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On the Sofa with Silvia Pugliese: How a Different Lens Can Uncover Hidden Gems

SHL’s Senior Consultant, Silvia Pugliese talks about why organizations find it hard to make it simple and how you can identify high potentials and hidden gems.

In this month’s “On the Sofa” blog series, we are joined by Silvia Pugliese, Senior Consultant in the European Delivery Team at SHL who discusses her insights into helping organizations deploy new talent acquisition and talent management solutions in the quest to find hidden gems, challenges they face, and benefits that they can achieve.

Tell us a bit about your role and how you work with customers

I am based in Rome but work with international companies across Europe. This means I get the chance to work with international teams both internally and with clients so it is great to learn about different cultures and ways of working.

I see my role as focusing on the needs of our customers and helping to identify their challenges so we can ensure SHL’s solution enables their organization to see real benefits. It is a partnership so it is important to build a strong relationship and really understand how they operate, their goals, expectations, and how we can help them best. 

I work both on talent acquisition and talent management projects but recently we did see talent management became more prominent as many companies had a hiring freeze so were forced to look internally to see how they could be more productive and still grow. Also, the need to engage, motivate and support employees was at the forefront of thinking whereas previously it may not have been. Now customers are realizing the importance of both hiring the right talent and then managing that talent which should benefit both employees and organizations longer term.

When having those early conversations about getting new solutions up and running, are there common challenges that you see?

Many organizations know what they need to do but not always how to do it or the full requirements needed to achieve their aims. For example, a business may come to us knowing they need a solution to improve their graduate hiring or talent management solution to help employee engagement but have not thought about how that solution integrates into their processes or company as a whole.

Part of what I try and do by collaborating with the customer is going through the consequences of deployment, mapping out the processes, and helping identify key stakeholders that are required so we can make the deployment as smooth and quick as possible.

On the user side, you also get to speak with candidates and employees that these solutions are aimed at. What sort of feedback do you get from them?

Funnily enough, I rarely receive questions or feedback about the technical side of the solution or how to use it—I normally get asked ‘what’s next?’ They want to know why they are being asked to do the task or test and what is the next step in the process.

It is important to be able to give an answer to this—if you are asking people to do X and Y, what is the reason? If you do not know, then it is something that needs to be reviewed as every step should have a clear purpose and outcome.

From a hiring perspective, organizations are much more attractive when they clarify from the start what the selection process is, so candidates are aware of where they are in the process and what the next steps are. If someone applies for a job and then they do not receive any feedback or do not know how long they have to wait for a response then it is a poor experience, and they will start looking elsewhere. 

Even for existing employees, if they are being asked to do another task on top of everything they do already, it is important for them to understand why that is being asked of them, as you do not want to overwork employees, so communication helps adoption and engagement too. 

From a hiring perspective, organizations are much more attractive when they clarify from the start what the selection process is, so candidates are aware of where they are in the process and what the next steps are.

One of the solutions you have helped deploy to multiple organizations is our High-Potential (HIPO) solution. What were those companies trying to achieve with this?

Generally, managers do not use objective tools to evaluate people, so personal bias naturally creeps in when looking at their talent. This means if an organization decides to go in a certain direction or adopt a different strategy, managers will continue to evaluate people through their personal lens rather than a view that is more in sync with the current company goals, reinforcing the status quo.

This is where the HIPO solution is really powerful as it enables leaders to view their talent with a different lens by assessing things that are not normally considered rather than just performance or organizational behavior. It covers things like abilities, motivations, aspirations, and engagement—providing a much wider view.

Only 1 in 7 high performers are actually high potentials so it is easy to focus on the same people and then dismiss the others. We have seen organizations that previously thought they do not have the right talent or right skills within their workforce so hiring from outside seemed the obvious solution, but it was just that they had not been viewing their talent with the right lens. When viewed with a HIPO lens, they find that there are people in-house that have not previously been noticed or are in different roles but have the potential to progress and be future leaders.

I even had one customer that used our HIPO solution for talent acquisition which worked really well for them as it helped them identify the right candidates that had the potential to grow long-term, so this is another use-case that is uncommon but still showed success. It highlights the importance of an integrated approach to talent acquisition and talent management, so organizations have programs from early careers, right through to senior leadership positions and consider things like career pathways and succession planning based on future needs.

Is there a trend that you are seeing across organizations that you work with?

There definitely seems to be a push towards simplification—both for talent acquisition and talent management. I think all businesses are looking at what can be done to make their processes as quick and effective as possible. Some organizations are losing candidates early in the hiring process, partly down to increased competition but also because processes are often slow and inefficient leading to people dropping out before they have even been assessed. 

Although it sounds easy enough, simplifying processes does require a deep understanding of what you are doing and a collaborative approach, so everyone has a clear idea of how what is being done, how it fits in with the organizational strategy, who the key stakeholders are, and what is expected of them throughout.

Simplification also helps the user side of the experience too—they want clear, quick, and effective communication which is only possible if you have streamlined your talent acquisition or management processes.

What would you like to see organizations embrace in the future?

I would love to see HR become fully integrated and seen as key business partners within organizations—we still see many instances where the HR function is siloed and have not been empowered to make any decisions. This means everything goes back and forth internally for a long time which is inefficient—there is no reason they cannot be trusted to be the owners of their tools and solutions and reduce the reliance on other line managers at all stages. This could be helping identify high potentials within an organization using the relevant tools or being responsible for the assessment of new hires for example.

The most successful organizations are those that have empowered their HR function and trained them to understand organizational requirements and make decisions on behalf of the business-working in synergy, not in silos.

See how SHL could help streamline your talent acquisition and talent management processes and help uncover your hidden gems. Discover our collection of resources on how to future-proof your organization and prepare your workforce today for the uncertainty of tomorrow.

headshot pugliese silvia


Silvia Pugliese

Silvia Pugliese is an I/O Psychologist and Senior Consultant at SHL, with ten years of experience. She is curious and passionate about reducing bias in evaluations and promoting diversity among people. Her focus Is on the design, delivery, and management of talent development and talent acquisition processes to support organizations in identifying people potential and valuing their human capital.

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