Companies often focus on retaining star performers or leadership talent, overlooking pivotal roles – jobs that have a vast ability to create (or destroy) the value customers expect.

Although employee engagement and retention have been inseparably linked, not all roles are equal, and organisations that strive to raise engagement equally among all their people may be failing the ones who make the biggest difference to the business.

Pivotal talent pools

The future of employee engagement hinges on workforce segmentation.  Workforce segmentation involves identifying pivotal roles where key skills make the biggest difference to strategy execution.  Of course, all positions play a part in the success in the company, but it’s unwise to mechanically rate for example the COO higher than a specialist role before analysing the company’s rationale and reason for existence.

The decision on how to segment or classify workforces is unique to each organisation as it depends on culture, nature of the business, diversity within the organisation in terms of types of skills employed, as well as future plans.

The process of workforce segmentation is often arranged according to a popular set of groupings, namely (1) core, (2) critical, and (3) scarce. This kind of subdivision provides a working basis on which to plan attraction, development and retention strategies.

The decisions on segmentation need to be made in dialogue with the executive team. In the particular context of South Africa, workforce segmentation – together with an organisation’s Employment Equity plan – should inform strategic sourcing initiatives.  Faced with a scarcity of key skills and rapidly evolving talent demands, companies that fail to understand the importance of strategic sourcing will be on the losing end when it comes to attracting and accessing the people and skills they need.

Engaging your employees, particularly those in pivotal roles, to pursue innovation and performance improvement may require new management thinking, both in the business and the Human Resources (HR) department.  It’s important to understand what people in pivotal roles want from their work, and to find creative ways to motivate them, according to a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC).  For some, the report adds, non-financial incentives can work better than more money.

With regards to workforce segmentation, PWC recommends that the HR department and the C-suite should be asking themselves the following questions:

  1. What are the roles that create disproportionate value for our company and do we have the right people in them?
  1. Does our succession planning cover pivotal roles, not just company leadership, and do we have a good pipeline of talent for those roles?
  1. Are the pivotal roles getting adequate resources and management attention?
  1. How might we segment our workforce in ways that align with business goals, identify barriers to productivity and reveal opportunities for improvement?
  1. How can we develop a solid, fact-based understanding of what really motivates our people in pivotal roles?
  1. Do we have the right programmes and incentives in place to motivate people in pivotal roles—from strong coaching and mentoring programmes to work arrangements that inspire autonomy or creativity?
  1. How can we create a work environment focused on results and individual value?

With all of that said, it’s still imperative the company invest reserves in motivating employees in non-pivotal roles, who may see resources shifting.

Janko A. Kotzé
Organisational Psychologist
M: +27 (0)83 233 7147

About the author

Janko is an Industrial and Organisational (IO) Psychologist and holds a Master’s Degree in IO Psychology at Unisa (Cum Laude). He has extensive consulting experience and has designed and delivered Talent Management solutions to over 30 clients across various industries.

He is the Founder and Director of Human Interest Consulting. A boutique talent management consulting firm that partners with organisations to create high-performing, integrated Talent Ecosystems that allow people to prosper. He is a skilled people strategist and facilitator and likes to embed new strategies through individual and group coaching engagements.

Janko has written numerous articles and is a sought after conference speaker. He has represented South Africa in the 110m hurdles at Youth, Junior and Senior National level and has aided international athletes and sport teams in the art of Mental Excellence.

Janko’s qualifications include a BCom Sport Management, BCom Hons Industrial Psychology, Certificate in Marketing & Customer Centricity (Cum Laude) and an Intensive Coaching Training Accreditation (Cum Laude). He is a member of Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA), Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychologists of South Africa (SIOPSA), Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP).

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