Products and be copied. Services can be replicated. What's the one thing that your competitors can't touch? Your human capital.
The only truly sustainable source of competitive advantage is your people, but most companies treat it as an afterthought. Sales, marketing, and customer service absorb 100 percent of leadership's time. Meanwhile, your company can't predictably hire the right people for the job.
Do you want first crack at the top talent in your market, or do you want to be forced to hire the people that your biggest competitor decided weren't good enough to join their team?
It's well within your grasp to transform your company's talent operations into a competitive weapon. Doing so requires you to make three critical decisions as the leader of your company:
1. Declare your intention.
Step one in creating competitive advantage through exceptional people practices is declaring that you're actually going to do it. First, you yourself; then, to your company.
Write the following statement down on a piece of paper: "Our company is going to have the best team in our industry." At your next all-company town hall (you do those, right?), tell everyone that you're going to do exactly that.
Acknowledge all of the existing issues and deficiencies that prevent you from being that company today, and tell them that you're going to make the investment of time, dollar and resources to make it happen. Ask for their help. Enlist them to support the initiative with their ideas and referrals.
It will be a transformative moment in your company's trajectory--I've seen it happen countless times. It's magical.
2. Implement systems and process.
Saying you're going to do something is important, but then you actually have to do it. To create sustainable competitive advantage though your people, you have to implement process that gets you there.
The first process to implement is the steps you'll follow to produce a qualified hire. That includes the writing of the job description, the marketing of the position, the pre-hire assessment you'll use, the interview guide that will be created, the reference checking process and, finally, the onboarding steps you'll take to ensure your new employee starts off on the right foot.
Each of these steps must be defined, documented and followed. No exceptions.
You don't have a different sales process for every prospect, right? That would result in a haphazard and random win rate, and you can't build a business that way. If that approach just described your company's hiring process, you have some work to do.
3. Manage it like a core business function.
You've declared your intention, and you've implemented a structured hiring process. But is anyone following it? And is it producing the desired results?
Your talent operation has to be managed; it must be someone's responsibility to manage and maintain the effectiveness of your hiring process. Perhaps that's our HR leader, perhaps it's your operations lead. But it has to be someone, because as with any core business function there will be these hiccups that have to be addressed:
- Are new applicant leads coming in at an acceptable cost and volume?
- Are managers opening resumes and responding to candidates in a timely manner?
- Are managers following the same process for every candidate?
- Are candidates having a great experience going through your hiring process?
These are just a few of the questions that must be answered on an ongoing basis if your goal is to consistently build the best team. Make someone accountable for these outcomes, and make the results visible to all.
Your company's human capital is its source of competitive advantage if you act with intention, implement the right processes and manage it like the core and critical business function that it is.