The New Competitive Advantage: Rapid Human Resource Development and Integration

Whether your business gains a competitive and cultural advantage or ends up a sinking ship depends on your ability to ramp up new skill sets and integrate new company leaders positively within your culture without upsetting your current workforce.

The scales have shifted in the world of Human Resources. The supply-and-demand point of equilibrium has squarely moved to the side of the employee, with 65 percent of American workers actively searching for a new full-time job right now.

Employees—especially skilled production-focused individuals, educated young folks in demand as future leaders, and anyone within your organization currently who makes a difference—now have complete market power to choose among a host of work situations, work locations, and work environment options. They are deciding how to reinvent their lives during a time of rapidly changing and confusing economic realities.

Whether your business gains a competitive and cultural advantage or ends up a sinking ship depends on your ability to ramp up new skill sets and integrate new company leaders positively within your culture without upsetting your current workforce.

While many organizations maintain company missions statements that emphasize their commitment to corporate culture and human resource development, those slogans are being tested like few times in our history. Is your slogan reflected in your ability to hire and maintain human talent or is it a constantly passed object that no one in your organization believes is real?

The new competitive advantage happening in most industries is now what often has been relegated to an administrative-oriented back office HR group: Rapid HR development and integration for all current employees and new hires. This requires resource support from the top of the organization and commitment from every manager and supervisor. Success in this area can be broken down into four areas of focus.

  1. Remember your current workforce.

We are all looking for new hires, whether due to growth or higher levels of turnover. The first place to start must be your current employees. I don’t get too much into why someone is leaving when the world is shifting gears, but I sure better focus on providing my current workforce reasons to stay. It is a new world. Has every individual in your organization had the chance to express and define their career goals within your company? Are there additional avenues for training, mentoring, or simply connecting personally with corporate leadership to discuss work- and life-related issues on their minds? Are they worth some of your time? Maintaining a current, motivated workforce is the least expensive effort company leadership will find, but it requires investment. Are you providing “cheap” support to your valued team?

  1. Create a cultural reputation within your area and industry.

This one does not happen quickly, but from a recruiting standpoint, there is nothing more valuable than your employees telling their friends they like where they work. This seemingly simple “feeling” will be known by their friends and unbelievably across every state from which you recruit. The “word” gets out. To use a bit of game theory language, you are in a zero-sum game. You must take resources from your competitors or they will take them from you. There are simply not enough individuals with the work ethic and skill sets you desire, at your desired compensation levels. A mission statement that has been a silly plaque on the wall means you have not invested in your team and they know it. If you are bemoaning the costs of turnover, why did you not put those levels of costs as investments into your culture previously? Why are you waiting to invest in what keeps and attracts people the most? The costly reality of turnover is now easy for all to see, but the cost of time and diminished efficiency are the greatest costs of all.

  1. Realize that mentoring and rapid skill set development is multigenerational and desired by (almost) all.

Everyone talks about the Millennial generation and all the differences they bring to the table. While there certainly are differences, there are always differences between generational groups. For motivated individuals of any generation, having a respected guide or skilled elder buying into or dedicated to your success is perhaps the most personally satisfying and profitable reality anyone can find. Is this part of your training routine? Are you providing incentive and opportunity from both parties’ point of view to facilitate that reality? Are you managing this process to make it the norm? How about those who have been with your organization for 10, 20, or 30 years? Are you renewing these people’s passions each and every day? These are the most desired individuals by your competitor and they are coming after them.

  1. Understand that human capacity equals profitability.

When is the last time your board meetings involved a discussion of your human development programs in terms of your corporate profitability? Not how many people you have or what your shortages are, but when was the last time the budget for human resource development was viewed from a competitive advantage standpoint? Has your cultural development line item increased more than your equipment maintenance line item? Is it even a line item on your financial statements or part of your strategic annual budgeting routine?

I believe skilled human resource capacity that maintains product and service flexibility and dependability is the top competitive advantage in today’s world of technological and economic change. I have invested heavily in my corporate culture and am trying new methods of investment in my people every day. I have far from perfected this reality, as I would suggest we are all struggling to adjust to today’s reality. But I’m coming after your best, most dedicated, most aggressive ladder climbers. Those individuals who allow you to rest peacefully each evening. The ones you rarely have to think about, who solve all your problems, and who make your customers send nice e-mails about the great products and services those individuals made happen. I am coming for the best talent coming out of my local and regional community college and university programs, and I offer more than money to take them off the market.

Cultural development is my fastest growing line item. You may want to look over your shoulder. And check your ship for holes.

Phil Kelley Jr. is the author of “Presence and Profitability: Understanding the Value of Authentic Communications in the Age of Hyper-Connectivity.” He also is president and CEO of Salem One, which specializes in direct marketing, packaging, printing, and logistics. Kelley holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Industrial and sSstems Engineering from Georgia Tech, as well as an MBA from Clemson University. He has served on the boards of directors of multiple nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Kelley has been an active voice in the print industry, refocusing industry success definitions within the rapidly developing world of corporate communications.