What’s Your Strategy? It Better Be to Build and Win Through Your Talent

I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” — Lawrence Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell International

In sports, it is the game plan. It business, it is called the strategy.

Regardless of what you call it, as the quote says, it is all about people. They are the stars. The talent you have within will, in the end, determine the trajectory of your business.

Talent wins

If you look at the most admired and successful companies around the world, those who have figured this out and found a way to get the best talent top the list. If that is the case, then why are so many companies floundering or just muddling along?

They are in that fix because they are concentrating on the strategy — and only the strategy. It’s all strategy and no results.

In strategic workforce planning, each company must define their strategic role. This is the role that drives the strategy. That role has nothing at all to do with leadership, as the role of the leader is as the coach who will enable the key players to get it done.

The companies that master this take the talent game seriously, and make finding, growing, developing the best talent a top priority. It is not easy to get into this category in any industry.

If you look at the leaders in any industry vertical, you will realize that they have figured this out. For the most part they follow some simple rules. If you were to speak to their HR heads, they would tell you about their Talent Management that the Human Capital Strategy is built around talent.

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Instilling people in organizational success

The C-suite discussions are focused on the talent within. One global CEO of a very successful retail empire told me that the first item of discussion on their agenda is people: Success stories, development opportunities, person of the week/month, etc.

He said this instills in all his team the importance of people in their success. This from a person who started his empire with one store and now has a chain of their stores across the Middle East. His take was that he could not have achieved any of this without those people. Some of them started out in low-level roles — as a secretary or a delivery person — and have now climbed the organizational ladder.

As a matter of fact, their top performing store is run by a gentleman who had no formal education and was originally hired as a driver. His take was that they hire the person and do not concentrate on the CV.

What NOT to do if you want to win with talent

Here are a few of my takes on some of the hurdles to winning with talent:

  • Failing to Make Building a Team of “A” players a Priority. Are “A” players a priority? They should be. From the leadership team down to the department level, star performers should be what you are aiming for.
  • Tolerating Low Performers. As stated above, if getting “A” players is not a priority, then you tolerate low performers. If  you build a culture around that, the trajectory of your company is like a missile that has lost its power.  You and your organization will be headed downward
  • Paying Below Market Value for Talent. Have you ever worked for a company that tries to nickel and dime every offer? I have heard senior leaders say, “let them leave; I can hire people cheaper.”  This way of thinking will catch up to you in the long run.
  • Hiring Based on Interviewing Skills. If you end up doing this, the resume is not doing the work. In the end, the individual is key. You should hire for soft skills, because in a team environment, that will drive productivity and get things done.
  • Not Looking for Development Opportunities. Are you developing not only your “A” team but other players as well? This is an investment, not an expense.
  • Forgetting that you Should Always be Interviewing. When the seats are filled, the prospecting needs to continue.  Always have your team looking out for talent, and deputize the entire organization so that they know you are always looking for talent.

We now live in an uber-competitive environment, and your competitors are going to work every day trying to win. Let your talent be the catalyst that will allow you to lead your industry.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


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