approach to talent which provides both a GBS view and a finance function view of middle-senior management talent. This gives business leaders much greater clarity to where their talent sits, how it cuts across geographies, functions or role levels, and how it may be deployed across the entirety of finance and GBS roles to best meet the needs of the entity as a whole. It’s a much more holistic view which helps drive an effective succession planning process as well as identifying capability gaps. It also helps GBS become more integrated in developing the broader finance leadership.
  2. Create ‘finance’ roles as part of the finance leadership team that bridge GBS and the retained finance function. A number of senior level roles within the Accenture organisation have evolved which have both GBS and finance functional responsibilities. This helps drive synergies between these different entities and gives a view from both sides of the fence so that challenges and opportunities that may arise as part of the broader transformation journey can be anticipated. It also brings informed insights to cross fertilise talent between GBS and the finance function.
  3. Deliver learning interventions that drive a more global outlook and help strengthen GBS – retained finance relationships. To ensure parity of understanding and knowledge of our finance teams within GBS compared to the retained/in-country finance teams, we have supported colleagues through the ACCA qualification in our centres. This has significantly raised capabilities across GBS and brought strong reputational benefits. It helps develop a global perspective across GBS as well as providing individuals with greater career opportunities. In addition, we have invested in building coaching skills and have also introduced a career counselling programme which is independent of line management. For the senior management team in GBS, their career counsellors are actually based in the functional organisation, which helps strengthen relationships.

This case study appeared in an ACCA report on Talent and capability in global finance functions. As part of ACCA’s qualitative research leading organisations shared their approaches.

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