The most important characteristic of successful business leaders today is the ability to embrace, inspire, and manage their organization’s human capital, because more than ever, success is now driven by people identifying with the company’s backbone of values. It’s all about connecting to meaning, rather than regulating execution. The business leaders creating the most impact will be those that recognize and manage their employees like the valuable assets they are.
Based on our experience, we have learned that if you build meaningful purpose and positive impact into your day-to-day decisions, unexpected and effective solutions come from the people who are on the ground. In order to move forward, we embrace the individuality of employees, and make the benefits of their unique perspective, knowledge and passion available to everybody through the businesses.
Following are four key principles for driving professional growth that create working teams that are attuned to their values, and capable of sustaining the business for the long run.
1. Empower champions before outsourcing talent
Before hiring consultants, understand that the best brainpower usually already exists within the organization. By harnessing this brainpower and unlocking potential from within, you not only reveal the quickest road to positive results, you show employees that the company believes in them.
To begin, identify champion managers making day-to-day decisions across all the company’s divisions. Ask for their opinions, both formally and informally, and empower them to submit ideas and plans on how to solve issues facing the organization.
2. Let people innovate, own, and share
Once managers and employees know the company values their contributions, encourage them to begin new conversations with others around values. Urge them to meet and brainstorm together, in forum work that serves as a kind of open-source platform. Encourage cross-pollination between departments (sales, finance, client services, etc), and beyond – between disciplines and across industries (banking, construction, nonprofits, cultural entities), requiring managers to come up with practical action plans for arriving at their proposed solutions.
As a leader, embrace these plans and incorporate them into the company’s overall strategy. Show that you can merge the day-to-day, on-the-ground work with the company’s broader vision. Once a plan is in action, share that knowledge across the organization. This way, a larger sphere of influence is created, expanding best practices across the entire organization. Procedural lessons can increase efficiency in many capacities and ultimately boost the company’s bottom line.
3. Build trust
Find the right way to pass responsibility between all levels in every workgroup. Instead of a siloed unit for CSR, for example, distribute duties and have different people take ownership of different initiatives – one over Volunteering, another over Sustainability, others over Giving, etc. Employees can stretch their minds in ad hoc projects that are assigned to them outside their mainstream positioning, and are uplifted by applying new knowledge to unexpected frontiers. They then see the organization from a fresh angle, trusting in the company’s committeemen to seeing them succeed in a broader scope. This approach is particularly effective among Millennials. By earning this level of trust, employees will be more motivated to bring their passion to the table and to apply this passion in ways that will push the business forward.
Most importantly, put people with passion to work. Encourage them to bring their personalities into their projects, even when their style of action is completely different form yours. If you see that a particular assignment makes a difference in people’s hearts, there’s no better team for the project. This is about connecting rather than regulating, and businesses transform by unlocking potential from within. For example, senior management of Bank Hapoalim encourages employees on the ground to initiate progressive solutions for resolving collection and exceeded credit line, by first identifying the individual needs, understanding the customer’s perspective and situation, and then tailoring the best solution together with the customer. The result is a win-win-win. Employees are more motivated, more customers are retained in the long-run (70% were young customers), and the bank has a 50% reduction in accounts directed to its collection department.
4. Reward peoples’ sense of purpose
Employees add financial value to a company and it is imperative to acknowledge this by compensating them accordingly. This is not just about salaries; it’s about establishing the right structure for annual employee assessment that takes into account recognition for the personal set of values that they bring-in, for their thought-patterns.
For each action plan, create an index of milestones - even soft ones that will allow you to encourage and show recognition, creating a direct link between human capital, positive performance, and sustainable success. Show and communicate that employee ideas have been adopted by the company, because a key element in rewarding is to give a platform where people can expose their thoughts, present their ideas, and share their innovations, values, and action with colleagues.
In a recent KPMG global construction survey for 2015: “Most organizations now routinely consider diversity in their hiring practices, but this typically covers gender, race, and culture. More enlightened employers are also seeking diversity of a different kind: of cognitive thought.”