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Navigating the Venetian Waterways to Explain Integrated Talent Management

Posted on July 04, 2011 by: Lisa Koss

Getting around Venice happens by feet or by boat.  Using your feet saves you time, but using a boat saves your feet. Therefore, which mode you use mostly will depend upon your goal.

We were happy to spend a day in Venice, Italy, this week given our nearby client project.  And our goal in terms of how to get around was to do both, of course, in order to ensure the full Venetian experience.  But the next day, we began to think about the skills that might be required for different kinds of boat captains/pilots and how it links to one of our areas of expertise: integrated talent management.

To set context, you may know there are several kinds of transport in Venice, including water buses, water taxis and gondolas.  Larger water buses (vaporetti) mostly skirt the city center and land on the periphery points and outer islands.  Smaller water buses (motoscafi) have smaller capacity and are used for lower volume routes.  Water taxis are sleek, speedy vehicles that navigate most canals.  The gondola is technically a form of transport but has become rather an adjunct of the tourist industry.

Now if you were to consider that each of the individuals who pilot these vessels into Venetian waterways require many of the same navigation skills, and yet also require distinct skills for their particular vessel, you already have the basis for understanding of how competencies might be the same or different for a particular group within your organization.  But what makes competencies powerful is their role in organizational change.

When the organizational strategy changes in some significant way, people will also likely need to change what they do and how they do it.  Because people are often hired and rewarded for one set of skills, it’s not obvious how the organization implementing a fundamental change in its business will actually realize its new vision with the same people doing the same work in the same way.  Often we find that leaders determine the vision (individually or with their teams) and then make announcements about what everyone now needs to do without truly giving people the structure, tools or processes they need.  Researching and determining what the new competencies are to achieve the change is often an overlooked first step in aligning the organization to the desired future end state.   Moreover, defining what success looks like in this new world helps better engage and recruit employees to the change.

So let’s use Venetian canal pilots as an example.  Let’s pretend that it’s been determined that tourists have begun to avoid water transportation in Venice because captains/boat pilots are unfriendly to non-Italians.  And let’s say the city determines that it is in the city’s best interest to change that.  Implementing an integrated talent management system would begin by us, in this case, helping leaders to further articulate their new strategy, if necessary, and then determine clear definitions of what customer service looks like for captains and boat pilots given what the best canal captains do combined with what the best canal captains need to be able to do in order to enable the new strategy to be achieved.  This would be followed with definitions of possible career paths and supporting processes and systems for people to achieve the change.

At the same time, other benefits to the process are many.  They include:

– Clearer definition of roles and job scope and expected impact at that level
– Organizational transparency which allows employees to see what skills they need to move within the organization
– Clear definitions and tools for hiring and promotion
– Enhanced employee engagement

In short, customized and well-formulated competencies with their accompanying process and talent management structures allow leaders to align what their people are doing every day to the new strategy.   This is the missing link in many change efforts which often focus only on visioning, strategy and information dissemination.  Addressing the human element (and the organizational culture) gives your organization the motor it needs to reach its goals much faster.


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