Have you changed how you approach your business in the last few years? Have your products and services shifted to meet a changing customer expectation? What kind of new innovations or initiatives are you working on to increase market share? Most businesses are operating quite differently than they have in the recent past and they may no longer have the right talent fit for these new approaches.
To retain your top talent in a free agent market it is critical to know how to align your business strategies with the right talent. One of the greatest frustrations to both employees and executives occurs when the talent is a mismatch with the strategies of the company. Granted if you are transforming an organization there will be a period of time adjusting the alignment of strategy and talent, and as long as everyone is being continuously informed of this transformation while they are going through it, they will tolerate that ambiguity for a time.
The Right Talent with the Right Initiatives
Look at the five top initiatives that are driving your business this year. I’m guessing your marketing is taking a more Internet and social media focus. I would imagine your customer care is elevating for better communication, less wait time and customer expectations are setting a greater need for directly communicating with a knowledgeable employee. I am willing to bet you have moved innovation up the ladder of priorities. These are the types of changes most organizations are seeing to be competitive at the speed of change. As you upgrade your initiatives to reflect the increasingly competitive marketplace you have to ask, is my talent upgrading with the expectations?
Once upon a time longevity was a desired trait in employees but at the pace of change today longevity is only as good as the employee is willing to upgrade his skills. Let’s say, you have a marketing director that has been in that position for 20 years. Good for him, but how well does he understand the seismic shifts happening in marketing with social media? Does he know how to use a QR code? Does he even know what a QR code is? If you have a marketing director who still places ads in the newspaper and on local cable channels as his first choice for his budget dollars, you have to ask if he is the right talent for the times.
To execute your initiatives with maximum returns you have to have the correct fit of talent for the desired results. If you want to be innovative, create an innovative work environment and employee innovative minds. It’s time to evaluate your talent and see how well they match with what you are trying to accomplish.
The Right Talent with the Right Customers
How well do your customer-contact employees relate to the customers you are trying to attract? How well have you defined the “new customer?” Are you attracting a particular demographic of customer? Typically, customers today want to deal with an employee who has very good interpersonal skills and is knowledgeable of the products and services being offered. Customers calling call-centers want quick answers and an easily understood person to speak with.
Now look at your workforce. Are your customer-contact people the most personable? Do they enjoy solving problems for others? Can they handle a confrontational conversation? Are your employees capable of sending away an unhappy customer satisfied with the response they received to their complaint? The brutality of customers’ comments take a specific type of person with the talent to manage these situations. It has less to do with their technical abilities and much more to do with their talent to communicate and interact with the customer. Are you still asking for job experience on your job applications? Experience no longer speaks to capabilities in the new economy. Hire for talent, you can train for skill.
The Right Talent with the Right Leadership
I met with an executive of a company who proudly told me, “I am president of a pure cutting-edge innovator company. I surround myself with innovative thinking people. I absolutely love the creative process.” Then why were the majority of his current innovative creative-thinking employees significantly dissatisfied? Why were those who left in a mass exodus the year before so vocal about their negative experience under his leadership? It seems this executive felt that innovative thinkers suffer from unbounded thinking and can easily be distracted and miss deadlines therefore they need a tight structure and someone to provide discipline to the process.
This speaks to the fear of many command and control style managers: If I don’t contain them, nothing productive will get done. The fact is, innovative thinkers do not work well in cages or with someone cracking a whip behind them. Yes, a tiger in the wild will roam the wilderness, but putting him a cage or in the circus under a constant watchful eye does not make him a better tiger. Creative people need room to roam, innovators need to be able to work through the process, and talent needs an environment that allows them to grow. Understanding the talented people you are leading is most important to unleashing the best their talents have to offer. Some talent works best in a private office without interruptions, some talent likes open unbounded work space, and some talent must have constant human interaction. Know your talent needs. Know how to lead them and know how they fit well with your initiatives and you will create a comfortable work environment and create great success for the organization.