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Season 3, Episode 20: How Maturity Models Help Create Lasting Change

Join us as we speak with Dave Winsborough, Founder of Deeper Signals, as we explore what a maturity model is and how different organizations can leverage it to drive long-lasting change. We also learn how adaptable maturity models are as well as what companies should be thinking about when looking to start working with such models. 

Hosts: Dominika Gałusa and April Clark

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Full Transcript

Intro (00:01): The future of work and the future for workers is changing from new technologies and talent strategies to the management of tomorrow's workforce. Tap in to ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions’ 60 years of expertise, and join us for the Transform Talent Podcast. Your guide to talent market trends, new technologies and winning talent solutions. 

Dominika Gałusa (00:28): Hello, and welcome to the 20th episode of the Transform Talent Podcast. We are your hosts: Dominika Gałusa... 

April Clark (00:35): …and April Clark. Today, we would like to talk about maturity models, what it is and how different organizations can leverage a maturity model to drive long lasting change. We will learn how adaptable maturity models are as well as what companies should be thinking about when looking to start working with such models. 

Dominika Gałusa (00:53): And to discuss this, we have invited Dave Winsborough, Co-founder of Deeper Signals. Welcome to podcast, Dave. It's great to have you here joining us all the way from New Zealand. 

Dave Winsborough (01:04): Oh, thank you very much. It's very nice to be here. I've just finished a three and a half thousand kilometer motorcycle ride. 

Dominika Gałusa (01:13): (laughs) So let's start with an easy question. So can you tell us about yourself and how Deeper Signals helps organizations better understand themselves? 

Dave Winsborough (01:23): Sure. Well, myself, well, you know, that I ride motor bikes and that I live in beautiful New Zealand. I live in the north part of New Zealand, the subtropical part. I started Deeper Signals with some colleagues, maybe three or four years ago after we saw that the kind of insight and assessment, psychological assessment, that was given to executives, you know, that is the foundation of coaching and helping people identify strengths and weaknesses and just gaining insight into their style, just wasn't available at scale. And so, we set out to build a thoroughly modern assessment that is free from bias that organizations can deploy for every single person in the organization. And that is the mission that Deeper Signals is on. And so far, I think, you know, we are approaching something in the order of half a million people who've taken the assessment. So we are progressing well. 

Dominika Gałusa (02:23): So I know that Deeper Signals is working with maturity models. So could you please explain to us what a maturity model is? 

Dave Winsborough (02:33): If you think about a small organization, so, you know, we'll say anywhere from kind of, you know, 10 to 50 people, then the way that organizations go all about sourcing talent and, and bringing, bringing people into the organization is frequently haphazard. As in, you may be, you may be interviewed and there might be one interview or two interviews and then you're hired and then it's like, you know, start work and crack into it. And the experience for lots of people is bewildering. And, you know, there may not be any onboarding process. There may be, you know, there's no kind of structured development and should things go wrong? You know, you just might it be summarily fired or let go, or without much in the way of feedback. And that is probably the reality for most people employed in most organizations across the entire world. 

And what a maturity model does is it’s a set of statements by the organization. So maturity model simply says there are some standards that we will try and reach in terms of how we look for people, how we bring people on, how we manage them in the organization and how we, how we kind of progress them through the employee life cycle. Again, you know, like a probably a good example would be the way that an organization like McKinsey has for many years been very clear with, with the people who join McKinsey that, you know, they make the, the kind of employee journey really clear. Very few people are gonna make it to become a McKinsey partner or an associate. 

Most people are be with the firm for a period of time, but McKinsey makes strenuous efforts to stay in touch with people, even when they leave the organization and try and remain useful, which is obviously good from the organization's perspective, but there's a very mature way of, you know, building and maintaining a pool of talent and potential clients. So, well, we can, we'll dive more into it, but you know, that gives you a flavor. 

April Clark (04:46): That's really interesting. You know, I had actually read that maturity models have been developed for use in the software industry. So, you know, I really appreciate your perspective on how it's being used in business. Can you expand on that? 

Dave Winsborough (04:58): Well, you're a 100% right. The concept came from the US Department of Defense as they were starting to get software developed, wanted to, you know, regularize and just lift the quality of software and ended up working, setting up an institute at Carnegie Mellon University. So most people will know that the capability software, maturity model came out of Carnegie, but it did predate that, and that maturity model had the insight that in order to, as organizations progress in their, in their building of software and digitizing of process, that they had to solve a serial of problems and the way that they go about solving those problems, it could be, could be structured. So that's the kind of foundation of the software maturity model. But again, if, you know, if we think of an example, you know, small organization goes and says, oh, we, you know, we wanna, you know, we wanna automate something or we wanna build an app. 

