The Growth series will posted on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through the month of October 2011.
The owner of Company Z called for help. The company is family owned and has been a top company in the market place for several generations. Growth seemed to have reached a plateau and in the current market they could not see a way to grow without significant cost and recruiting effort. They wanted to throw numbers of people at the problem and hope that would be the solution. Numbers would not really solve their problem, especially if recruited using their existing methods.
Looking into the company a number of issues became apparent. The big net strategy simply dumped people into the company. The really needed to do an assessment of the people and positions in the company against needs.
We initiated the assessment looking at what they wanted to achieve in the company:
- Market share dominance
- Strong position in specialty markets and business sectors
- Utilization of leading edge technologies to expand their customer base and transact business
These objectives are not so unusual and they had quantified the objectives in their business plan. They had a road map, but the question was…did they have the people, talent and skills to put the map to work?
The first part of the assessment was to define the talent that they would need to meet their objectives. Note we did not say numbers, as talent put to work out produces a simple quantity every day. We found that a significant portion of the people recruited were new to the business with little experience, customer basis or understanding of how to work the business. This meant a large cost in training, management and long ramp up to production. Recruiting numbers meant bringing in generalists which would be important for a part of the business but certainly would not bring the desired growth or meet target objectives.
The second part was to look at existing talent which was divided into four categories: Leadership, Management, Staff, and Sales. We did a talent inventory looking for strengths, weaknesses and, most importantly, what talent was missing in the company. Other factors considered were life circumstances which might affect the availability of the talent such as age, family issues, and where they were in their career. These all were related to timing. The final consideration was impact which we also called “turf”.
In leadership, we found that out of the core leadership several had retirement plans. Two of these were people who had become so insulated in their functions that it would be difficult to transfer the knowledge and experience, especially since there was little documentation of their work. Even though being on the leading edge of technology was embedded in the fabric of the company, few of the leaders were proficient in technology tools, their application and understanding of the gains that could be made. Each had strengths they contributed but if any of them were not a part of the team, there would be a serious void.
Management, we found, had for the most part grown up in the business before technology became such a large component. They could talk about the technology but reverted to their old methods in most areas of business. While there were some specialized talents in this group, they all worked as generalists. Most had some impact on turf in the people they were responsible for managing, however that was a two edged sword in that many had relationships with their people that were more akin to family and friends, making business direction much more difficult to apply. Additionally, almost all were more driven by fear than opportunity. They were for the most part “nested” in their jobs.
Many of the support staff, in part due to the challenges of the economy, were concerned about retaining their jobs. Rather than seeking efficiencies and ways to help the company achieve objectives, they were more concerned with trying to be irreplaceable in job functions and knowledge. Several were ready for retirement but, in some cases could not afford to retire. The company being family owned kept some of these in their jobs even though in almost every situation there was lament about the inadequacies or lack of skill and ambition. Additionally, many of these were not adapting to the newer business model and learning the skills necessary to propel the company forward.
The sales team had a few specialists but not many. There were also some very strong producers, some with niche markets. For the most part, the sales staff were generalists with low average production and high turnover. Looking at the timing of when the people had been hired and where they were in their careers, there was a lot of business at risk over the next couple of years with little way to capture and or transfer. An overlay of the sales staff and their production against target markets, territory coverage and specialty areas revealed huge gaps which translates to lost opportunity.
The company realigned focus of talent, timing and turf against objectives and found that expanding existing unused talent and recruiting for need rather than numbers would make their goals possible. It also laid a path for future hiring and transference of skills. They launched a program to maximize existing talent, worked to develop people to resolve timing challenges and target particularly sales recruiting to coverage of turf. They were pleasantly surprised when they found that people want to work for a company that has targeted them and knows why they are a part of the picture. Putting a career development program in place also became an attractive feature of the company as well as an incentive for some of the people already in the company. They did exceed their objectives and minimally impacted cost. They became the company of choice by paying attention to talent, timing and turf.