Leading Through Change

Five key principles of successful human capital management

By Sarah Lockyer at The Elliot Group

If there is one piece of clarity that has come from the past few years of confusion, it is that talent in any organization is the ultimate asset.

C-suite, mid-level managers, and unit-level workforces each must include high-potential, flexible and resilient leaders for a business to evolve and win. People are the ultimate advantage.

The talent acquisition and leadership development initiatives of any company must therefore be front-of-mind for all leaders – not just those in the human resources practice. Some of the best chief executives say they spend upwards of 50% of their time on people – recruiting, retaining, developing and supporting leaders throughout their organizations.

From the most seasoned leader to an executive just beginning to understand the differences between management and leadership, there are five key principles to help frame a successful approach to human capital management from both an enterprise level and a personal vantage point.

1. Align business goals with human capital needs

Human capital can’t be an afterthought and must be embedded in any business’s plans for growth. What skill sets are needed, what competencies must be developed, what roles are required to drive your business planning?

2. Focus on a human-first employer value proposition

Today’s best talent not only has many options to choose from, but also wants and expects to find a workplace where their values align with leadership values and where they can fulfill their potential. A unique employer value prop has to be there.

A recent survey of food sector  hourly workforces conducted by investment bank William Blair shows that compensation and benefits is actually the least correlated to job satisfaction among the six attributes measured. While pay had a 70% correlation, more qualitative aspects including culture and values, senior management alignment, and diversity, equity and inclusion practices had correlations of 90% or higher.

3. Develop and nurture your own leadership signature

Good leaders are always thinking about others, and top managers are often spending the most time with their teams. But the best leaders must take time to invest in themselves – and the best organizations support and help drive those efforts.

Time spent on your own leadership signature, whether through executive coaching, or mentorship or reverse mentorship programs, will pay off in improved leadership competencies.

4. Hire to be additive to team and brand values

Hiring for “a culture fit” will no longer attract or keep top talent. Organizations that will win in the ever-changing retail and consumer landscape must look for “culture add.” When that additive talent is in the room, leaders and managers must listen and allow room for diverse opinions and ideas.

5. Elevate other leaders

Every team member throughout an organization is responsible for the success and development of talent. Executives, managers and peers alike contribute to the achievements in human capital.

The best way to keep top performers, to better everyone across the team and to see real business results, is to let people lead. Empower high performers to impact their spheres of influence, grow in their careers and deepen their commitment to the organization with autonomy, incentives and trust.

• The Elliot Group is a human capital firm powering businesses forward via executive search and advisory.

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