And they, you know, go down to the road to the local kind of web store, or they might, they might know someone, you know, someone knows someone who's, who's good, or... And they get a piece of software developed but just having that software, you know, you instantly start a host of problems. So, you know, somehow we gotta maintain it. And what happens if the person who originally built it leaves or, you know, she, you know, she goes off and joins a big organization is no longer available. Then we, you know, what do we do? We get someone else in and they look at the code and they go, this code is crap. Or I don't understand how works. So you can instantly see that, that a more mature approach is to, is to be more structured in the way that the code itself is, is described and maintained. 

And the maturity model extends into thinking about, you know, as organizations lay, other stuff on top are being clear about our overall strategy, understanding how, you know, we source suppliers and manage those relationships as well as just simply, you know, go and get a piece of software and make sure it works. So the maturity model just sets out increasingly sophisticated steps for how organizations go about sourcing, building, maintaining, replacing, developing software in their organizations. And, of course, you know, in the software space that gets quite technical, but all these standards are kind of open source. So, so there's no, there's no magic. There's million consultants who will be, you know, trying to sell you what they particularly do. But most of the stuff's open source, you know, just recently, it’s been applied much more recently in the two thousands. It's been applied to talent. 

April Clark (07:55): That's exactly where I was headed there. I was wondering, you know, can you tell a little bit about how an organization can leverage maturity models to assess their practices? So that first step in their maturity model? 

Dave Winsborough (08:08): Well, I mean, I'm, I'm, I know we've done some work with Manpower. You know, the first step is exactly what you said. It’s a recognition that, that we should just assess how we go about, I hate the word managing, but you know, how we go about relating to people in our organization in a way which is not haphazard. And, you know, typically that is going to start less from the kind of frontline hiring manager perspective and probably more from a more central corporate. So, you know, maturity models are the domain for the most part right now of larger organizations. And it's just a flat out fact that larger organizations are better run than smaller organizations. You know, we load kind of startups and, but, but startups are so busy consumed with the mission that many of the effective processes and frankly kind of, you know, humane and rational practices aren't done on the spot. 

And that is no way to grow an organization. So anyone who is serious or any, you know, we say all the time, you know, talent matters. It's really hard to source good talent. Well, it might be hard to source it, but, you know, we should think hard about where does talent lie and, how do we go about positioning ourselves so that that talented people would be interested in us. And then how do we go about hiring people, you know, selecting talent? How do we go about understanding the relationship between what our strategic direction is and the kinds of people that we'll need, not just now, but maybe in three or five years, which is obviously gonna dev- you know, inform our development processes and for larger organizations understanding, you know, getting into the kind of analytics, like what is the nature of our workforce, which leads obviously into the kind of, you know, DE&I space. So I think that from a human capital perspective, maturity models are the hallmark of organizations who are really beginning to take the effective management of talent seriously. 

Dominika Gałusa (10:32): So Dave, when working with you, we learned that organizations can evaluated by the level of maturity. So can you please describe how scoring works across the model? 

Dave Winsborough (10:44): The best way to think of it is to, if you imagine a continuum at one end, you've got chaos, which is, you know, front line managers doing crazy ass things and, you know, hiring and firing people and not being concerned about anything like diversity and inclusion. I just want the best people. And, and at the other end, you have organizations who highly, highly structured and thought through. And it's simply a matter of defining the steps between chaos and extremely well managed. And we can, you know, you know, just as you heard me, you can sort of describe level, level one is nobody, you know, everybody's doing whatever they want and no one's got any kind of clear strategic thought, or it's just a scramble to get people on board through to, you know, very, a very mature approach to the identification and sourcing of talent. 

What, what would be a good example? Like a really good example. I don't know if you guys remember some years back Heineken ran a series of ads that invited people to kind of join part of this kind of crazy selection process. It was a very funny ad, and it ended with one guy on the field at one of the football cup finals learning that he was gonna be hired into Heineken. The beautiful thing about that, you know, Heineken is using its branding and its positioning and its kind of, you know, its connection with sport in order to attract talent. You know, that's a very sophisticated approach to talent as opposed to a very low rent approach, which would be, you know, scratching around in the market, sending up ads and, and hoping that we just, um, we find someone. 

