he was on his way to the customer’s jobsite, he called to let me know what he was doing.” Grayson offered another example: “I have a direct report who reached out to me to begin a career develop- ment discussion. He’s been in the business as long as I’ve been alive. When I took over this position, I told all of my direct reports, ‘I’m here to help you be successful. Whatever you think success means to you, let me know.’ He took the initiative.” Cox offered a similar story about a different seasoned employee. The com- pany has targeted its counter business for improvement and asked a group of employees to offer any suggestions. “A more senior employee who is not very tech-savvy went online and found a free service that we can offer our customers,” he said. “He called to tell me, ‘Look what I found.’ I wouldn’t have expected someone in that age bracket to voluntarily get online and go searching for things, but he’s see- ing now that his ideas are valuable and welcome.” Expectations and behaviors are changing across the board, from the rank-and-file employees through the executive tier. While United’s senior executives have always been aware of the company’s emerging talent, the focus is more structured now, as Cox explained: “I meet with the executive team regularly to discuss our emerg- ing talent and how we can best leverage their abili- ties. As business condi- tions change, we may need to get someone up to speed quickly. We are more vigilant than before. “Culturally, we have always wanted to be like this, with empowered employees taking the ini- tiative and leaders taking a long-term view. It’s been an aspiration,” Cox said. “But now we have a structure that helps us better execute, and we are building support and suc- cess a little bit at a time.” Step by step. Without a path, walking the talent development walk is tough. Now United has a well-defined walkway leading to the most knowledgeable, skilled, take-charge workforce possible. ;
Niehaus, LEED GA, is an
instructional designer and
writer and the president and
founder of Communication
by Design (communication
bydesign.net). Reach her at
Design.net or 314-644-4135.
44 the ELECTRICAL DISTRIBU TOR • May 17
The new talent development system at New
Castle, Delaware-based United Electric Supply works like this: First, the employee steps
forward, announcing his/her interest in a next
position, or his/her manager invites him/her to
consider a specific next position.
Assuming employee interest, Bob Cox, talent
manager, enters the picture and asks the em-
ployee to complete a self-assessment ques-
tionnaire and personality survey, which Cox is trained and certified to administer and interpret.
“The personality survey tells us how a person’s brain is wired,” Cox explained. Then Cox, the employee, and the manager “talk about the results of the personality survey and compare how the
individual’s personality compares with the competencies that are required in the person’s current
job and those of the position to which he or she aspires.” United has a job description and a
competency model for every position in the company. A competency model identifies the skills,
knowledge, and aptitudes that an individual needs to excel in a specific position.
When the personality survey and job competency review reveal that the individual’s natural
inclinations (i.e., how he/she is wired) and the target position align closely enough, additional tools
come into play. These include a gap analysis worksheet and career planning guide that enable
the employee to objectively compare his/her current position and the targeted future role on
three dimensions: job duties, technical skills, and professional skills. Thus, the employee’s self-assessment continues, promoted by questions such as: “What do I need to do to make me the
obvious choice for this job?” “What are the specific things I have to do to get ready?” and "When
can I accomplish these tasks?” Together with Cox and his/her manager, the employee creates
a timeline for completing specific developmental activities, which invariably include carefully selected formal training programs and experiences.
“Multiple iterations of these gap analyses will occur as an individual moves through the com-
pany or as an individual’s career goals change,” said Cox. —J.N.