No matter how well we manage human capital or how we choose to incorporate the process into our organizations, human capital strategy is doomed to be just one more plan – indeed, just one more empty ritual — unless it plays out in a vibrant cultural dialogue that motivates, inspires and magnifies greatness in all of our people.
As we devise a human capital strategy, we are aiming for the multipliers. We want to plan for the ineffable quality that gets us to a sum of five when we start with two and two. What is that? The best human capital management professional may have theories, but ultimately no one individual can provide that surprise extra, the multiplier. That’s because people magnify each other.
As the Hawthorne Studies found in the early 20th century, bonding among people has a magnifying effect on productivity and even a quotient of happiness. The team may entirely co-locate in the same office or be connected across time zones and continents. It doesn’t matter whether people share projects or knowledge. What matters is that they share the dialogue and exchange the ideas. They thrive in the dynamic. People in a successful dynamic do more in ways that are leaner, faster, better, and smarter. That’s exactly what we need in today’s economic climate.
So, our first question when it comes to your talent mix is, “Do I have enough of the right people in the right places performing the right work at the right time?” An immediate follow-up question is, “Will I have that in five years?” My answer to either question is another question. “Who’s talking about what?”
One of the greatest risks is when nobody is talking to each other about possibility, knowing, and change. One proven way to make sure the dialogue in an organization isn’t idle chatter or bitter grievance motivated by boredom. It’s collaboration. Of course, collaboration, while an art in itself, still relies on the baseline art of dialogue where business is concerned. In the end, whatever drives the conversations that magnify the potential greatness of our team is exactly what we want people to be discussing.
Steve Case, most widely known as co-founder of America Online and former chairman of AOL Time Warner, spoke at a Northern Virginia Technology Association event that I attended. That morning, I was inspired when I heard him say that his focus is to “invest in people and ideas that can change the world.” So the question remains: Are you prepared to be a dynamic partner? Are you ready to partner with your employees, your vendors, your stakeholders, and your community? If so, that’s excellent! Are you tentative about launching a human capital strategy initiative with so many priorities competing for your time and attention? If so, here are some questions for quiet contemplation:
- Is an effective performance management system in place and understood by all employees?
- Do employees have knowledge of the results their actions produce?
- Do we have a full complement of strategies to initiate, direct, and sustain desired individual and team behavior?
- Do we have enough of the right people in the right places performing the right work at the right time? Will we in five years?
- How many key people are likely to retire or leave in the next five years?
- What strategies will entice my best people to stay?
- Are we motivating staff with career paths?