In order to succeed, companies need great people. This means it is important to have a winning strategy for recruiting, selecting, and retaining talent. But winning the war for talent requires something more: building and sustaining an organizational culture that inspires people to maximize their talents. This requires leadership and management practices that engage and energize people to produce extraordinary results.
The statistical reality is that only 10 percent of the people are going to be in the top 10 percent. According to Charles O’Reilly and Jeffrey Pfeffer, the challenge is to build an organization that helps make it possible for regular folks to perform as if they were in the top 10 percent. The goal is to create an environment that achieves extraordinary results with ordinary people. “Hiring and retaining talent is great,” observe O’Reilly and Pfeffer. “Building a company that creates and uses talent is even better.”
The companies that are winning the war for talent do so not just by being great places to work, but by figuring out how to get the best out of all of their people, every day. These companies don’t simply out-recruit other companies – they win by being very good at unleashing the energy and talent of the people they have. People in high performance firms are fully engaged, and they proactively focus their discretionary energy on producing next level results. And as a byproduct of how they operate, these companies are also better at attracting and retaining people. That is because people want to work in an organization where they can maximize their talents, where they are treated with trust and respect, and where they are fully engaged by the vision and values of the organization.
Southwest Airlines is such a company. In a hyper-competitive, difficult market in which companies are struggling simply to survive, Southwest has continued to succeed. At the heart of Southwest’s strategy is a commitment to leveraging the company’s people for competitive advantage Former Southwest CEO Herb Kelleher:
What keeps me awake at night are the intangibles. It’s the intangibles that are the hardest thing for a competitor to imitate, so my biggest concern is that we lose the esprit de corps, the culture, the spirit. If we ever do lose that, we will have lost our most valuable competitive asset.
In the quest for a high-performance culture, leadership is the critical factor. Effective leaders engage the human spirit. They provide the focus and passion that energize people to work together to achieve extraordinary results. Leadership, at every level of an organization, plays a pivotal role in creating and shaping a work environment that brings out the personal best in people. Effective leaders get results by tapping into the wealth of knowledge, creativity, and experience that resides within the heads and hearts of the people who do the work of the business. Leaders convert human capital into customer value.
Employee Capability x Employee Commitment = Customer Value
Certainly, you need to talent and skill to win. But it is no guarantee of success. In athletics, assembling a team with the best individual talent is a surprisingly unsuccessful formula for winning championships. How the athletes on a team play together is a critical success factor. It is not the team with the best players that wins; it is the team whose players play together best that wins championships.
The work environment – that is, the culture of a company and its business units – is a consequence of the daily interactions of many people as they work together to produce products and serve customers/clients. Leaders have a profound impact on culture, culture has a profound impact on behavior, and behavior produces results. At the end of the day, what produces great results are good people in an engaging work environment with effective leaders.