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Leading growth with people
WHEN asked what constitutes the tenets of their businesses' growth strategy, common responses from entrepreneurs tend to revolve around issues such as business funding, corporate finance, operations, risk management, customers and technology.
Often, lesser emphasis is placed on its people strategy - and the underlying pillars of people, behaviours and culture - even as many recognise that their success would not have been possible without the hard work of their teams.
Truly, an organisation is only ever as good as the people working for it. To win the war for talent, leading businesses build an environment that values diversity and attracts and retains the right people to help grow their businesses - not just great people, but people who share the company's vision and fit with its culture.
These businesses also provide strong leadership and create an inclusive environment where differences are valued and people are empowered to innovate to drive the business forward. On top of this, they invest in their employees, nurturing their talent and helping them develop skills to match the demands of the business during each growth phase.
As entrepreneurs seek to grow their businesses across different markets and geographical areas, a concerted effort must be made to get their people to move, work, grow and team in the same direction. This can only be accomplished if the organisation has a culture predicated on a set of firm corporate values that is espoused by all members of the organisation.
It's not just about leaders thinking of the type of organisation culture they want to build and the type of people they want to hire; more importantly, they must actively shape and sustain this culture through communication and linking it to their people strategy.
As businesses expand geographically, the introduction of cultural behaviours from different markets may dilute and even pose as a direct conflict with the organisation's culture. Clearly, while there must be a set of organisational values, the organisational culture should be flexible to accommodate geographic nuances. In addition, with workforces becoming more mobile and the rise of virtual working, how does one create an office culture without an office? It is easy to fall prey to being managed by the culture if one doesn't proactively build and manage it.
A successful business is a sustainable one, and to that end, planning for leadership succession should always be at fore of mind - even if it is less than intuitive for the entrepreneur-founder who is still very much in the management of the business.
It is important that business leaders define the type of leadership competencies and traits that are desired and aligned to their organisational strategies, and identify ways in which these competencies and traits can be developed within or brought into the organisation.
Often, getting the right balance between developing a pipeline of organically-developed leader and bringing in external expertise is a delicate consideration, dependent on the availability of the qualities and competencies needed to steer the business in navigating future challenges. Regardless, there must be a clear way of identifying potential leaders at every tranche of the organisation.
In today's highly competitive talent market, a key facet of successful talent management is a well-defined rewards (ie, compensation and benefit) strategy that motivates employees to perform better and drive better business results.
From a strategic perspective, aligning the rewards strategy with the business strategy is fundamental. This will involve a keen review into performance measures and ensure that proper governance, review and management is in place for accountability.
Most, if not all, leaders will agree that information is power. It helps them make better, quicker, smarter decisions that improve business performance and manage risks, including those on the talent management front.
A key question that leaders ought to ask is: How can I use technology to better attract, motivate and retain good talents? Today, the availability of data analytics - notwithstanding relatively slower uptake in this part of the world - means that organisations can now harness the wealth of people data within the organisation to better predict and manage people performance, develop key performance indicators (KPIs) that are better aligned to the overall business strategy, and track the performance of people along those KPIs.
Further, beyond traditional methods such as employee engagement surveys and exit interviews, organisations can now gain better insights into key reasons for attrition or retention, and use these to inform their talent management strategy.
WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE
Every company faces unique challenges and business drivers. No single people strategy applies to all of them. Yet our research and client work indicate that leading companies often share these common traits.
Uncompromisingly, their people strategy is a fundamental pillar of corporate strategy. Diversity and teamwork are embedded in the culture of the business and leadership is passionate and inspiring, setting a clear vision and leading by execution. They view themselves as people leaders and champions of innovation, and not operational managers. Performance is embedded in the organisation's culture, supported by a coherent reward, development and career opportunity management process. Values are understood by all, and behaviours are driven by values, aligned to performance and linked to rewards.
These principles may sound simple, but the real challenges lies in executing them properly - and not forgetting to be nimble enough to evolve them as the business grows every step of the way.
- The writer is partner, people advisory services at EY
- The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organisation or its member firms