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Talent Score Report

Equifax tracks the credit scores of more than 400 million people worldwide. It takes a similar statistical approach with internal talent.

May 2, 2010
Related Topics: Strategy and Management
KEYWORDS measurement
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Equifax tracks the credit scores of more than 400 million people worldwide. It takes a similar statistical approach with internal talent.

As one of the largest consumer credit reporting agencies in the U.S., Equifax gathers and maintains information on more than 400 million credit holders worldwide. As such, it essentially oversees the financial health of individuals the world over. This is no easy task, especially considering that it’s one Equifax manages with just 7,000 employees.

According to Coretha Rushing, chief people officer at Equifax, the demands of the business require an approach to talent management that directly aligns human resources with overall organizational goals.

TM: Describe Equifax’s approach to talent management.

Rushing: We start with a focus on our business drivers and we use that as a basis to create a strategy not only to go out and source the key skills and talent that we need, but then to figure out a way to develop, maintain and motivate that talent base. In a nutshell, we make sure any focus on talent is acutely aligned with the priorities of our business. We’re a growth business, and we’re always trying to make sure that we not only have talent for our current needs but that we’re very anticipatory around what we think the needs are for growth around the corner.
 
TM: What processes or programs have you established to improve the performance of Equifax’s entire workforce?

Rushing: Starting with the fundamentals, we have grounded our leadership team and employees in a focus on setting realistic and measureable objectives and using a cascading approach. So our CEO [Rick Smith] puts his objectives for the year into the system, and every employee can go in and look at [them], and then each manager below him all the way down to the first-line employee cascades their objectives and links to his. In addition to that, we have a calibration process. Throughout the year, I meet with my manager to talk about my contributions. He or she gives me feedback, and then at midyear or at year-end, and in some cases it may even be quarterly, we go through a calibration process where managers come into a room and we talk about performance and the level of contribution to make sure we’re all using the same standards to assess and evaluate performance. It’s making sure we’re using the same yardstick. And what that’s resulted in is [that in] describing performance, we’re getting closer and closer to having the same standards.

TM: How is performance management linked to Equifax’s strategic objectives?

Rushing: It’s the way the objectives are set; that’s how they’re linked. As an example, at the beginning of the year this year, our CEO listed the 10 priorities for the business. Those 10 priorities then were taken by each of his or her direct reports, and we were then asked how our business centers — in my case, human resources — contribute to the achievement of those 10 objectives. Not all 10 necessarily may apply to what I deliver and what my team delivers to the organization, but it’s the cascading effect of those objectives that ensures a greater level of alignment.

TM: What challenges impact talent management at Equifax?

Rushing:
We’re in an industry where there are niche players, but we also have several key competitors to our business. So, obviously, because we have unique skill sets, often retention is a challenge. You want to make sure you have all the things in place to retain and motivate your workforce — that’s always a challenge. Also, from a talent perspective, the management of multi-generations in the workplace is a challenge because, again, how you motivate, how you give feedback, how you reward differs greatly by generation.

TM: How does Equifax work to change or create leadership and management behaviors that lead to optimal workforce performance?

Rushing: We formalize programs to give people as many opportunities [as possible] to improve and expand their leadership capability. We use a lot of experiential learning. We have a number of initiatives and programs. One is a growth council. And what we try to do in that case is select a number of leaders at every level of the organization. They have an opportunity to work in a cross-matrix, cross-functional team to address a specific business challenge, and then they work closely with an executive sponsor for that initiative. We believe giving people more experiential learning as opposed to more formal learning will build their capability both as individual contributors as well as leaders in the organization.

TM: How does Equifax develop organizational culture and employee attitudes to optimize workforce performance?

Rushing: We use a company survey on a regular basis, both a full-fledged employee survey as well as a short, quick survey from employees. We’ve leveraged focus groups. We’ve done culture surveys. We have a robust communications process where not only are there constant communications coming from our CEO as well as other leaders throughout the organization, but we also do town hall meetings and try to have as many opportunities for employees to engage and provide their perspective in terms of what’s going on in the business. [Additionally,] we solicit ideas from our employees and follow through on those suggestions and [are] explicit and public on where ideas have come from.

TM: How does Equifax use learning and development to manage talent?

Rushing: We use our learning and development group to focus our organization on what are the critical core competencies and skills that must be present in the majority of our workforce, focusing on business acumen and project management. We’re spending more time refining and understanding what capabilities are required and then using that organization to help communicate how you build that capability.

TM: What processes or programs have you established to attract, recruit and retain top talent?

Rushing: Any process that constantly looks at the talent pool and tries to enhance and strengthen the pool becomes a recruiting mechanism. We have a very robust talent review process that reinforces and retains the current workforce because following that process we give employees feedback around their strengths [and] their gaps. It provides an opportunity to be very specific about what gaps we have organizationally, and we use it as a basis to go out and source talent.

TM: How do you use assessments to manage Equifax’s talent?

Rushing: Over the last couple years we’ve increased the use of assessments, and we’re very specific that assessments in most cases are for development. Some of our job assessments may be used for input in the hiring decision, [but] at the end of the day the assessment is not the be-all, end-all to make the decision around hiring; it’s input into the decision.

TM: What compensation and incentive practices do you employ to help manage talent at Equifax?

Rushing: We have the traditional programs: obviously base pay, bonuses, equity grants, special awards. In this current environment, you want to be competitive in your compensation, so that’s a given, but what I’m finding is more and more in feedback from our employees, both in the survey and in focus groups, is recognition really is [important]. A driving force seems to be the things you do from a nonmonetary perspective, from a talent perspective. Having flexible work programs; creating a work environment where people feel like they’re heard; and then rewarding people in a way that resonates with them.

TM: How do you handle succession planning at your organization?

Rushing: We look at what we call early identifiers: people fairly early in their career. And in that process, we look at talent across the enterprise and we actually build our succession tables. We also provide employees very specific feedback based on conversations with senior leadership around what their towering strengths are [and] what their blind spots are and then we develop action plans for those employees to address those issues. Part of what comes out of that meeting is a rotation of talent — the movement of people to different assignments — and a more focused attention on employees who may have a very visible role, but when it comes to talking about their contribution, it’s not very clear. [We’re] finding ways to have that person work with multiple leaders so that we have a better sense of what their strengths are. We do that annually, and then we have quarterly updates.

TM: What’s next for Equifax in terms of talent management and workforce performance development?

Rushing: [We’ll be] continuing to change our culture. We’re focused on being a more innovative culture and trying to create an environment that fosters, develops, protects and values innovation. Also, as we acquire new business, [we’ll be] trying to make sure that we have a structure that allows the introduction and integration of new and different companies to our enterprise, making that easier through creating a structure that eases new organizations in without causing disruption to their business as they become part of Equifax. Finally, [we’ll be] continuing to focus on creating and driving a performance-driven culture where people are clear about their contribution and their value.

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