In a recent interview at the World Economic Forum by Business Insider, new Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, shared that during the first few months at Yahoo she focused on staff and overall environment to ensure that Yahoo was the best place to work. This highlighted her belief that tech companies lived and died by the talent in their employ. Sourcing and retaining skilled staff stands as the top issue currently keeping CEOs awake at night. Despite a significant unemployment rate in Asia, CEOs are having a hard time getting young talent on board—and keeping them. This makes developing leadership and talent pipelines problematic. If you skim through questions about human resources (HR) raised on HR community, you will easily find the following issues plaguing HR departments:
- When employee turnover rate increases, they find it hard to tell the management team that talent is a business problem, not solely an HR problem.
- When the current staff do not perform to expectations, they cannot admit that the current hiring practices of their companies are hurting their business performance.
- When talented staff jump ship to work for competitors, they often blame the unattractive remuneration scheme but fail to accept that technological, economic and cultural changes affect employees expectations as well. For family-owned businesses, this is doubly true as they hardly talk about succession planning for critical positions. Succession planning for top positions are off-limits, because it is a taboo topic.
How can companies build and retain a winning team, regardless of current company size, budget and ownership type? You need to understand the deeper purpose of your company, then take the following steps to get the ball rolling.
Step 1: Define the corporate culture in which your talents can contribute to driving your company’s business performance
As Tang Ying Chun, Strategy Manager at Consulus, shared at the recent Shape the World Conference held in Singapore, there is a strong link between corporate culture and a company’s bottom line. The first step to building and retaining a winning team for your business is to know what kind of environment or culture you need to design. You have to carefully select and define a set of core values to bring your business forward. However, you must avoid falling into the trap of selecting universal core values and displaying them nicely on the website and the company brochure. In fact, 55% of all Fortune 100 companies claim integrity as a core value, 49% espouse customer satisfaction and 40% tout teamwork. Does placing these core values on a piece of paper translate into actual behaviour? No doubt, they are good qualities, but failure to translate those core values into a distinct blueprint for employee behavior will hardly help to differentiate your company from the competition. It might actually do more harm to your company when people realise that it is not living up to its self-imposed creed. It is important to note that when you put up a core value, you need to make sure everyone in your organisation, including yourself, practices it daily. It must become the way of life in your organisation. By being clear about how you want employees to behave, you reduce potential and actual losses such as kickbacks, loss of time due to cleaning up questionable accounts and staff turnover. This reduction of wastage contributes to the company’s bottom line. General Electric is one example of an organisation that has followed through with the practice of integrity. It launched its ethics program in 2004 and placed clear guidelines on how it expects its employees to work. According to Ethisphere.com, which ranked GE as one of the world’s most ethical companies, practising the value of integrity has certainly paid off.
Step 2: Define the types of talent that your business needs
Even a nimble business entity needs an organisation chart that tells you what kinds of professional skills and expertise you need for each position. Hard skills and knowledge can be acquired easily, but hiring a person solely on qualifications and job experience is insufficient. Personal traits should stand at the top of the list of requirements for any job advertisement for your company. What personal traits do you need to look for? If you did step 1, you would have clearly defined the corporate culture or the set of core values that your business needs. Now you must match those core values to certain personal traits. Let’s say you defined accountability as one of your core values. Attention to detail and self-discipline are traits that you would look for in your staff. If humility is your core value, then openness to criticism is something that you need to keep an eye out for.
Step 3: Seek the best of breed
Knowing the types of talent you require will be fundamental in reorganising the hiring practices and processes for your company. Zappos, an online shoe and apparel company, has two different sets of interviews. The hiring manager and his or her team will do the standard set of interviews to look for relevant experience, technical ability, fit within the team and the like. Their HR department then does a separate set of interviews, looking purely for culture fit. Among the interview questions: On a scale from one to 10, how weird are you? Candidates have to pass both sets of interviews in order to be hired. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to well-known or seemingly talented candidates who have received brilliant certificates or awards. Do not assume that an experienced or well-educated candidate will naturally have the necessary personal traits. The candidate may be able to make an immediate impact to your bottom line, but sooner or later this person will jump ship. You need to filter out such candidates to protect company growth and culture.
Step 4: Cultivate them
At our company the management tells newcomers that everyone has a personal journey to follow. No matter how long that person plans to stay with the company, we work together to make the stay worth both the company’s and the staff’s time. Once a talent joins your company, you need to have a plan to cultivate them.
- Understand what drives your staff at work and what makes them happy and fulfilled in life. This should be done as soon as the talent is hired and repeated on a regular basis as personal goals may shift from time to time. You can maximise their potential only if you are aware of the changes and make an effort to align their goals with your company goals.
- Understand them from the way they approach work. This should also be done on a regular basis, so you can best categorise who can be groomed further to grow your business beyond your generation.
- Develop and train internal talent. For MNCs such as Google, Siemens, L’Oreal, Schneider Electric and Lafarge, it seems easier to put in place internal leadership development programmes that often include an overseas assignment to cultivate promising leaders in emerging markets. For SMEs or family-owned business, this may sound like a luxurious investment. However, the key success factor here is not about the budget. It is about knowing where you want the company to grow, sharing that vision with your talents and developing a succession plan to groom them in stages.
Step 5: Put them to the test
Learning from Apple’s Top 100 approach, to fill a critical position in your company you need to groom a few candidates and put them to the test as the last step to make sure whoever is chosen can handle the responsibilities that come with the job. Derive from your vision a special assignment in addition to what this candidate has been in charge of. For example, if you have a vision of your company entering into Southeast Asia, you may assign your key talent to discover a new market and build a penetration plan for it. Remember to push your candidates to test their commitment and produce extraordinary results for the company.
Helena Phạm Thị Thu Hằng is a Senior Manager at Consulus Vietnam. Helena has worked with business leaders in B2B and B2C to provide strategic advice to design corporate cultures and to develop middle managers for companies to enable the business to scale upwards. With an MBA from Nanyang Technological University, Helena brings more than 10 years of experience in business development, marketing and change management with leading corporations in Asia.