Toni Handler is chief talent officer at MetLife. She is responsible
for creating, and implementing a global talent management and
organizational effectiveness strategy that aligns directly with
MetLife's strategic goals. She also oversees all recruiting and
enterprise-wide learning, including leadership and management
development, sales development, professional skills, and service
Learning Executives Briefing: Can you describe the
shift in the MetLife culture as a result of the changes in business
Handler: MetLife has undergone a number of
organizational changes, including the acquisition of Alico, which
has significantly moved the organization toward our refreshed
business strategy of being the leading global insurance provider of
income and protection products and services, and employee benefit
programs. Other business changes that have and will continue to
shift our culture are the move from a performance-based culture to
one that focuses on performance and potential; the changing
demographics of our clients; and the formation of our U.S. business
to include both institutional and individual clients. Also, the
expectations of the newly appointed CEO are being embedded into our
LXB: What impact did that change have on the
company and its employees?
Handler: The globalization of MetLife will require
the company's associates to re-evaluate how they conduct business
and shift their mindset to think and operate globally. We are
making great strides to understand the capabilities of our talent,
further grow and develop that talent to meet the changing needs of
the organization and the industry, and acquire talent where needed.
In addition, we have implemented a more formalized and automated
performance development process as well as a more structured talent
LXB: How do you translate business goals into
practical talent practices?for example, how talent is identified,
developed, and deployed?
Handler: We've developed a talent strategy that
includes partnerships with businesses to evaluate associates and
identify key and high-potential talent using a custom six-box
talent assessment guide. Data obtained from using this assessment
tool is discussed in formal talent reviews and is used to identify
aggregate strengths and development needs. Awareness of individual
and aggregate development needs enables us to create programs that
build the needed knowledge, skills, and competencies through both
individual and organizational initiatives including assessment,
coaching, education, mentoring, and career movement. Our strategic
goal is to create a global workforce with the capabilities to
achieve strategic business outcomes and competitive advantage
resulting in enhanced shareholder value. This will allow MetLife to
have the right people with the right skills in the right jobs at
the right time.
Handler: One way is to show up with the research
that illustrates the problem. Gartner and others are respected
organizations in the IT field. If you bring this kind of
statistical muscle into the discussion, it at least focuses their
attention. Once IT is educated as to what the learning organization
can do to make a difference, it becomes a win-win for everyone.
LXB: What are the key features of the talent
strategy you developed?
Handler: We have instituted a global,
enterprise-wide center of expertise in talent management,
leadership development, and learning and development. This team has
created tools and processes to ensure consistency in our talent
strategy for all levels of associates. The key features of our
talent strategy are our talent assessment guide, our executive
selection and talent acquisition capability, our leadership
development, and executive education programs that focus on
aggregate development needs, our commitment to assessment and
coaching for individual development, and our ability to deploy
talent for succession and development.
LXB: How are the skills and competencies of global
employees evaluated, and how do you match them to future and
current job openings?
Handler: Skills and competencies of our global
employees are evaluated during the performance management process,
which focuses on business and development goals and includes
bi-annual manager or associate discussions. Evaluation also
includes the use of our talent assessment guide and formal talent
reviews. We match talent to current and future job openings by
continuous, focused attention on the needs of the business through
the involvement of key stakeholders and by keeping our pulse on
internal as well as external talent.
LXB: Do you have a program or process for high
potentials? Describe it.
Handler: We have a number of programs that
concentrate on growing our leadership. Growing Your Leadership
Potential is a program targeted at identifying and growing high
potential talent to fill key roles in the business. This program is
a part of our overall leadership development strategy to build a
robust pipeline of leaders that will be ready to fill critical
roles to meet our growth strategies. This nine-month modular
program includes assessment, instructor-led sessions, simulations,
role plays, and coaching. In addition to this program, we offer
individual assessment and coaching for people identified as
high-potential and key talent.
LXB: How did you get the leadership on board to a
new way of doing business, and how did you communicate to employees
any changes that were made?
Handler: We have a top-down commitment that has
been a critical to our success in implementing the talent strategy.
This includes acknowledgement from the CEO and the executive group
that the business case and strategic imperative for our work is
strong. We secured visible commitment as evidenced by a commitment
to frequent and rigorous talent review discussions; the weaving of
talent management into key messaging; an officers meeting that
highlighted developing and managing talent as a key business
imperative; and the institution of a strategic objective of
organizational effectiveness. In addition, we involved leadership
in the change process, ensuring we understood their needs and
expectations; establishing the need for change early in the
process; and ensuring that business leaders realized the
consequences of not having an improved talent management strategy.
LXB: How do you measure the impact of these
changes over time?
Handler: We have outlined a multi-faceted
measurement strategy to assess the impact of the changes. We are
implementing and analyzing our employee engagement survey every
other year and conducting regular talent review meetings that focus
on a broader and deeper level of talent. Additionally, we are
looking at the development and completion of individual development
plans, and the impact of leadership development and executive
LXB: Did you do a base-line engagement survey?
Handler: We conducted our most recent engagement
survey in 2010 to our United States and select global employee
populations. This allowed us to check our progress from prior
surveys while also establishing a baseline to use for the
organizational changes. Prior to our 2010 survey, the last U.S.
survey was conducted in 2006 and the last global survey was 2003.
To gain a deeper insight, we also facilitated focus groups specific
to strategy and talent management.
LXB: What were some of the key insights from
having managed this large-scale change?
Handler: There were several insights that we
gained. The first is that we have to be aligned to MetLife's
overall business strategy from a talent perspective;?we must align
our people processes to our business strategy position. Second, it
is absolutely necessary to have commitment and clear accountability
from the top. That is what has made us so successful. Without that
top-level buy in, it would be grassroots and, in most cases, those
scenarios don't work. Third, it is critical to have resources and
the time to create the change. If you mandate such a far reaching
change at the management level, and don't have anything in place,
it won't work. Finally, it is critical to organizational
effectiveness to bring out the best in our people. A vital
component in executing our business strategy is our accountability,
which cascades downward.