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BLOG: The Concept of 4E and 4R in Talent Management

A case for the good old fashioned philosophy of honesty, transparency and objectivity.

One the questions I am always asked when I run an industry event (like the one I ran last month - more on that in my next article) is how do folks ensure they remain 'employable.' Simply because jobs and job functions change dramatically in the knowledge age and one needs to be constantly identifying the next best set of alternatives to remain relevant in the rapidly changing market demands. As one of my professors at IE Business School said, it is far more essential to have the innate ability to un-learn; learnability is an in-built attribute to most people. And this poses complexities to people managers - how do you manage talent that is often more talented than the leaders, far younger and far more intuitive. We shall discuss about the un-learning and learnability factors in one of my next articles but for this one I want to focus on a simple way to manage talent.

A long time back, I was privileged to run a start-up firm and had to build up a product development & engineering team from scratch - in India, Europe and Jakarta - with the associated constraints of funding pressures, rapidly changing sales/marketing pipeline and customer demands. We hit upon a simple idea of ensuring we are able to attract and retain talent - so critical at any time but more so a decade ago when attrition was the most hotly debated topic in the IT industry.

We called it the 4E and 4R philosophy and was based on a simple premise that transparency (and obvious transparency) breeds loyalty - more than anything else including tangible rewards.  We calculated the monthly salary of every individual on the basis of the 4Es and posted them on the intranet site every month - the salary could vary from month to month & everyone knew what the other earned and more importantly the salaries folks like us took home was made equally transparent. Every people leader was expected to be honest in his dealings with his team and focused as far as possible on the principle behind recruiting talent for attitude & skill, retain for their ability to learn (& un-learn), re-train them in the relevant skill sets and re-deploy them into the necessary programmes.

Simple philosophy

Simple philosophy and perhaps as someone said when we proposed this to our Board, too simplistic and won't work! Well, we had an attrition rate of less than two percent when the industry rates were well over 20 percent!! And we were rarely able to pay half of what the industry could possibly offer!!

So the 4R's are clear though rather subjective in their intent and execution - Recruit, Retain, Retrain, Re-deploy.


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