Engaging Top Talent to Create a Culture of Innovation

If you’re like most of us, you’re currently experiencing the busiest time of your year. You’re under pressure to finish work that’s due before year end, planning is in progress to make sure the company is ready to fast track new sales, products and innovations in the New Year. Staff shortages, due to seasonal illness and travel, holiday parties and shopping, make meeting those goals even more difficult. This may describe your company, as well as one we all know is particularly affected in December -- Santa’s workshop!

During my last business consultation with Santa, he readily related to the pressures. “Elves just aren’t as motivated as they used to be,” said Santa. “The Millennials want to leave at 5:00, the Gen X’s are pretty grumpy about working late with everyone else leaving early and dreams of retirement dancing in their heads.”  “I need Elves who are excited about finishing toys by December 24th, but equally excited about testing ideas for new toys in 2016.” “How do I keep everyone busy, happy and accomplish all of my plans?” Santa asked. I shared a few ideas to help keep Santa’s workshop and deliveries on track.

In addition to Santa, I am privileged to mentor graduate students at SMU, and they frequently ask me where to find the amazing, interesting, challenging jobs. I also network a great deal and know a number of brilliant people who’ve lost jobs in the last few years. They’re seeking the same. It’s a tough question to answer. Just do a bit of research on job openings through online job boards, and you’ll see what I mean.

I research nationally using words like innovation or strategy. The results are quite limited. Interestingly, those particular terms are found more often on the east and west coasts. Shouldn’t companies everywhere be creating chief innovation, digital and strategy officers, social media leaders and chief monitoring officers to detect industry and environmental changes, as well as potential security and disaster threats? How about specialists in business modeling, digital strategies and innovation leaders who use top tools for recruiting, hiring and staff retention?

Every company now needs dynamic teams of people with diverse skills to move seamlessly across the enterprise to achieve remarkable results. The focus should be new business and product models, digital strategies to redesign all processes, better use of technology and big or not so big data, in general. Think of the teams as SWAT teams. I called and talked with the head of the outstanding Dallas police SWAT team. He said the key to an outstanding SWAT team is continual training. My recommendations include training in all areas of the business, including top tools and thought leadership with options to participate in dynamic initiatives or move into departmental or corporate leadership. Call on the teams to strategize or respond to critical situations. If you don’t have these teams today, bring in a consulting team for a short period of time to help you get started. Consider creating your own university and partner with a local school to provide teachers or accreditation. Train, train and train should be a new mantra.

 Most important of all, I recommend companies review and update their processes, job descriptions and culture to create an environment of innovation. I’ve worked with a number of CEOs to create new job descriptions for strategic hires. It’s a challenging process. It’s the best time to think about top contributions expected from the position (instead of selecting a person who just happens to be handy and available to fill the position, which doesn’t work) and how to change it to promote ongoing innovation. Resist the temptation to create a huge list of expectations and deliverables. Keep it achievable, interesting, dynamic and compelling!

Use assessments, like the Core Values Index (CVI)* assessment from Taylor Protocols, to match people's core values to top contributions expected from each job. Use a process that starts with the business model, job description, identifies top contributions, defines the core values needed and then test staff and new hires. When a person’s core values don’t align with a job, they fail, redesign the position, and disrupt the environment, at a minimum. When core values and job contributions are aligned (“A” and “B” performers in every job), the number of people required to do the job actually goes down and performance, effectiveness and efficiencies increase.

The bright, energetic, creative people (and elves) are out there, looking for positions in which they can use their experience and talents to contribute to a company’s success, but the global war for talent is escalating. Make your company an amazing place to work and people will beat a path to your company’s door, and, hopefully, Santa’s workshop, as well. The rewards you seek are guaranteed to follow!