Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 14 – involving the crowd as a source of competitive advantage 9

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 27, 2015

This is my fourteenth 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 1-13.)

I stated at the end of Part 13 that my topic of focus here would be staff retention, and particularly the retention of crucial innovative employees needed to bring your business to its next stage of competitive development. And in that regard, I specifically stated that I would address the issues that arise when considering these two bullet points:

• Relevant staff retention issues, with that including a discussion of better understanding which positions and employees are most crucial now and which will be needed moving forward for their special qualifications,
• And how best to meet the needs and requirements of these employees in retaining them on-staff, that would work both for these key employees themselves and for the business as a whole.

And I note with these issues in mind, that one of my core areas of discussion in this series’ Part 13 was to turn these points around as I looked into the issues of identifying best possible innovative new hires, and hiring them away from other employers if need be in bring them onboard in your own company. That was intentional, and I wrote that portion of this overall series, at least in significant part with this installment in mind.

• If you want to retain your best employees, you need to start from a deep awareness of the fact that the people you most need to keep on your staff, are also in most cases going to be the prospective new hires that other businesses, your direct competitors included, would most want to take from you.
• What do these key employees value that you could offer them, and what would a competing employer be able to offer them that might lure them away?

Salary and their overall compensation package as a whole can be important here, and so can job title. But to bring this discussion closer to what can become the crucially compelling options that a key employee might want and look for, title per se generally only becomes really important where that directly reflects opportunity to select and pursue projects of their choice for at least a portion of that employee’s work effort, that they see as offering significant value in pursuing.

• Real innovators are driven by a desire to create and innovate, and to use their skills and to learn and develop new ones. Essentially any and every employee or prospective employee who holds any real potential for professional growth and advancement seeks these opportunities. But they can be the primary deciding points for the people you would most want when you seek to hire or retain high value innovators.

If this approach sounds like it could be disruptive to standard personnel practices as honed and refined in bringing in and retaining more interchangeable standard-skills employees, that is because it is.

Yes, the most creative, innovative employees who you can bring in and who you would most want to retain, are going to want, and they are going to expect compensation to match their performance and their value to the organization. But you can still easily drive them away, and into the staff of another perhaps directly competing business by leaving them feeling stymied from not being able to use their skills and creativity at your business – and even if they are highly paid to, as they would come to see it, sit around.

Which positions and employees are most crucial now and which will be needed moving forward for their special qualifications? I began answering that question in Part 13, where I suggested matching needs and wants language from consumer and marketplace-sourced social media with experience and interest language from prospective new hire online professional networking profiles and from their related social media postings. The consumer side of this can definitely offer value in mapping out next best steps to work towards in what your business offers. But that, and I add most of what I have added here in this series that is related, primarily just addresses product evolution and refinement. It does not capture the possibility of disruptive innovation or its potential.

• Look for creative people and both outside of and within your organization who are not living up to their potential. And be willing to make the investment risk of letting them explore new possibilities, as a reliably available option to them for at least some minimum set proportion of their paid work time and effort.
• And this can help you to better identify who you have to most actively work to retain on-staff and at the same time this can help you to more effectively keep them working for you.

As an important point of detail that is worth explicit notice, I have not been writing here about negatives, and active disincentives to leave your business for new work opportunities elsewhere. Non-disclosure and particularly, non-compete agreements can limit both employees who might leave and move on, and other businesses that might hire them. But these and similar negatives do not inspire your employees to work towards the fullest of their potential on behalf of a current employer that holds such agreements over their heads. And if their skills are transferable, a non-compete agreement might limit their going to work for a direct competitor for some significant period of time, but have no impact on their leaving your business to work for a different type of business that happens to need their skills and abilities too. So my focus on positive incentives here is intentional.

As a final area of discussion for this series, I am going to, in my next installment, at least briefly and selectively delve into the issues of more open-ended, blue sky research and the search for disruptive innovative value. And my focus of attention there will be on the people who do this work. 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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