Thoroughbred Talent

 -  6/30/10

Nikki Jackson is working to make the state of Kentucky an employer of choice.

Nikki Jackson is working to make the state of Kentucky an employer of choice.

Nikki Jackson, secretary of the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is quick to point out that her organization is structured differently than the typical corporate HR department. But Jackson takes an approach similar to talent managers in the private sector.

“I see the personnel cabinet as [similar to] corporate HR,” she said. “We have all the specialty groups, so staffing and diversity and comp and benefits, and then the generalists all sit in each of the other cabinets [and] they report directly to their respective cabinet secretaries.”

Jackson oversees 33,000 state employees with a cabinet staff of 231. She discussed with Talent Management the challenges of addressing the talent needs of such a large workforce while being held accountable to a statewide government and citizenry.

TM: Describe your cabinet’s approach to talent management.

Jackson: We have four goals in state government. The first is to help the commonwealth emerge as an employer of choice. The second is to promote a learning and development culture across the enterprise. The third is to see ourselves as one employer and to behave as if that is the case. And then our fourth goal is to enhance customer value so that we’re out of the business of doing HR to our customers and in the business of operating based on mutually beneficial outcomes.

TM: What processes or programs have you established to improve the performance of the workforce across the state?

The first is our Leadership Institute, a yearlong program designed to promulgate a common understanding of what a leader is and what a leader does and to begin to introduce conceptually these principles in an academic setting to state government leaders supplemented by mentoring and buddying opportunities and adjunct professor visits, and by adjunct professor, I mean HR practitioners across the state who are not in state government, so largely private-sector employees.

The second is our on-boarding process. This may be a little staggering; state government has never had an on-boarding process. What I inherited was hit-or-miss orientation, so not even every agency or cabinet was doing an orientation program for new employees. So we never saw the benefit of seeing a consistently implemented view, nor did we have infrastructure to support welcoming new employees to the employer for purposes of helping to create opportunities to accelerate productivity. So we now have a full-out on-boarding program where employees are welcomed consistently irrespective of the cabinet to which they are assigned.

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