So scoring is simply defining a series of steps between chaos and extremely well managed and having organization, you know, describing what those are across a number of domains. And those domains might be, you know, how we source talent, how we bring talent on, how we develop talent, how we, you know, the kind of analytics and understanding the nature of our workforce and how we go about doing things like workforce planning, talent growth, and, you know, through to thinking about longer term things like, Corporate Social Responsibility and how kind of policy plays out in that world. 

Dominika Gałusa (13:17): That sounds, uh, actually very fascinating thinking about that, that kind of model can, you know, showcase a lot for an organization. So what comes to mind, you know, is a question about what makes a maturity model superior in terms of helping organizations drive long lasting change? 

Dave Winsborough (13:38): John Van Reenen and Nick Bloom, one at Stanford and one at the London School of Economics have for many years now been looking at what it is that differentiates productive firms from non-productive firms. And, you know, the beautiful thing about their study. It just extremely well designed at very long term. So this thing's been running, you know, decades now. Well it must be close to decades. Their work has been popularized, I think by McKinsey, they had a partnership with McKinsey. One of the, one of the things that they have shown is that multinational firms are better run than firms that just operate in one market. That larger firms, more productive, better run than smaller firms. And that family run firms by and large are very poorly run. 

And they, you know, the thing about this study was that they looked at management practices as one of the critical differentiators, you know, and beyond, you know, your market position or the particular industry that you earn, or the geography that you are in. The more that you pay attention to being well managed as in being thoughtful, having consistent processes, having processes that are well defined, having people in the organization who are extremely well trained, investing in your people and even into things like, you know, giving managers and people feedback: key differentiators in profitability. 

So, and not just profitability, but people's experience of those organizations is, you know, that they enjoy working for better run firms. It's just, you know, it's like playing on a good team versus playing on a kind of scratch amateur team that is out of its depth. So the effect of a maturity model for an organization is to begin to tighten up the way that it goes about doing things and set some goals and some standards. So, you know, I don't think that process ever ends. I mean, I will say I think it's horses for courses. So it's a bit like the quality movement, you know, when quality was this huge thing and, and firms tied themselves and knots to try and, you know, get the bold Ridge awards or... You know, that is not the goal. You know, the goal is not to instill, institute, you know, human capital maturity model. The goal is to have a really well run firm. And the maturity model is simply a tool that can help you get there. So the tool that we built with Manpower, you know, the goal is not, the end is not to just increase your score, right? The goal is to, um, is to have a really well run firm. So these things aren't an end in themselves. They're just tools. 

April Clark (16:38): I think that's a great point, Dave, you know, every organization is different. Every organization has a different corporate strategy, a different culture. It sounds like maturity models are very adaptable. Can you touch on that a little bit for, you know, what an organization can expect, how that relates to their culture? 

Dave Winsborough (16:55): Yeah, actually that's a superb point. I think... So I just, I just have to think about that for a second. You know, cultures instilled often from founders. So the best example, Uber, right? So I dunno if you've seen the…  it was on Netflix, someone had a documentary about, or a kind of docudrama about Travis Kalanick and the approach that he took to building Uber, which was very aggressive, very kind of macho, very male, and Uber was enormously successful, but you know, very painful place to work and, you know, possibly even harmful to the people in it and the people around it. In its kind of ecosystem, a maturity model. Um, so the... I can't remember the name of the guy that stepped into taking over from Travis, but he has instituted, you know, much more, much clearer policies and processes about how the organization goes about doing what it does. 

You know, is that countercultural? It probably is. But in the, in the service of trying to build a better organization, I think that organizations can pick and choose. You don't have to transform every single thing that's described in a maturity model. So it touches on all aspects of the employee life cycle. But I think, you know, a small organization might just say, you know, we're interested in better hiring, you know, or we want to take a longer term view of hiring. We want to, you know, build out our profile or we want a better employee experience on the inside, you know, that's so, so I think you can look at pain points in the organization and pick and choose from a maturity model and go, yeah, I think if we were able to do this, you know, that would, that would help and fit with, fit with the culture. 

April Clark (18:56): So I love the example of Uber. I know exactly what you're talking about with that movie. How would you leverage, so we talked a little bit about Uber culture. How would you leverage the assessment to benchmark culture, you know, in general, you know, how do you determine those benchmarks and to create stable teams? 

Dave Winsborough (19:15): Well, well, I think, I mean, you just gotta commit to repeating, repeating the assessment. I mean, the assessment that we are talking about is painless for the life of me, I can't remember how many items, but there's maybe, you know, 50 odd statements, lists that an organization chooses from, you know, that we see this menu and it's like, you know, where are we in respect of, you know, how we go about developing people, or to what extent do our leaders get involved in understanding the analytics of the workforce, the make of the workforce. So these things, these things are utterly painless. 

