Sunday, July 5, 2015

Human Capital as Business Strategy

Increasingly in industry news, we see articles about innovative and unique human capital practices allowing companies to attract top talent to their front doors. These companies are often innovators in their respective fields, known for pushing the envelope as part of their core identity - companies like Google, Facebook, Zappos, Wegmans, SAS, and many others who consistently find themselves ranked in the Fortune Best Places to Work list. This doesn’t just happen by chance. These companies invest a significant amount of time and money into creating innovative work places and offering extensive perks and benefits to their employees. The fact that these organizations place their people at (or near) the top of the list signals that hiring the best and brightest who support and perpetuate their company culture and ideals is a part of their strategy. It is not a separate effort, but integrated into the fabric of the organization. The ability to attract and retain this top talent allows these companies to maintain (or gain) competitive advantage in the marketplace by leveraging the intellectual capital of these motivated employees, and the employees’ willingness to innovate and support the company’s efforts to remain consistent with their core ideology while remaining nimble with their business, and helping the company to achieve its BHAGs along the way.

The “Building Your Company’s Vision” article points to the fact that it is essential to develop a strong core ideology while remaining flexible and adaptable in the marketplace – this is another trait that these successful companies all share. The ability to do this is directly related to their people. As an organization, if you have a staff who is resistant to change and difficult to get on board with new initiatives, it becomes hard to remain nimble in the marketplace. In contrast, if you inspire your staff and reward them for taking risks, ensure that they know they’ll be taken care of by the organization no matter what happens, they’re infinitely more willing to change with you, take on new challenges and risks that can ultimately reap large rewards for the organization. Again, this is not something that happens by chance. The authors of “Building” point out that you can’t get or convince people to share your core ideology – you have to hire people who identify with it and support it, and allow those who don’t to leave the organization. This is something I talk about repeatedly as I work with hiring managers. Hire the right person, with the right outlook and attitude to fit well in the organization and where you want to take your department. Skills, systems, and processes can be taught, the right attitude cannot be learned by the wrong hire.

The bottom line is that you can have the best strategy in the world, but if you don’t have the right people on board to execute it while upholding your company values and ideals, it’s never going to go anywhere.

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