In good times and bad, every organization looks for ways to differentiate themselves from the pack. In this day and age, most competitive advantages are rather short-lived.
But an organization's only real competitive advantage is the passion of its people.
The quality of your team is a crucial factor in determining whether you will succeed or fail. I am blessed to be surrounded with wonderful, talented, enthusiastic people. Any success I have achieved is due to the efforts of these tremendous individuals.
How can you boost your probability of recruiting and retaining these difference-makers? First, develop a reputation for being a high-performance organization. "A" players want to be on winning teams. Those players have a passion for what they do. They have an implicit sense of importance to their work and a sense of urgency in accomplishing their goals.
High-performance teams also empower their people. Decisions are pushed down to the lowest levels in the organization. This flies in the face of most companies, where decisions are pushed up for someone else to deal with.
High-performance teams also don't tolerate mediocrity. If someone is dropping the ball, the problems aren't ignored--they're dealt with. The first course of action should always be to see why the individual is struggling and to provide him/her with the direction, resources and support required to succeed. When that doesn't work, people need to find other places to contribute. Ignoring a problem never resolves it.
Developing a culture where people want to contribute is also critical to successful recruitment. Do my people enjoy those they work with? Do they feel a part of something larger than themselves? Are they having fun? Do they feel recognized for their efforts? Are they rewarded appropriately?
Many people feel the only way to find high performers is to pay top dollar. Indeed, each of us wants to be compensated appropriately for our contributions. However, studies have shown that once you get to a certain pay level, that happiness is less about incremental dollars or more "toys" and more about feeling fulfilled and being part of an environment with people you genuinely like and care about.
Employees also want to grow and develop. Are you providing your team with opportunities to learn new skills? Are you putting people on projects where they will interact with new people and accomplish new objectives?
Recently we asked a team member who's worked in a specific technical role for years to branch out, learn new technologies and take on more client-facing responsibilities. This person has done a tremendous job and has a whole new lease on life. Are you challenging and engaging your people, or is every Monday a case of Same Stuff, Different Day?
Finally, people don't work for companies--they work for people. Are you a leader who appreciates your people's efforts? Do you genuinely like and care about your staff (not the phony smile and pat-on-the-back caring, but honestly caring about who they are as people)?
I've worked for a few managers who, if they had asked me to run their pig farm, I would have considered it, because it's their pig farm!
Recruiting and retaining top people is more than compensation and benefits--it's about developing a culture of empowerment, growth, success and excitement. We all need to ask ourselves how we are doing on these variables.