Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 9 – involving the crowd as a source of competitive advantage 4

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 10, 2015

This is my ninth installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-8.)

• I began discussing in-house crowdsourcing and tapping into the knowledge and insight of your in-house staff, and at all levels of your table of organization in this series in Part 6.
• I then began discussing outside-oriented crowdsourcing in Part 7 where I delved into the issues of tapping into your marketplace for customer and end-user insight,
• And I followed that in Part 8 where I discussed crowdsourcing insight as it can be gained from the people your business works with through supply chains and other business-to-business collaborations, as sources of actionable insight.

I continue exploring outwardly oriented crowdsourcing here in this posting where I will examine its potential role in employee hiring and retention. And I note as a starting point for this posting’s discussion, that most businesses tap into their markets and their customer base, and into the general demographics that their customers come from for insight. So many businesses pursue my first bullet point goals as briefly outlined in Part 6. A lot fewer look to their business-to-business collaborations such as the supply chain systems that they participate in, for insight into their own business processes and how to improve them as touched upon in Part 7. And very few businesses at least currently tap into the flood of available outside-sourced insight that crowdsourcing can offer in improving their employee hiring and retention practices, and certainly when seeking to develop their innovative potential and for when they would benefit from moving away from what has simply been their ongoing personnel policy tried-and-true to capture new forms of opportunity.

As a point of orientation for the discussion to follow here, think of this posting as a start to a potentially much longer discussion on how to reframe employee hiring and retention in a 21st century, ubiquitously connected information sharing world, and one where agility and speed in identifying and capitalizing on innovative opportunity starts with having the right people in the right positions, and in being able to keep them there. But I only start that larger and farther-ranging discussion here, commencing with some of the fundamentals. And as a clarifying note as to what I address in the balance of this posting and even just for that, I focus here entirely on work-related skills and experience in determining when and how social media and related sources of insight would offer value. I will discuss online search of job candidate and employee reputations, and the use of these information sources in evaluating employee and job candidate judgment separately (and see Social Networking and Maintaining a Professional Image – a brief guide for an already posted discussion of this set of issues as considered from the employee or job seeker perspective.) And I will simply add here in that context that it is always a good idea to know what is being said and shared online and in the social media and both by and about people of importance to a business, and certainly where they do or might work there. And with that noted:

• If all you do and seek to do in your hiring and staff retention, is to bring in and work with essentially interchangeable employees who have set, standardized skills that they would use in fulfilling standardized work tasks, then this is probably not a posting, or a series for that matter that would offer much value to you. With time and experience most businesses, or at least most successful businesses learn precisely what to look for in skills and experience for these types of positions. And they just as quickly come to know, where appropriate, what licensure and professional certifications they should require in vetting reliable hires and current employees there too. And they come to learn essentially just as quickly and certainly as fully what would constitute a reasonable competitive compensation package to offer, to hire and to retain these employees, with little outside-sourced input needed besides basic market research as to what the competition is seeking and what they offer to these job candidates they would want to hire.
• As soon as you need to hire employees, and for whatever types of non-managerial or managerial positions, that do not fit this type of cookie-cutter mold, due diligence concerns if nothing else should start demanding a wider range of insight and information for those job candidate searches, or for best retaining highly qualified “non-standard” employees who you do bring in.
• And if your business seeks to be truly innovative and to offer the disruptively new marketable offerings that rapidly changing markets and their customers demand, then you need to bring in and retain innovative thinkers and doers who do not fit the standard patterns of more routine workers – inventors and innovators who can and do think outside of any more standardized boxes to see potential sources of value that others have not, and ways to capitalize on those insights with real-world products and services. And up to here I have only been writing about market-facing product and service innovation in this posting, but an openly, creatively innovative business needs to look for and develop operational and business process opportunity too that can make a business more agile and competitive in how it develops and produces its marketable offerings, just as it has to be innovative in keeping its finished product and service offerings cutting edge.

And this brings me to the question of how to identify and find the types of people that your business would need, when simply following the patterns of past or even current experience in finding, hiring and retaining the best might not suffice.

Employee hiring and retention are very complex issues so to keep this posting focused on its specific issues at hand, I will simply assume that any viable job hire candidates you might consider, and any current employees you would want to keep on-staff, have solid skills and experience for what they do. And at least as importantly, I will assume they have the communications and interpersonal skills that they would need in order to be able to work well with others, and that they would be a good fit for your corporate culture in place. Basically, I am assuming that at least as potential employees per se, they fit the basic requirements laid out in my series: Hiring 101 (see HR and Personnel, postings 93 and following for its Parts 1-9.)

The core issues and questions that arise in the hiring and retention context that I raise here, are contained in the clause “for what they do” of the first sentence of the immediately preceding paragraph where I wrote of these people having “solid skills and experience.” The key issues here are on knowing what specific skills and experience you need to bring in and what types of skills and experience you might have to offer special incentives for, in order to make sure the employees who have them stay.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will look in specific detail at some of the core issues and approaches for determining what skills and experience you might need next, in-house in building for your business’ competitive future, and how to more effectively use online social media as a source of insight, both in resolving that starter question and in finding the right candidates to reach out to for having them. I will, of course also address relevant staff retention issues there too. And in anticipation of both sides of that, outside social media, and in-house intranet-based social media resources can both offer significant value and particularly where they are tapped into coordinately for this purpose. I make certain assumptions there, as to what a business might offer in its intranet and will address them too, and what in-house social media to offer as well.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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