One of my favourite podcast sites is HBR IdeaCast. And one of my favourite podcasts that I have listened to recently is called The new science of human capital, IdeaCast No. 76. The podcast is an interview with one of the authors of the book Beyond HR. The gist of the podcast concerns talent management within organisations. The key message is about finding where talent makes the most difference – the pivot points. Thus, the podcast discusses how one identifies these positional pivot points, and how to enhance the talent in these pivot points.
An example used in the podast to illustrate a pivot point is the street sweeper at Disneyland. The street sweepers have fundamental process-driven work but what is pivotal, what can make a big difference, is how well these street sweepers are able to help Disney theme park customers by answering questions and giving assistance in a highly beneficial manner. So, the key talent management objective in street sweeping may not just be the ability to undertake the process of street sweeping but how a sweeper handles face-to-face customer relations. This pivot point may not even be in the job description and certainly not part of the training regime unless the pivot point is recognised.
In addition, the street sweeper supervisors at Disney are included in park design meetings. These supervisors tell the designers what they hear from customers, literally from the street. This information forms part of the park improvement cycle to make the Disney experience even better.
Identifying and improving these pivot points are critical in a host of organisational contexts. For example, banks (and their customers and potential customers) would be better served by harnessing the experiences of their tellers and other customer-facing staff.
There is much more to follow up from the book and it’s on my “to read” list. But the point I wanted to highlight was that this process of identifying pivot points and maximising talent effectiveness is pretty much what knowledge management professionals are working towards as well. How can knowledge management practices make the people and the organisation work much more effectively? And one of the ways in which knowledge management works is to facilitate the exchange of knowledge between people within (and often outside) the organisation, just like using the street sweepers’ knowledge to make Disney a more customer-friendly and helpful organisation.
I am pleased to hear that HR is finally taking some of the fundamental principles of knowledge management and using them in the quest to make people more effective inside organisations. It’s not before time!