Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Common Cents

My first real job was with Andersen Consulting (Accenture today, not the Enron one). Now, you may disagree with me, but although I've worked with and for a number of great companies since then, to this day I look back at Andersen as a model of Talent Management.

AC's recruiting process was really good. Their recruiters had refined the job descriptions and identified the core traits of people they were trying to hire. Fancy that! Applicants were given an opportunity to AC employees from staff consultant up to partner, giving both sides an ample opportunity to sum each other up. Not surprisingly, AC had a high success rate among new hires.

AC didn't pay much and explained it like this: "We pay a bit less but we'll train you and give you so much practical business experience that you can walk out of here and earn three times as much after two years. Or stay the course and in time, if you've got the right stuff, work your way up to partner." Sounds fair to me.

There was a full-sized campus near Chicago to handle AC's classroom training needs, where I spent a week going through various excercises, like managing a virtual project team. My virtual team members came to me with various problems, complaints and requests and it was my job to keep them productive.

Apparently I got the highest score ever on this part of the exam. Wanna know how?

Here's the secret to winning the virtual HR game: Apply a healthy dose of common sense to daily situations and be quick to show appreciation for the people who help make the business successful.

And here's another secret: It works in real life, too.

Career & Succession Planning:
Andersen offered a standard career plan that allowed people to move up the ranks to partner in a predictable amount of time, assuming they performed to clearly defined standards. Naturally, such an ambitious career path for so many people also required a high rate of attrition. Succession plans were clearly defined in each project and in fact, ex-Andersen consultants are seeded all over the business world today, so pretty smart, really, to encourage attrition.

OK, you get the idea. Obviously this model couldn't work for everyone. Most companies can't get such a high rate of return on new employees, which means mass hiring isn't feasible, which means en masse attrition isn't desirable, which means professional growth opportunities tend to be a bit thin on the ground, which means you can't offer professional growth in lieu of a high salary.


But I think we can still learn something from these talent management strategies.

Speaking from personal experience, I worked crazy 80 hour weeks for not much money, helped make large strategic clients successful and waited to leave until I could be replaced, even turning down one tempting offer to do so.

That's called loyalty. If you can inspire it, it's cheaper than a six-figure salary and you don't have to pay taxes on it.

So consider this: What do you offer your employees? If it's just money, and not much of that these days, how many of them do you suppose would show the same loyalty if a better offer came along?

Be honest, now.

1 comment:

  1. Having also worked at a "big 6" [or 5 or 8 depending on the year] I had a similar experience and observed and learned some excellent tools about HR, Management etc. One thing I'm still on the fence about was the "up or out" culture. As an EE that was very clear and motivating, as a [cough] seasoned Manager now, I think it does not work in most businesses.


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