May 4, 2012
By: Connie Blaszczyk, Managing Editor, Resource Center
Successful businesses know that the key to their success is relevancy.
But as Jason Jennings points out, eventually every business will become irrelevant.
As the best-selling author of four highly-acclaimed books on leadership and management, Jennings says that established companies now have two choices: stick with the status quo and decline, or completely revamp their strategy to stay vital.
He shared some of his ideas with Monster from his latest book, The Reinventors: How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change (Portfolio, 2012.)
Monster: What does it take to thrive in this ever-changing and volatile economy -- particularly from a recruiting and hiring standpoint?
Jennings: All it takes to thrive in business is to have a:
- BIG noble strategic objective
- Set of guiding principles known to everyone so that decisions get made instantaneously
- Group of people fully committed to achieving the BIG objective for the betterment of all the stakeholders
- Set of key result indicators to measure the progress and keep everyone focused
- System in place to reward people for the economic value they create
- Sense of ethos that’s built on the desire to exceed the expectations of customers.
The real problem with most jobs is that they aren’t big enough for people because they don’t feed people’s souls.
The challenge to leaders is to make jobs big enough for people so their hearts and souls get fed as well.
Monster: You say that if a business isn’t achieving 5 and 10 percent annual growth today, it’s likely to lose its top employees. Has the war for top talent become that competitive?
Jennings: Yes, the war for top talent has become that fierce -- but that’s beside the point.
The reason that those companies that aren’t growing are certain to lose their most talented people is nothing is other than same old reason -- there’s not much challenge left, not any chance for a promotion or more responsibility and little prospect for more money.
Then, they’ll leave.
Nobody woke up this morning and said to themselves, “I sure hope today sucks more than yesterday!”
Everyone wants a better tomorrow than today. If those better tomorrows can’t be found where they’re currently working, bright people will find their future somewhere else. You need growth to attract, keep and grow the right people.
Monster: How are today’s most successful companies achieving that type of business growth while retaining top talent?
Jennings: Western economies have been growing an anemic 2 to 3 percent for a number of years and every economic forecast is for more of the same in the future. The only way to achieve double digit growth is by thrilling customers.
Note I didn’t say, ‘satisfying customers.’
There are many studies that definitively prove that satisfied customers leave. In order to thrill customers you need to stay in front of their changing wants and needs -- and the only way to do that is to keep your hands dirty.
And you can only keep your hands dirty by spending half your time with your customers.
It’s a sad comment on most companies that the higher you move up the food chain the less time is spent with customers.
Monster: In your book, you tell the story of a CEO who says that recruiting is no longer just about finding bright people -- but hiring top talent with the ability to learn new things. Can you explain the difference?
Jennings: One of the surprising findings of our research was that extraordinary companies that embrace constant radical changes are filled with lifelong learners.
As we discuss in the book, you can easily spot people who aren’t capable of being lifelong learners. Lifelong learners:
- Don’t have a need to always look good to other
- They don’t think that making mistakes make them look bad
- They relish accountability and getting a grade
- They have no need to steal credit from others.
There are some bright people out there who always have to look good, can never be seen as making a mistake, they dislike accountability and they have no problem stealing credit from others. Aside from the fact that they’re bright and have those character flaws, they’re toxic.
Monster: Do you have any final recommendations for fast-growing companies who are challenged in finding talent and by employee turnover?
Jennings: Having screened and studied more than 200,000 companies for my books, I’d pass along the following observation.
Companies get the workforce they deserve. It’s really that simple. And no company can tactically do anything to get a better workforce than they deserve.
So it all comes down to the following six rules:
1. Have a BIG noble strategic objective that will in some way make the world a better place. People want their soul’s fed as well as their pocketbooks.
2. Make sure that everyone not only knows the BIG noble strategic objective but understands how what they do moves the company closer to its attainment. That’s how you achieve authentic employee engagement.
3. Make certain that everyone knows how what they do creates economic value, that’s it measured and that they’re compensated commensurate with the economic value they create. That’s how people start thinking and acting like the owner.
4. Be an organization that makes letting go of ego, yesterday’s breadwinners, same old-same old and conventional wisdom an integral part of their company culture. That insures that no one will ever get bored; there will always be lots of excitement and just a little more work than it’s possible to get done.
5. Be committed to double-digit growth so that the right people will want to work for you, stay with you and constantly be challenged by increasing amounts of responsibility and reward.
6. Be a company with a 100% commitment to good stewardship of all the stakeholders: the workers, the customers, the vendors and suppliers, the owners or shareholders and the planet.
That’s my sure fire recipe for attracting and keeping the right talent and eliminating employee turnover.
Read more from Jason Jennings: How to Hire Engaged Workers and Lifelong Learners
Jason Jennings is the author of THE REINVENTORS (May 2012; Portfolio) and bestselling author of It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small -- It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow; Less Is More; Think Big, Act Small; and Hit the Ground Running. USA Today named him one of the three most in-demand business speakers in the world.