Growth From Within: 7 Ways to Compete on Employee Talent

Does your business compete primarily on product and price?

That kind of old-school strategy may win you customers in the near term. However, competing on price or product is really just a race to the bottom.

Along the way, you’ll miss the broader opportunity — the chance to win a sustainable position of market strength.

Rethinking Business Strategy

Competing on price and product is finite. Eventually, either or both will stop yielding the desired business results. Then what can an organization do to kick-start momentum? There are several choices: 1) Retire the product, and replace it with a new one, or 2) Develop a new pricing strategy.

Either option can breathe new life into sales, right? Sure, but only for a limited time. Price and product can be duplicated or replicated. But there’s a source of competitive advantage that is nearly impossible to duplicate or replicate — and that is your workforce.

The Human Element

Does your organization compete by tapping into your people’s infinite, unique potential — their talents, skills, knowledge, experience, energy and creativity?

Access to any of these is boundless. These inherent strengths can be directed toward developing the next great product your customers need, or that pricing strategy that paves the way to increased market share. For example, think of Southwest and its refusal to charge customers for flying with luggage. Southwest was expected to earn over $200 million from baggage fees. Instead, the airline earned over $1 billion by choosing not to charge.

In the 21st century, people are celebrated as the cause for success that catapults organizations to the top. So, what does an organization do to shift its focus to compete on employee talent? Here are seven people-centric ways that signal organizational commitment that puts people first.

1) Identify how employees set your company apart

Spend time understanding how your employees’ skills, experiences, strengths can help advance your strategy. Focus on how they differentiate you from competitors. You should be able to answer this question with confidence: “How does our work environment let our employees’ talents thrive and grow?”

2) Invest in true workforce development

Don’t just send employees to compliance training. Involve them in training that elevates their skills and knowledge. At its best, workforce development makes it possible for employees to learn on-the-job skills that are crucial for their growth, and helps them contribute more effectively to your organization’s goals.

3) Adopt a customer-centric strategy

Look to build and deepen relationship with customers by transforming products, services and the customer experience. Align your employees to create solutions in each of these three areas. This work is meaningful: it helps employees see how their work ties to the bigger picture. Plus employees want to “be in” on important work.

4) Align your reward mechanisms

Are your reward programs considered irrelevant or worse? Employees should be recognized in ways that are meaningful to them. Rewards must be appropriate and timely. It’s important to motivate people with a mix of regular quick-wins and long-term incentives.

5) Modernize how and where work gets done

Mobile technology and remote work policies can transform how and where your employees get work done. They want the responsibility and flexibility to choose. It’s time to begin trusting your employees to be accountable for when, where and how they contribute. Mobile is not going away.

6) Reevaluate workload

Is there a healthy tension between employee workload and time to get it done? If expectations don’t support optimal performance, then your environment is likely creating distress. Excessive stress leads to anxiety, as people begin to feel undervalued and question their well-being. That’s the start of a long downward slide to disengagement and attrition.

7) Invest in learning employees strengths

Strengths-based leadership is about understanding the kind of work that energizes employees and leads them to perform at their peak. Just as your business must adjust to external factors, it is essential to reshuffle employee responsibilities on an ongoing basis. The more time employees spend in the zone of peak performance, the more likely you’ll see creative contributions from their efforts — and the more meaning you’ll bring to your organization’s value proposition.

Today’s topsy-turvy marketplace sometimes scares executives into behaving like cash-hoarders. But organizations that compete on employee talent position themselves to outwit, outplay, and outlast their competition.

What ideas would you add to this list? Please add your comments.

(Editor’s Note: This post is republished from SwitchandShift, with permission)

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