The Evolution of the ‘Talent Director’ in Today’s Construction Organizations

October 2018

 

by Gregg M. Schoppman, FMI

Consider how time has evolved certain roles within organizations. For instance, 40 years ago, firms staffing full-time safety professionals to lead and support their endeavors in the life safety arena. Today, that same role continues to evolve with the incorporation of risk management as an overarching theme. Similarly, information technology’s warp speed and trajectory has rapidly morphed a position that was often relegated to the margins of simply maintaining hardware to that of a c-suite position that often compliments the financial roles, risk management roles and business development roles handling everything from the website and social media to data security. Organizations continue to evolve and incorporate new roles that arise from the demand of the marketplace. Human resources associates evoke images of a stodgy paper pusher that either helps process required paperwork during hiring or shows up on that fateful last day of employment. This is no longer enough in today’s firms to drive proactive and leading strategies. Enter the “Talent Director.”

Lights

An essential element of every firm’s strategic plan should involve cultivating human capital in some form or fashion. With the prevalence of issues surrounding the industry and the perceived inability to “find good people,” it would grossly negligent to forget a series of actions around finding and/or retaining talent. More importantly, every firm should examine every aspect of their human resources plan. For instance, Figure 1 illustrates the life cycle associated with growing people internally.

Fig. 1

 

Whether it relates to the firm’s image among the candidate pool or how managers, supervisors, and associates are continually developed long into their career, it quickly becomes apparent how vast and complicated this component of a strategic plan becomes. Unfortunately, too often, the “circles” become side projects of other roles within an organization. As with many side projects, aspirational goals on planning day become relegated to distractions to “real work” like project management and finances leading to procrastination or neglect. While it is hardly gross insubordination, growing and managing the talent development aspect of a firm could largely be compared to that of growing a safety program or managing IT as a part time job.

Camera

When compared to corollary positions in firms, this does not mean the Talent Director becomes the owner, manager and sole practitioner of all things “People.” Just as safety is everyone “job,” everyone owns an aspect of the People Goal, but the Talent Director is the champion or custodian. They serve as the manager to drive this mission critical initiative and live “People” on a daily basis. They provide the cadence to which the organization marches relative to specific items within the People World:

  • Organizational Recruiting—Whether they actively participate in college or high school recruiting or delegate specific team members to participate (i.e. alumni relations), they quarterback the process to maintain routine contact rather than simply show up only when there is an employment need
  • Personnel Development Plans—Working with managers and associates to tie organizational goals (future management needs) with real-time personnel development and training targets.
  • Training— Rather than create a “blanket” training program, the Talent Director identifies internal needs that not only shore up internal deficiencies but provides real education on new trends and thought leadership within the industry.
  • Internal Universities—Acting as “The Dean,” the Talent Director creates the curriculum, identifies the subject matter experts (internal or external) and most importantly creates accountability to drive adherence to training and education.

Talent development is not just for the mega-organizations. While establishing a full-service university sounds like a daunting task—especially when led by a project manager or superintendent as a side project—consider the benefit of any well-defined, structured training program that is tied to a firm’s strategy and long-term well-being.

Build

There are many organizations that are managing the business from the sidelines, determining the long-term efficacy of such a position. Will this work for us? Is the talent issue facing the construction industry a short term blip or is this just the tip of the iceberg? How will we pay for it? First, it is important to push the climatic issue of “talent shortages” to the side for a moment. As a leader in the firm, ask yourself what type of firm you want to lead. Do you want to be a talent for the best or always be an afterthought getting the mediocre? Leading organizations not only state in their vision, mission and core values their dedication to talent but drive real action to achieve in this area. As a result, they are not reactionary pawns to macro-level forces.

It is also important to recognize the need for empowerment. So many firms are well-intentioned when it comes to training and associate development, only to have real life get in the way in the form of projects. How often does a training get “punted” because of a challenging project or performance appraisals delayed because of that same challenging project? Similar to safety leadership, the talent director must have cache. If it is not viewed as a true partner to operations, estimating and finance, associates will not only discount the validity and relevance but subvert the intent of the strategic initiative.

The construction industry continues to grapple with the ever-changing environment. As discussions continue to leverage technology more and more, the human element remains the one constant in all organizations. Those firm that take an active role in owning and directing the talent development process will certainly surpass those firms that merely dabble from stage left.

As a principal with FMI, Tampa, Fla., Gregg Schoppman specializes in the areas of productivity and project management. He also leads FMI’s project management consulting practice. Prior to joining FMI, Schoppman served as a senior project manager for a general contracting firm in central Florida. He has completed complex and sophisticated construction projects in the medical, pharmaceutical, office, heavy civil, industrial, manufacturing, and multi-family markets. He has also worked as a construction manager and managed direct labor. Furthermore, Schoppman has expertise in numerous contract delivery methods as well as knowledge of many geographical markets. He can be reached at (813) 636-1259 or gschoppman@fminet.com.

 

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