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5 Ways To Transform HR From Being Overhead Into A Talent Magnet That Drives Growth

Too few organizations have a systematic approach to developing Qualified Managerial Talent that drives real value.

In fact, 80% of competencies at the managerial level that your HR team are hiring for are consistent across almost every firm and industry, i.e. leadership, communication skills, and decision making. That means that great “technical” talent is out there. That means that great talent is already in your firm, waiting to be recognized. That means that what you’re doing today isn’t creating competitive advantage.

The magic happens when you find the other 20% that turns raw talent into true competitive advantage for your firm, and we’ve seen that with anecdotes of how Patagonia, Apple, Tom’s Shoes, and other fast-growing firms hire in ways that are closely aligned with their organization’s vision and culture FIRST, and for skills and abilities SECOND.

By all means use conventional hiring tools and measures, but then have your HR Resources go above and beyond to find your secret sauce and really look at what drives your firm’s competitive advantage. You’ll find that true managerial talent is based on less-tangible, but very powerful elements that are unique to you. We’ve already touched base on some of these elements in earlier blog posts this month.

With just a few questions, you can transform your HR Team from employment-and benefits-administration, policy and procedure work, and basic recruiting to being a strategic talent discovery and development partner. How?

  1. Complete the Talent Matrix and look for the success and failure factors that differentiate one from the other. Have them build unexpected questions and even processes into your hiring practices, to identify the racehorses early and weed out the donkeys.
  2. Help them understand the concept of Flow and implement a system such as the PACT to understand every employee’s opportunities for Flow. Then, creatively and proactively tweak roles and responsibilities to create Flow. Get beyond the formal job description and make good things happen!
  3. Have your HR team identify talent gaps, required competencies, and missing skills to help put the Plowhorses in the right seats on the bus where they can really shine.
  4. If you use a tool such as the 1-page Strategy Alignment Pyramid that I help my clients develop, you’ll have captured the key elements of your culture, the essential components of your current value chain, and most importantly, the kinds of skills and talents that will be essential for growth over the next 5-7 years. Have your HR Team do a gap analysis to identify the crucial elements that should be “off the charts great” for any future hires, to build more strength into the organization. You may find that hiring from unlikely sources outside of your industry or typical hiring pool will bring surprising new talents into your organization, whether that includes ex-military hires with great logistics and leadership skills, arts graduates with creative skills that balance an engineering culture, or moms re-entering the workplace with amazing skills in multi-tasking, younger boomers seeking the freedom of contract work, bored retirees who have legacy knowledge, and more.
  5. Have your HR leadership work with the executive team to source and maintain a roster of valuable projects that talented new recruits at any level can undertake to accelerate the rate of growth, add value and prove themselves during a 90-day Probation period, while being evaluated for a position you may not have even thought of yet.

Success Story: A plastics manufacturer had their HR team do some inventory, and anticipate organizational talent needs based on their Strategy Alignment Pyramid, based on the milestone Theme Statements looking five years out. They evaluated each Theme in the context of essential skills, abilities, and attitudes for success and identified gaps in their current resource set. Then they focused on developing talent internally based on reviewing the PACTs and seeing what each employee identified as their ‘in Flow’ elements and made recommendations for who should be included on special learn-by-doing project teams to further develop those talents. Where gaps were still evident, they provided interview and assessment tools to help the hiring managers discover candidates who had them, in addition to the right attitudes and conventional managerial competencies.

It Pays to Hire Differently:

Many organizations have little or no creativity in their hiring and development plans.   As such, they fail to capitalize on the incredible source of competitive advantage that having the right Talent can deliver, and they end up looking like everyone else in their industry, fighting over the same small pool of resources. Many years ago, a forward-thinking VP of Sales hired a Division Manager with a track record in the computer industry to lead a failing team in the pharmaceutical industry, where there was a long standing tradition of poaching from competitors. It was considered quite avant-garde, but he was a visionary. That new hire was me, in the very early days of my career. Within 9 months, that division was in first place amongst 5 divisions, rather than dead last. In an earlier blog post this month, I shared how my amazing assistant Tiana was hired based on pure potential rather than a roster of skills. It often pays to think outside the box!

What will need to shift for your HR Department to become a strategic partner in talent spotting and development, so that they can add tremendous value to your business?


#1 Bestselling Author, International Speaker, and Accelerator Anne C. Graham is on a mission to help 5 million business leaders and their teams double their profit per employee – or more – in less than one year, in less time per week than they’re spending on email per day. Her new book Profit in Plain Sight includes the 5-step proactive P.R.O.F.I+T Plan to do it. Connect with Anne on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.