There are many theories devoted to the best means of achieving business success. In examining key business success factors, you have no doubt been faced with the proposition that ‘people (your employees) are your most important asset’.
While this is an excellent ‘motherhood’ statement, it is, in fact, misleading. In truth, the right people are your most important asset. Therefore, the question that needs to be answered is: who are the right people for my business?
There are as many theories related to getting the right people as there are to business success in general; however, when selecting and retaining the right people, there are two schools of thought that require closer examination.
The first suggests that business owners need to have a clear direction about where they are going and select (or retain) the people most likely to help them get there.
This means that strategic planning about target markets, sales, marketing, technology, and innovation often occurs before decisions about who will be the best people to assist in achieving established goals.
In his book ‘Good To Great, Jim Collins uses the analogy that leading and managing a business is like taking a bus trip.
The scenario above means that business owners need to decide where the bus is going and then get the right people to help them get to the destination.
This raises the question that if people join the bus because of where it is going, what happens if you get ten kilometres down the road and need to change direction? This will likely create a misalignment between the new demand of the bus and the skills, values, needs and aspirations of the ‘passengers’?
In researching “Good To Great”, Collins assembled a team of twenty researchers who examined twenty-eight successful companies and compared them to underperforming companies over five years.
His research revealed an alternative strategy used by many successful businesses whereby they first decide who will be on the bus and then decide what direction the bus is going to take. In other words, the right people will help you determine where you need to go and then help you get there.
This finding supports the belief that if you start with “who” rather than “what”, you will be able to adapt more readily to change. It also reinforces that if you have the wrong people on the bus, it won’t matter if you discover the right direction; you still won’t achieve your goals. As Collins states, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant”.
So how do you determine who should get on (or stay on) the bus?
In a previous article (“Core Values – A Great Place To Start”), we examined the need to be clear about values: these guide your business decisions and the way you want to conduct your business.
Suppose you recruit or retain staff based on an alignment between their values and your own, in addition to evaluating their technical and other job-related skills. In that case, it is more likely that they will make a significant contribution in whatever direction the business takes. They will also play a more active role in helping you decide the path to take.