Prioritize Talent for Long-Term Growth
- 24 Best Leadership Practices | Part 19 of 24 -
Talent, perhaps more than anything, is the real competitive advantage for enterprises. Simply, people are a company’s most important asset with talent or the lack thereof deciding winners and losers. Indeed, and as Jim Collins noted, "A company should limit its growth based on its ability to attract enough of the right people." There are two sides of the talent coin, namely: (1) hiring the best and (2) keeping the best. This is especially true in the digital age where innovation, culture, and thirst for autonomy makes it harder and harder to not only secure but also to keep the best talent - both vital components to ensuring a sustainable competitive advantage. As Bill Gates found, "The competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead." And, perhaps no role is as pivotal to successfully hiring and keeping the best than leaders across the organization. Indeed, while the level of employee talent may determine the potential of an organization it is the leader that ultimately unlocks that potential and determines the success of both the organization and its people. Accordingly, this article will explore the key components for leaders to consider when hiring and keeping talent.
- Hire the Best Talent -
Successful Leaders are those that Spot the Right Talent & Then Give them the runway to Excel
Perhaps nothing is as vital to a leader's and organization's success than hiring great talent. As Steve Jobs noted, "The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world." Indeed, even the greatest leader and most inspired vision will never drive any impact without the right people. As Jim Collins stated, "Great vision without great people is irrelevant." Accordingly, hiring the best talent means leaders must focus on three core areas, namely:
- Hire people smarter than yourself and overcome any insecurity about leading such talent
- Attract the right talent by creating a purpose driven and inspired culture
- Ensure the organization doesn't give into time pressure and bandwidth issues by hiring the wrong talent to fill vacant seats
1. Hire People Smarter than Yourself
Oftentimes leaders don’t have the inner confidence to hire the best talent because of an inner fear of not being able to successfully lead those smarter than themselves. Over time, this unfortunately makes a company less and less viable. As David Oglivy noted, "If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarves, but if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants." Remember, you don't have to be the smartest person in the room in order to lead. As Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric noted, "I have no clue about toasters or airplanes but I'm very good at finding people who do." Indeed, a great leader isn't good because they're right or because they're the smartest person in the room but rather because they're able to bring out the best in others. Simply, leadership all about growing others, about inspiring over commanding, and about creating other leaders rather than followers. This can only be done by hiring the right talent. As Steve Jobs found, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Simply, you don't need to know more than your employees to effectively lead them. Instead, what you do need is the inner confidence and humility to embrace your strengths, accept your weaknesses, and hire talent that will make you and everyone around you better.
2. Build a culture that attracts the Best Talent
Great talent will either be attracted or detoured from joining a company based on its culture. Ultimately, an organization’s structure is its skeleton, the capabilities of the enterprise and its employees make up the muscles, and the culture makes up the nervous system. Without a healthy nervous system (i.e., culture) the enterprise will at best be a slow plodding, awkward entity and at worst, a paralyzed, lifeless organization that is being disrupted from the inside-out. Simply, often the biggest threat to any organization is not disruption, not competitors, not new entrants, and not dissatisfied customers but rather itself. A culture is not simply a feel-good, kumbaya moment but rather a quantifiable, profit generating machine that either creates or destroys value. As such, a world-class culture attracts talent, drives innovation, and creates sustainable growth. Simply, culture is perhaps the greatest yet most ignored profit generating engine and talent attractor - more than compensation, perks, or job title. Remember, people are a company’s greatest asset – more than its brand, products, or customers. However, just as organizations don't change until its people change so too organizations don't become better without first acquiring top talent. Yet, the best talent will be hesitant to join, let alone stay, with an entity that has a mediocre or toxic culture. Accordingly, if a leader creates an inspired culture that is lived and breathed by the entire enterprise it will attract as well as retain the right talent. In turn, a great brand, product, and customer base will occur almost automatically. Simply, a domino effect of either growth or value destruction begins internally with one's culture and accordingly, its ability to attract top talent.
3. Don't Fall Prey to a "Get Butts in Seats" mentality if it Sacrifices Talent Quality & Cultural Fit
Nothing is quite as costly, both from a financial and cultural standpoint, than hiring the wrong people. For example, and according to Wrike, employee turnover costs US companies a staggering $160 billion a year. Accordingly, not hiring the right talent due to time, bandwidth, and manpower constraints will do more harm than good - both financially and culturally. Indeed, bureaucratic cultures arise in large part from having the wrong people on the bus in the first place. As Jim Collins notes, “Most companies build their bureaucratic rules to manage a small percentage of the wrong people, which in turn drives away the right people.” Unfortunately, the often used statement "get butts in seats" must be avoided at all costs. As Richard Branson noted, “Hiring the right people takes time." Indeed, companies and their leaders must take the time to hire the best talent - not only top intellectual talent but also talent that matches the organization's culture. Remember, it's far more expensive to hire the wrong talent than it is to hire the best talent.
