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Three Bold Ideas that will Supercharge your Competitive Strategy

If you’ve been around us for a while, you’ll know that we don’t shy away from being boldly different; in fact our brand’s character is, we hope, constructively contrarian by design. We often find ourselves looking at common things from an uncommon perspective, challenging the often outdated assumptions that underpin them, and proposing new approaches that better meet the current reality.

The existing paradigms around the relationship between people and your P&L are insufficient in today's economy... and they may even be holding you back from executing your competitive strategy. So as we gear up for this new economy together, it seems appropriate that we step back and share with you three bold ideas that we think will set the foundation of your success for the next few years. They are the following:

            1. If the fit’s not right… nothing else matters.
            2. Measure what Matters
            3. The Birds of a Feather theory is alive and well.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of each of the three Bold Ideas; we look forward to hearing your perspectives on each:

1. If the fit’s not right, nothing else matters.

This is the foundation of our entire approach, our core philosophy. Research over the last fifteen years has continued to validate and revalidate the link between employee engagement and business performance. In fact, companies with above-average employee engagement:

We also know that engagement doesn’t just happen; one needs to set the stage for it. The starting point is to make sure that people are assigned to roles (whether they are new hires or existing employees) on the basis of the Four Critical Aspects of Fit: fit with the manager, in the job, with the team, and with the organization. Once these fit factors are aligned, your managers and your systems can do their work more effectively and with less effort, and better results will flow naturally.

So we need to stop relying on the résumé factors (education, credentials and experience) as the admission tickets that determine who we’ll consider and who we won’t; they are the least reliable predictor of performance, retention and engagement. We need instead to pay attention to fit first, because if it’s not right, there’s nothing else in a person’s background or experience that will compensate for that. Nothing.

As an extension of this line of thinking, we’ve noticed that people most often speak of fit from the employer’s perspective, with good reason. What about the candidate’s perspective? Surely fit is a two-way street?

It most certainly is. So much so that you’ll often hear us use an axiom that is getting more and more play with our clients. That is, If the Candidate’s not engaged… the Employee never will be. This is a theme that we will expand on this year, and that we hope will challenge many of your existing beliefs and processes, particularly as it relates to employment branding, attraction, candidate sourcing, internal and external communication, and even how you manage the candidate experience and your onboarding process.

 2. Measure what Matters.

We are fans of Jac Fitz-enz, Lou Adler, and others who are actively challenging organizations to bring a different rigour and approach to the metrics that are currently being applied to the people side of business. Jac has referred to them (a little unkindly, but we get the point) as ‘kindergarten metrics’ because they tend to measure numbers of employees, days in process and dollars – possibly providing a measure of the efficiency of the HR machine, but offering little or nothing in the way of strategic impact to the enterprise.

For some reason, through all the TQM initiatives of the last few decades, HR seems with few exceptions to have been granted immunity from solid metrics that carry meaningful accountability for quality, process improvement, or business impact. There is an absence of process controls and feedback loops that provide timely information to tighten up and improve the process, the way there is in any LEAN system (unless of course you are a HiringSmart client).

BCHRMA is taking the lead among Canadian HR Associations, sponsoring annually an HR Metrics benchmarking exercise across the province. In many respects, Helen Luketic is Canada’s HR Metrics Maven. The list of metrics in her report is exhaustive, spanning a series of categories from Workforce Productivity through HR Efficiency… but there isn’t a single metric in the 89 that are reported that has any relationship to ‘quality’ of people or process.

The fact is, as we look around us at the declining health of organizations (lowest levels of engagement, retention, organizational depth, and so on) we have no choice but to conclude that the process by which organizations have been matching talent with opportunity is badly broken… and that when it comes to our people, we’ve been measuring the wrong things.

Our focus this year will be on sharing with you the best practices (and even better, the next practices) that we are seeing around us, and also tooting the horn of selected clients as they learn to use and measure fit as the primary building blocks of success… and discover how the benefits are reflected in their P&L.

3. The Birds of a Feather theory is alive and well.

This isn’t a slap at diversity. Diversity of background, experience, perspective and beliefs is critical to the success and resiliency of any group, as long as the group is adept at tapping into the differences and using them as a strength. I’m deliberate about putting that on the table first; please don’t misconstrue what I’m about to say.

Fit is critical to engagement, as well as to ‘job embeddedness’, another concept that is emerging and starting to get some play. Embeddedness is about an individual’s links to other people, teams and groups, their perception of their fit with their job and the organization, and what they feel they would have to sacrifice if they left. Predictably, there’s a direct correlation between ‘embeddedness’ and intention to leave (voluntary turnover), as well as commitment to the organization, overall satisfaction, and other factors.

From a business perspective, embeddedness and engagement are a good thing. And, neither is possible if the fit’s not right (refer to Idea #1).

Let’s face it. We are social animals and therefore an individual’s effectiveness at work is dependent on the quality of the social fabric around them. At one point or another we all look around us and ask ourselves if the people we work with share our standards, if they are as committed to the same outcomes, and whether we genuinely like and respect them (and feel liked and respected in return). None of this has anything to do with diversity or homogeneity, and everything to do with setting the stage for high performance.

Furthermore, people will not stick around long with birds of a different feather. This has upside as well as risk. If you are actively engaged in the process of raising your standards and bringing fresh blood into the organization that shares those standards, gradually those who have lower standards will start to feel uncomfortable and will join their flock somewhere else.

If on the other hand you are tolerating mediocre performance from a team or group, high performers who have different standards and high expectations of themselves, of you, and of their peers won’t stick around.


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