The commitment is in repeating it and remaining committed to the course. And using the information, especially at the top of the house, you know, the top of the organization, you know, getting these people engaged and involved and thinking seriously about lifting the game in the way that we look after and manage the kind of human... I hate human capital. Can't think of a better word, the talent, you know, the people. In New Zealand, we, we have a phrase, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata. You know, what is the most important thing? It is the people, the people, the people. So these models help, help leaders orient towards making sure that the way that we, that we look after and manage other human beings for the good of the organization is top of mind. 

Dominika Gałusa (20:47): So could you please share an example of a client that is using a maturity model to benchmark progress? And could you perhaps share with us how the clients set goals, for example, and how aggressive they are? 

Dave Winsborough (21:01): I can think of an organization in a South American country that grew very it quickly in its particular mar- I can't name it. Uh, in its particular market, it has a, you know, extremely ambitious and goal directed leader. You know, who's out to make a significant difference in the industry. It's grown very quickly. And it's now tripping over itself in that, you know, the organization has lots of people on board, but they've hired sometimes so fast that people are sitting around going, oh, you know, what do I do? And other people, it's like, oh, well, you know, you meant to be doing this, but someone else seems to be doing that. So that organization has, has started the journey and has highlighted the way in which we understand, you know, try to regularize our understanding of who we have. 

So kind of skills audits, like who have we got for these kind of roles, and is trying to change the way that it deploys people on the inside. So, you know, you can imagine in fast agile organizations, we need to, you know, that are run more as a series of projects, rather than a, you know, kind of a big organization. That's just turning the handle and, you know, has people in place like a bank. You know, you're a teller you are a, you know, you're a card market or whatever it is. So this organization has sought to identify people's skills and capabilities, give them that feedback and then upgrade its kind of the way that it builds and deploys teams of people in order to, you know, to better meet its mission. 

So just that one thing absolutely fits with their culture. And they are worrying too much about other stuff right now, which is fine. You know, I mean there's no law that says you have to have a maturity model. But as I said before, you know, as organizations begin to take the job of managing themselves more seriously and they regard it as a, you know, as a fundamental strategic capability, you know, something that differentiates their ability to execute then things like, you know, human capital maturity models. 

Dominika Gałusa (23:21): Based on your experience, how do you think most organizations are doing from a maturity perspective? 

Dave Winsborough (23:27): I just think that most people work in organizations that are just badly managed and that's because the organizations... Especially small organizations, you know, they're just consumed with, we gotta earn the money and it takes... You gotta cross a, you know, leaders have to cross a line at some point and go in order to do better at this, We, you know, we have to learn to run our organization better, which means, you know, we need to, we need to manage our people in more thoughtful and considerate and rational ways instead of being reactive. So, you know, the bodega on the corner that just treats people as a resource and one person is the same as the other is gonna learn that, you know, you hire someone who's really who dislikes people and is rude and unhelpful. 

Well, they're gonna lose customers and being thoughtful is going, oh right, you know, maybe we need to start choosing a particular sort of person, which isn't hard, but if you're scratching for pennies or, you know, you're always worried or you just greedy and you just want money, you don't care about everything else. Then you doom people to work in organizations that suboptimal and frankly painful. Uh, and I just think people deserve a whole lot better, which is why these more structured approaches produce more humane and enjoyable workforces. You know, you spend a third of your life at work. Most of that time should be enjoyable if not joyous. 

Dominika Gałusa (25:02): Yeah. I think you're absolutely right. And that was such a great insight. So I have a last question to you. What is your advice for organizations that are looking to start working with maturity models? 

Dave Winsborough (25:17): I think they should contact Manpower. You know, you can Google this stuff. Like I said, it's all open source and I think just step back and you know, start ask the question, could we be better? Could we better manage the way we manage our people? And if the answer is yes, then it's simply going, let's be structured in the way that we think about that. Let's think about where we find people, the kinds of people that we want, how we bring them on, you know, it's asking a series of questions. So, so I, you know, none of this stuff is rocket science. And I think, I mean, you know, for me, I think whoever leads the firm, that person should own it because it matters that much. 

Dominika Gałusa (26:00): That was, that was great. Thank you, Dave. And thank you so much for joining us today on our 20th episode of the Transform Talent Podcast. 

April Clark (26:10): And to all our listeners, don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review in your favorite podcast listening app. We'll see you at the next episode. 

Outro (26:20): The Transform Talent Podcast, because we know the right talent transforms organizations and helps your business flourish. Talent solutions, business, and talent aligned.