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From Texas to Timbuktu—How Fluor Tracks Talent on a Global Scale

To keep track of its pipeline of high performers around the world, the global engineering giant relies on talent management software.
March 7, 2012
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Talent management is in the DNA of global engineering giant Fluor Corp. It's also in the company's computer systems.

Executives at Irving, Texas-based Fluor are required to identify and mentor high-performing employees, and at any given time 10 percent of the 42,000 global employees are being tracked through Fluor's leadership development program. To keep tabs on its pipeline of high performers around the world, Fluor relies on a talent management software program from Lumesse, called ETWeb Enterprise. ETWeb's capabilities include learning and performance management, assessment tools, and skills and competency tracking.

"Promotion is part of our culture," says Glenn Gilkey, senior vice president of human resources and administration. "I don't know how a company like ours could do this without the technology."

Every employee who is being tracked through Fluor's high-performing leadership program is required to have a development plan in the system that includes detailed information about their work experiences, assignments, training, mentoring, language skills, willingness to work abroad, and future goals. When new leadership opportunities come up, Fluor executives use the database to search for individuals with the specific talents and experiences to fill those roles.

"Having a single source for this information ensures they don't lose track of people," says Bry Hutchison, senior account manager for Lumesse in Austin, Texas. Lumesse split off from its parent StepStone Solutions in 2010, and later acquired talent management software firm MrTed. Hutchison says ETWeb cuts the time it takes to manage Fluor's large employee population. "With one search they can pull up a short list of the best candidates for any position."

Fluor is proud of its talent management system. The same can't be said of most organizations. A recent Deloitte survey found that only 17 percent of executives consider their talent management programs to be "world-class." The other 83 percent say their programs need significant work.

That work has become a priority as these executives look to the future. One-third of them ranked developing leaders and succession planning as today's top talent priority—the highest of any response in the survey. And 29 percent predict it will remain the top talent concern for the next three years.

For Fluor, the top talent concern is making sure it aligns its global talent development efforts with long-term strategic plans.

The company has begun using talent management data to predict the types of talent it will need over the next decade in each of the 30 countries where it operates. Gilkey uses data stored in the ETWeb database about high-performing employees' experiences, training, mentoring and career goals to match talent development with future growth projections, making sure the talent pipeline is the right size in every country.

In Asia-Pacific and South America, for example, the company anticipates rapid growth over the next 10 years, so executives in those regions are aggressively searching for leadership candidates. In the U.S. and the European Union, however, growth projections are more steady, and the company is already tracking a sizable talent pool in these regions, so those executives are dialing back recruiting efforts.

"Knowing how many people we track in every country helps us fine-tune our efforts," Gilkey says. "You can't create a senior mechanical engineer overnight. It takes years."

To ensure the best and brightest employees are identified in every region, Fluor hosts local, regional and national leadership forums. Executives across the company run these groups, which allow senior leaders to discuss talent management efforts, keep tabs on up–and-coming leaders, and to look for candidates to match to upcoming opportunities.

Each forum meets four times a year, and technology plays a key role. Although some discussions take place face-to-face, Fluor also depends on teleconferencing and videoconferencing. The data forum leaders gather—such as ratings of high-potential employees and possible promotions—gets recorded in the employees' profiles and stored in the ETWeb database. The higher-level forums can see the data collected by the forums below them, creating a pyramid of talent management information and accountability.

The regional and national forum leaders focus broadly, aligning long-term strategic goals with talent management efforts across the globe.

Local forums decide which up-and-coming employees to bring into the leadership development program.

"These groups are critical to Fluor's ability to develop the local talent worldwide," Gilkey says. "I can't make those decisions from Dallas."

For global organizations such as Fluor, comprehensive talent data are vital, says Katherine Jones, director of human resources and talent management research at Bersin & Associates in San Francisco. "In large companies, the key is to be able to track both the talent and the location, and to always be sure you have the right quality people certified to do the necessary work in that country."

To do that requires robust talent management tools and systems. "Leading-edge companies invest in big-picture global talent management because it saves them money," Jones says. "When you can predict where your HR needs are going to be and you have people ready to take on those opportunities, you don't have to manage by crisis."

But Gilkey is quick to point out that an effective global talent management system requires more than just a quality piece of software. Having a corporate culture that values promotion, and leaders that are held accountable for tracking and mentoring the next generation is what makes Fluor's talent management program so successful, he says. "The technology is central to our decision-making, but it's the processes we use that make it work."

Sarah Fister Gale is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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