Nine steps to creating a talent-friendly organisation
Despite entering the so-called digital age, people are more important than ever. However, we need to harness their cognitive potential as opposed to their ability to follow a process. To do this we need to meet certain anthropological drivers..
The war for talent is nothing new, but in keeping with the exponential nature of the post-industrial world, it is becoming more acute. Some organisations believe they have the upper hand in talent recruitment and so talented people should be grateful for the opportunity to work for them, what with the rise of the robots. But the power axis is shifting to the talent and so employers need to work harder to acquire and retain their best people. We need to build talent-friendly organisations.
Firstly, we need to define the term talent. In short it means being able to do something of value that cannot be replicated by a robot or an algorithm.
Our hidden advantage sits undercover between our ears. Our ability to think, ie. process data is not our advantage. But the following abilities are:
- To be innovative
- To pick up on weak signals in small data sets (eg. empathy)
- To create analogies, metaphors and other cognitive frameworks that enhance our ability to communicate and make sense of complex concepts
- To organise ourselves into very large social groups.
We might think of the top
talent as cognitive athletes. So, we need to create environments that enable cognitive athletes to do great work with other cognitive athletes.
In essence, we need to create a cognitive gymnasium. A place where talented people build their cognitive muscle through applying it to highly stimulating customer-centric challenges.
Covid-19 has thrown this into the air in the sense that whilst Google can control its work environments, it cannot control the home environments of its people, which for many is also their work environment. Nonetheless the importance of optimising the work environment and the way in which work is conducted remains critical to maximising the organisation’s cognitive capacity.
Regular readers of my blog (both of you) will know that I have identified a set of anthropological drivers that we need to express daily in order to live as we were designed. These drivers were actively suppressed during the industrial era because employers needed cogs for the factory machine, rather than cognitive workers.
Looking at these in turn:
Design your offices to encourage mobility. Locate amenities such that it requires people to leave their desk and walk. If that is not possible, conduct meetings whilst walking around your locality. If your area is a little sketchy, this provides an opportunity to step it up by walking interspersed with occasional sprints.
Traditionally talking at work (on the factory line) was discouraged. Communications had to focus on work. As social animals we want to be part of a group or tribe. So creating the conditions to enable people to get to know and thus trust each other is important. At one extreme this could be the occasional social event. At the other this might involve ensuring people who join the company at the same time are incentivised to maintain contact and deepen that bond as they grow with the organisation.
Many organisations have cracked the code in respect of enabling people to work from home. But few have worked out how to enable their people to ‘home’ from work. Are there areas where people can go to arrange doctors appointments without upsetting the office rhythm or eliciting raised eyebrows? Do people have to clock in and out or can they be trusted to do their weekly shop mid-morning knowing they will complete their assigned work on time.
Very few organisations offer the opportunity to be creative. Largely because they are running a factory model and thus workers veering from the documented processes puts the operation at risk. But even in these organisations, perhaps workers could initially be allowed an hour per week to come up with creative ways to improve the company’s offerings or operations. Where an idea has merit, the individual will be allocated more time. Ultimately, they might be given a team or even the opportunity to lead a spin-off company in which your company maintains a stake.
Management is a delicate art. Micromanagement leads to the manager taking on responsibility for the employee’s work. This over utilises the manager and underutilises the employee. Loosening the reins and allowing people to fail is a more effective way to building trust and competence in your people. It also has other benefits as you will see shortly.
Curiosity is the pre-cursor to creativity. Create environments where people can engage with new content, tools and ideas that are core to your market. But also expose them to what is out there in adjacent markets and beyond. This could spark both incremental and radical innovation.
Courage is an important element of creativity. Taking risks is inherently risky. Does your leadership encourage people to explore areas where there is both risk and reward? Is failure a source of embarrassment and so the reasons for the failure are never investigated? There is a fine line between courage and recklessness. This isn’t a charter to ignore good governance. However, realising that risk management in the digital age equals risk acquisition, it might be time to define good governance.
Does your organisation have a sense of purpose beyond making a few already rich shareholders even richer? The goal here is to make your corporate social responsibility page your home page. People are more motivated to work for organisations that have a sense of purpose that benefits the wider world.
The industrial era employers paid workers for their time, rather than their productivity. Productivity was built into the conveyor belt. As we move away from conveyor belt work, some of us have maintained a minimalist approach to productivity, ie how little work can we get away with. However talented people are proud of their productivity and work better when this is explicitly rewarded. This is nothing new for sales functions, we simply need to apply a similar model elsewhere in the organisation. And perhaps more importantly, we need to link productivity rewards to teams, rather than individuals as this helps reinforce the social fabric.
We have looked at nine anthro drivers that I believe we need to build into our organisations if we we want to maximise cognitive flow.
My aim with this post is to encourage business leaders to think about the welfare of their people.
Allowing them to operate as nature intended would be a good start. In the course of time, word will get around about your radically natural approach to talent management. You will develop a reputation for being talent friendly and this will provide the magnetism needed to attract and retain the best people.