- Keep the Best Talent -
Leaders Keep the Best Talent by Ensuring a Culture of Ownership, empowerment, & Autonomy
It's not enough to hire the best talent. Indeed, this is simply the beginning. Accordingly, leaders must focus on keeping the best people and ensuring they have the runway to leverage their skill set to the fullest. Unfortunately, many times companies get so obsessed on numbers that they forget about the people – the heart and soul of a company. This results in many value destructive problems, including high turnover. Simply, many companies get overly focused on a supposed finish line such as quarterly results and not enough on the capabilities (i.e., people skills) needed to sustain long-term results. Unfortunately, as growth begets growth and thus the need for new hires, one of the first areas to take a backseat is employee training, mentorship, and development - the very core for not only keeping but also hiring the best talent. Over time, this leads to high employee turnover, high onboarding costs, internal pain points from low employee morale, and customer pain points from inconsistencies in the customer experience. Such a domino effect of problems is far more expensive than the investment needed to hire and keep the best talent. Indeed, and according to Forbes, employee turnover is the highest it's been in 10 years with employee turnover costing US companies a staggering $160 billion a year. Furthermore, the Center for American Progress concluded that the cost of one lost employee in a skilled position equates to over 200% of their annual salary. Multiply this by thousands of employees and enterprises are losing enormous capital because of a lack of people investment. Simply, not only does high turnover significantly impact the top and bottom line but it also erodes an organization’s culture.
Remember, people often leave companies for one of three reasons, specifically:
- People leave managers and not companies with Gallup noting that 75% of voluntarily turnover being a byproduct of poor bosses and not the company.
- Employees leave because they weren’t learning anything. Simply, the company wasn’t investing resources in helping their people develop the necessary skills to unlock their potential and navigate the highly complex, ever-changing landscape.
- People leave because of a either a culture mismatch or because the company fostered a toxic culture. As Bill Gates noted, "The inventory, the value of your company, walks out the door every evening."
To combat the aforementioned three areas, leaders must focus on hiring the best and keeping the best by investing in them to be the leaders and innovators they are capable of becoming. Remember, people generally don't fail but rather leaders fail those they are leading.
To summarize, people are a company’s most important resource and talent. This is especially true in the digital age where innovation, culture, and thirst for autonomy makes it harder and harder to not only secure but also to keep the best talent. As such, a leader’s job is to ensure an innovative and collaborative HR partnership that ensures the enterprise not only hires the best but also has the culture, training, and development to keep the best. After all, if you have the right people on the bus, fewer processes are necessary, leading to greater speed in decision-making, top quartile innovation, and world-class customer engagement. As Jack Welch noted, "If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings . . . you almost don't have to manage them." Indeed, few leadership areas are as important in both the short and long-term as getting the hiring, onboarding, and employee development stages right.
Read the other best leadership practices HERE.
24 Best Leadership Practices
- Series Overview -
The following article is Part 19 of a 24 part series on leadership (See all 24 best leadership practices HERE). To summarize, leadership is everyone’s business. Moreover, leadership abilities are not some innate talent that some were either born with or not but rather is a highly learnable skill. As such, everyone has the potential to become a great leader as long as one embraces a mindset of continuous improvement. Simply, leadership is not so much about inherent gifts and raw talent but rather the emotional awareness, humility, and perseverance to understand that leadership is a lifelong journey that is never mastered. Indeed, aspiring leaders must acquire the endurance of a marathoner, the musculature of a sprinter, and the mental fortitude to embrace that there is never a finish line but rather an unending goal of continuous transformation.
Ultimately, the leadership journey is not about becoming someone else but instead is about becoming one's best self so that in turn one can help others become their best self. And, while there are many facets that go into successful leadership we have identified 24 best leadership practices all of which are grouped into one of three categories, namely (1) inspire, (2) empower, and (3) innovate (see all 24 practices HERE).
- INSPIRE: To inspire action, great leaders appeal to people's hearts more than their minds. Simply, visionary leaders plan with the mind, lead with the heart, and reflect with the soul.
- EMPOWER: Great leaders empower those they are leading while simultaneously creating a collaborative culture that promotes the notion that together we can accomplish anything as long as we don't care who gets the credit.
- INNOVATE: Visionary leaders embrace change and understand that the term "good enough" is used by the lazy to justify inaction. As such, great leaders disrupt themselves and their companies before others do it for them.
Leadership is the greatest race one will ever run – one without a finish line but also one with an exponential ceiling for those that embrace change, growth, and learning. While the level of employee talent may determine the potential of an organization it is the leader that ultimately unlocks that potential and determines the success of both the organization and its people. Although no leader will be a master at each of the proposed 24 leadership practices, awareness is often the greatest agent for change and continuous improvement. As such, we hope the proposed practices will be of service to you in maximizing not only your leadership potential but also the potential of those around you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joshua Seedman is the founder and chairman of PNI Consulting, a management consulting firm that specializes in global transformations. He has over 20 years of operating and general management experience with expertise in organizational transformations, customer experience, employee engagement, digital transformations, sales & marketing, operational turnarounds, culture/change management, and high-stakes negotiations. His experience includes executive roles within F500 companies, top-tier consulting leadership (McKinsey & Company), over 10 years of global P&L ownership, and corporate lawyer (Davis Polk & Wardwell). He received his MBA from Kellogg School of Management and his Juris Doctor (cum laude) from Northwestern University School of Law.