Warning: People will Always be Your Competitive Advantage
By Dr. Frumi Rachel Barr:
It doesn’t matter whether you have just developed the best product ever created. It doesn’t matter if your software or technology improvement will promise to change the world. If you don’t have the right people and the right culture, chances are your dreams of success will fall by the wayside as do those of most companies. Stop and consider this -would you enthusiastically rehire all the people in your company?
Right People, Right Seats, Doing the Right Things
In Jim Collins seminal book, Good to Great he talked about having the right people on the bus. What he meant by that was that WHO you have on the bus, the essence of the team is more important than the skills and experience they have. Put the right people on first and then develop your strategy from there.
Once you have determined who the right people are, the next task is to make sure you have the right “seats” i.e. the right roles to accomplish your goals. One person and only one needs to be accountable for a role. If you have two people in the same role chances are fingers will be pointing to that other person when something doesn’t get done. Filling the right seat means that a person has the skills and hopefully the experience, necessary to accomplish what needs to be accomplished in that role. Lastly, the people in the seats need to be doing the “right things”. Their energy should be spent working on the priorities that best support the company’s goals. Are your people wasting their time and energy on tasks that are not a priority at this time?
How to Find the Right People
Every company has a culture – it’s the way “things are done”. Culture is a very important discussion to have related to finding and retaining the right talent. The two important components are Core Values and Purpose. Many companies find a set of words to describe their values: Integrity, Responsibility and Innovation are three common ones. The test of a real value as opposed to an aspirational one is whether or not stories can be told that support the value. If you can’t tell stories about leaders or employees who exemplify a value, well then – back to the drawing board.
One way to promote values and at the same time have a tool to onboard new employees is to have what we call “Our Little Book of Emails”. Let’s say Samantha did a great job creating the ultimate customer experience. Imagine reading an email from the CEO to Samantha that congratulates her on living a value that is critical to the company – “We strive to offer the ultimate Customer Experience”. On the first day of work, a new leader reads the little book of emails and comes to this page. Isn’t this more impactful than a bullet point on a sign on the cafeteria wall?
Build Your Virtual Bench
Don’t wait until hiring becomes a matter of urgency. Create relationships with potential employees way before you need them. Ask your customers and vendors who they might know who would be a good fit to join your company. Talk to the candidates and let them know you aren’t ready yet, but sometime in the next few months a position might open up that fits their qualifications. Stay in touch and keep them informed.
Hire Slow Fire Fast
Jack Welch was the former CEO of General Electric – Jack was a very successful CEO for many reasons and perhaps one of the most important was his approach to finding, coaching and retaining the best performing business leaders in the world for GE.
When Jack was building his strategy to grow GE, he identified two key areas where he could develop a competitive edge:
- Develop a process that would increase the success of hiring the right executives the first time and retain them for several years after they joined GE.
- Create an ongoing executive education core competency within GE that would keep GE leaders among the sharpest and highest educated in the world.
Jack Welch engaged Brad Smart to come into GE and help develop a program and process to increase executive hiring and retention success from 50% (industry average) to 90% (GE standard). It is out of this best practices project (and process) that Brad Smart wrote “Topgrading,” and it has become a bestseller and standard in many successful growth companies.
What discourages A players, those employees who are high in Core Values and Productivity, is tolerance for C players – those who are low in both. It is important to regularly assess your talent and remove those who drag down the level of excellence in your company.
Take time to interview carefully and make sure that the core values of the prospective employee matches that of the company. For excellent interviewing practices and questions read Geoff Smart’s book – “Who”.
Learn from the best – and make your people a competitive advantage for your company.