Construction management and talent management might not seem to have much overlap. They serve different functions, address different needs, and interact with different parts of an organization. But for Anthony Perrone—head of global talent management, executive/leadership development, and diversity at process transformation company Sutherland Global—they originate from the same drive: the passion to transform. “I might not be constructing a building, but I am developing organizational processes and capabilities from the ground up,” Perrone says. “I’m transforming the talent landscape for organizations so that business strategies become a reality.”
Perrone began his career as a buildings systems representative with Simplex Time Recorder after earning a bachelor’s degree in construction management from Utica College at Syracuse University. Although he wasn’t in a human resources role, he was always drawn to the human side of the business. “The construction management industry provided me the technical or mechanical side of change,” he says. “But I still had this unfulfilled need for the people side of change.”
While at Simplex, Perrone earned a master’s degree in organization management. He applied his academic knowledge to his work by creating a centralized customer service provider group that served New York State. “A lot of that was born out of listening to customers and the problems that they were having with Simplex at the time with regard to customer service,” Perrone says. By revamping the organizational design, Perrone created a more cost-efficient process, reorganizing the human components to solve a business challenge.
“We have an obligation to help our employees see where the organization is going, understand the kind of capabilities that we’re going to need, and give them the opportunities to be able to reach that potential.”
After completing his master’s degree, Perrone joined Forbes Magazine as its human resources business manager. Because Forbes had a small HR function, Perrone was able to operate in both business management and HR management for the advertising department. Over time, he began to specialize in learning and talent management, applying the approach he used at Simplex to redesign human workflow and organization to address a company’s strategic vision.
At Sutherland, Perrone had the opportunity to transform a talent management function on a global scale. Sutherland was founded in 1986 as a business process consulting firm, at a time when many US-based companies were first transferring customer service work offshore. Over time, the company began operating internal support functions for its clients, expanding from a business-to-consumer company to encompassing business-to-business functions as well. It continued to experience rapid growth and now assists clients in transformational process and product design at its labs in San Francisco and London.
To achieve this mission, Sutherland’s talent management strategy will utilize the company’s strength in business process management to improve on its business innovation capability. Perrone, in turn, works closely with Sutherland’s senior executive team to determine the capabilities needed to execute the company’s strategy and where those capabilities can be found or developed. In this digital marketplace, Perrone’s view is that talent management is a strategic positioner for the company— future-proofing the business by focusing on releasing the power of its existing talent and optimizing how it is best deployed, nurtured, and encouraged to perform.
Providing innovative solutions requires not only a different approach to talent but different skills as well. As artificial intelligence replaces humans in transacting and monitoring processes, employees have to determine what skills they need to fit into the new landscape, and organizations have to determine a pathway to building or buying those skills. “It’s about understanding what the future context could be and then reshaping people’s capabilities and experiences around that new world,” Perrone says. “We have an obligation to help our employees see where the organization is going, understand the kind of capabilities that we’re going to need, and give them the opportunities to be able to reach that potential.” At the same time, the organization needs to be attractive to emerging talent. “This is our path to developing a tech-savvy, globally dispersed organization that aligns with its employees’ life interests,” he explains.
Changing technologies impact the way people develop skills in addition to changing the skills they need to be successful on the job. The traditional view of learning and development centers on an individual providing training to another individual, whether that’s in a classroom setting or through remote technology. But this approach doesn’t match how individuals learn outside of the office, where learning is delivered based on an individual’s question in that given moment. In a corporate structure, that might manifest in on-demand lectures or injecting information into an organization’s social network and allowing subject matter experts to provide information to their peers. This changes the role of talent managers. “We’re now the curators of content as opposed to being the disseminators of content,” Perrone says. “You should be able to provide a lot of different ways for people to gain access to knowledge and information and participate in the learning process.”
While some might fear that machines will entirely replace humans, Perrone’s fear is that businesses and employees will not adapt quickly enough to the changing reality. As always, he looks forward to the next transformation. “Participate, and be the change,” he says. “Otherwise, you’re going to be left behind.”
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