Use Your People Strategy as Your Competitive Advantage

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I was flipping through some old school papers I've hung on to for far too long and found my notes from Michael Porter's book, Competitive Advantage. If you haven't heard of Michael Porter, here's a great summary of him and the business ideas and strategies he's shared over the years. In this particular book, Porter said companies win over their competitors by being cheaper or by being different - being perceived by the customer as better or more relevant. There are no other ways.

While Porter was speaking to competition within business, we can apply this to the competition for talent we're experiencing today. Companies have two ways to gain an advantage over other companies looking for the same talent: pay the most or be so different from other companies it’s easy to draw in and keep top talent.

Playing the numbers game is not sustainable, and applicants don’t rank this in the top criteria when looking for jobs. Companies must reflect on how their people strategy is better and different than other companies. To accomplish this, think like Porter and create a "value chain" within your employee lifecycle. This value chain should focus on five stages of your employee lifecycle as a series of activities which link together. With it, you’ll be better able to show talent how you stand out from the rest.

Attracting

Companies must remember that their people strategy starts before you even hire the employee. A "careers" page with a list of openings is no longer enough to ensure candidates see you as a great place to work. In today's job market, employees have the upper hand when demanding where they choose to work. Developing a strong employer brand that reinforces your culture, as well as your vision, mission, and values, is imperative.

As candidates go through the interview process, remember to select for talent, rather than experience or intelligence, to ensure you're attracting the right individuals.

Welcoming

A 2007 study from the Wynhurst Group  found that new hires are 58% more likely to be at the same company three years later if they completed a structured onboarding process. Without a strong process in place, employees don't feel welcomed into the organization or don't understand their role or expectations. They feel confused or alienated.

Engaging

While there are opportunities to create engagement within all five stages, the opportunity here is to ensure an ongoing presence of intentional engagement. Creating high engagement is key to employee performance and business success. With it, employees feel a sense of purpose and appreciation. And once they are recognized for accomplishments, they’ll feel empowered to accomplish their goals.

Optimizing

Many companies focus on the importance of retaining employees. To retain means to keep something in place. To keep it fixed. In today's world, I don't hear many employees say they want to be fixed in place. Employees what to be challenged. They want to be able to use their best strengths to help the organization. The best companies are finding the right fit for their employees’ talents. Keep thinking of ways to challenge your employees and provide them with opportunities to help them grow both professionally and personally.

Transitioning

Great organizations care about their employees regardless of their next step, whether that be in a new role, department, or outside of the organization. The average person changes jobs to fifteen times during his or her career. Ensure your organization has initiatives in place to ensure thoughtful transitions within or outside of the organization.

No longer can organizations live off the strategy of "recruit and retain" in their quest for best talent. Companies must create a value chain that attracts and inspires top talent as their competitive advantage. There is no other way. 

Mike Bensi is an Advisor at FirstPerson.

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