Who Are the “Right” People to Invite on Your Bus?


This is a good article. I am not sure if it does go beyond what most dedicated manager’s know in this area. It seems like a polished up version of some general ideas many managers know and subscribe to. I don’t have time to reread it. It is good to read once..

 
 

via HarvardBusiness.org by Tammy Erickson on 5/11/09


I had a chance to spend some time with Jim Collins earlier this week. Over the past decade, he's been working on his third major analytical investigation of strong companies, in this case focusing on how successful companies weather crises. His findings are summarized in a new book is due out later this month — How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In.

As part of the conversation, Jim reflected on the lessons he’s drawn from his three major research programs, including the two earlier investigations that lead to Good to Great and Built to Last. Of several dozen key characteristics and actions he's identified, some stand out as being perhaps the most important — the foundational core of sustainable greatness. One of those primal lessons is from the first study: get the "right people on the bus.”

Jim has found that great companies have clarity around both the definition of key positions — that is, which roles are essential for success — and a focus first and foremost on making sure the right people are in those seats. This is necessary if you're trying to make a good company great — and doubly so if you're trying to excel in turbulent times. Jim emphasizes that this needs to be your highest priority — unless you're surrounded by the right people, little else will matter.

I have no doubt that Jim's conclusion is correct — and will only increase as a point of differentiation between the great and not-so-great as talent shortages make finding the right people more difficult. But . . . who are the "right" people for your organization?

I have a straightforward answer: the right people are the ones who are predisposed to like what you realistically and consistently offer.

Let's look at these three key ideas — predisposed, realistically, and consistently — and the implications for your talent practices.

  1. Predisposed — I've written in the past that people care deeply about different aspects of the work experience — individuals are predisposed to enjoy some work experiences more than others. For example, for some of us, it's essential that the work we do have broader meaning or lasting impact, others crave security and predictability, or teamwork and fun. Some of us are adrenaline junkies — not happy unless we're working against a deadline or facing a do-or-die challenge — while others have complicated lives outside work, to the extent that flexibility in the workplace becomes the highest priority. While most of us care a bit about several of these things, most of us have a strong affinity for one and care little — or even dislike — others.
  • Realistically — A work environment can't — realistically — excel in every dimension. Some are more stable and predictable than others could ever hope to be. In fact, some embed stability into their underlying talent management practices (think of tenure-based models). Others are by nature a high-risk, adrenaline-packed experience. Jeff Sonnenfeld, now a professor at Yale, described firms with a "baseball culture" — ones in which your ability to be here tomorrow depends on your statistics today. In these environments, minute-to-minute performance is key and any sense of long-term security stems only from confidence in your own abilities. Some firms have more of a "family-feel," others revel in fun; some operating models embed team-based work; others are highly flexible.
  • Consistently — Over time, for various reasons — some external, some internal — the work environments within a company may change. Industry pressures may make it impossible to offer the same degree of long-term career security that was a hallmark of decades past. New management may decide to "shake up" a family-oriented culture, placing high value on short-term performance. Shifting customer requirements may necessitate more teamwork among employees, forcing a shift from individually based performance metrics.
  • My work convinces me that none of the attributes are inherently good or bad, better or worse in terms of creating successful companies. There are examples of very successful companies that excel in every dimension.

    The key is the fit between what your work environment is like, and will be like in the foreseeable future, and what the people who are on your bus care about. People who find working in your firm satisfying and emotionally rewarding are those who are most likely to be committed and engaged — those who are most likely to invest discretionary effort in assuring the success of the business.

    What does this mean for your talent management practices?

    1. Your practices must combine to create a cohesive employee experience. Everything from recruiting messages to compensation practices, management philosophies, work flow design, and a myriad of other aspects that affect the day-to-day experience of your employees must feel aligned and reinforcing (in the same way you want everything that touches your customers to reinforce your external brand). Copying a generic “best practice” makes no sense if it doesn’t fit with your overall employee brand.
  • Talent management practices that help people choose you are essential, as much — or more so — than ones that help you choose them. I've had many people ask me for psycho-demographic assessments they can administer to find out what candidates value; these exist and can be very helpful. However, I believe that many candidates will opt out voluntarily, if you make it clear what it is like to work in your organization.
  • When the reality of your employee experience shifts — either from external pressure or internal strategy — you must address the change explicitly, head on, with messaging that acknowledges what is no longer possible and makes clear what is. (“I know many of you joined this company because you appreciated . . . . We can no longer offer that to employees, but working here does provide . . . .”)
  • Don't go through good times or bad without a fully engaged and committed team at your side. Hire for fit and attitude — you can always train for skill. Get the right people on your bus.

    I’d love to hear your views on employee experience. Why did you join the company you’re at today? What attracted you? Does the company realistically offer the experience you thought it would? Has the employee experience changed over time? How has this affected you and other employees? What would you recommend?

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