New Deloitte research shows that culture, engagement, and employee retention are now the top talent challenges facing business leaders. More than half business leaders rate this issue “urgent” – up from only around 20% last year.
What is really going on? It’s very simple: as the economy picks up steam employees have more bargaining power than ever before. Thanks to social websites like LinkedIn LNKD +%, Glassdoor, and Indeed, a company’s employment brand is now public information so if you’re not a great place to work, people find out fast. This shifts power into the hands of job-seekers. Therefore the challenge for most leaders is centred round building organisations that accomplish the desired results for all stakeholders. This is often called strategy execution.
Business leaders are primarily responsible for delivering results and to do that they need to design and deliver effective organisations that can create competitive advantage. For organisations to win in today’s changing marketplace they need to continuously differentiate. Therefore, competitive advantage means meeting customer needs in unique ways.
Often, winning means meeting these criteria through strategic clarity that leads to innovative products or services; financial investments that leads to lower price, or operational or technological excellence which leads to efficiency. Therefore, organisation capability is a critical factor for sustained strategic, financial, and operational success.
There are three specific domains that build organisation capability: talent, leadership, and culture. For each of these domains there are specific actions that business and HR leaders can take to build sustained organisation capability. Talent can be captured in a simple, but not easy formula: competence * commitment * contribution.
Competence means that people have the right skills for the right jobs for today and tomorrow. Therefore companies need to continuously invest in future competencies (e.g., staffing, training, promoting). Commitment means an employee value proposition where an employee gives his best for the job. Then employee engagement makes sure that employees do their best at work. Finally, contribution means that employees are not only behaviourally committed to their work, but emotionally engaged and charged to do their best work and that requires strong leadership.
Therefore, leaders need to become meaning makers so that employees find personal purpose from work which increase the productivity of their employees. Leadership is about building a leadership brand inside the company that reflects the expectations of customers outside the company. The leadership brand has two dimensions.
First, leaders must master the basics of leadership: strategy, execution, talent management, human capital development, and personal proficiency. Professor Dave Ulrich the foremost HR Guru in the world calls this the leadership code (Leadership Code by Dave Ulrich – Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press). Second, leaders must differentiate their leadership to align with customer expectations and ensure that their leadership delivers exceptional customer value. Therefore Boards needs to continuously invest in building better leadership in their organisation.
Finally culture binds everything together. Culture is all about a way of working that makes the whole of the company stronger than the parts. Today we need to shift the thinking of culture as a pattern of events about how people think and act inside their company to an identity of how the company is known by those outside the organisation. Therefore the culture is the desired identity of the company in the mind of all key customers and stakeholders.
However to create this desired identity: companies would require top down communication and activities. In addition a behavioural agenda which includes personal actions of each employee; process agenda which includes work processes; and lastly a strong leadership agenda which connects back to the leadership brand of the organisation.
In the final analysis in order to build sustainable profitable organisations, boards would need to ensure that talent, leadership and culture are at the top of their board agenda. In the final analysis, many of the HR and management practices are expected to drive or support culture. Does a company value employee development? Are people empowered to take charge or do they follow the rules? How are people promoted and why? The culture simply describes the “total employee experience”: everything from the coffee in the coffee machine to the quality of management.
(The writer is a HR thought leader.)