Western Union: Connecting Strategy and People Globally

 -  2/4/08

For more than 150 years, The Western Union Co. has helped to connect friends, family and businesses around the world.

For more than 150 years, The Western Union Co. has helped to connect friends, family and businesses around the world. The company is an industry leader in global money transfer, with more than 320,000 agent locations in more than 200 countries and territories. The global scope of its operations creates many challenges. Dave Roberts, vice president of talent management, and Lisa Jacoba, senior vice president of talent management, took a moment to explain how the company integrated its talent management approach and leveraged technology systems to ensure that more than 5,600 employees being managed virtually or remotely around the world are connected to the organization’s strategy and goals.

TM: Describe Western Union’s approach to talent management.

Roberts: One of the key strategic areas of focus is integration. We want a one-stop shop for the various clients of talent management. The company had a history of very siloed, separated talent management processes. We’re pulling those together around a set of key talent imperatives, things that people in the organization need to do in order to drive the business forward and accomplish the strategic goals of the business. One imperative is bring very consumer- or customer-centric. One is delivering value to our shareholders, our employees, consumers and our agent network. Our talent management strategy really pushes ownership to the individual employee, giving them tools and training to take charge of their own career success and development. Our business model is one driven by our agent network. There’s over 300,000 agent locations, and they have a very small core employee base. That allows us to do things easier and more efficiently than a larger organization. We spend a lot of time and a lot of work understanding global trends, industry trends, talent trends, all sorts of external trends, as well as what’s happening internally in the company to identify talent imperatives so we can be successful now and in the future.

TM: What processes have you established to improve workforce performance?

Roberts: We’ve started this integration idea from a technology point of view with performance management and learning. One of our key performance deliverables is to really drive from the very top through every level of the organization. We want employees to be aligned with the imperatives of the business. We use technology, process and change techniques to get people focused on goal setting and performance management on those imperatives. We’re moving away from strictly appraisals to a performance management approach that involves a lot of dialogue between the employee and the manager. We have an annual review process. In the past, we did that twice a year; we’ve gone to once a year from a compensation perspective. We’re trying to separate that from the performance management, which happens throughout the year, on an ongoing basis. We know from great research from the Corporate Leadership Council the most powerful impacts on employees’ performance are the day-to-day interactions with the supervisor, and if the supervisor is providing solutions to help them get their work done and providing good targeted feedback on a daily basis. Peer-to-peer learning also has a big impact on performance, as do real-world work assignments.

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