NURTURE OR ACQUIRE TOP TALENT
From virtually permanent jobs a few decades back to the culture of frequent job hops these days encases the change in the playing arena. Predominant driver for this job transition is disruptive innovation. No product or service enjoy hegemony beyond a few years (petering out to perhaps months) as someone always comes along and disrupts the cash cow of the firm. It may not have happened in all industry segments yet and perhaps is a phenomenon experienced by technology firms but it will inevitably punch the clock in the coming years. The pace of such innovation either causes debilitation or extinction of many firms and talent is disgorged into the market. The left over combative and resolute firms seek to poach talent from these disruptive innovators hence going forward, talent migration is unpreventable and a leadership concern. Grooming and nurturing top talent in such an environment is of overbearing importance.
Firms who belligerently bet their bottom dollar only on nurturing talent from within the firm and have no lateral recruitment policy is reliant upon an entangled strategy. To controvert this logic, yes firms such as Proctor & Gamble have done wonders in internal talent nurturing with intense training, smart inceptive recruitment and incorporation of many other employee invigorating policies and systems. P&G promotes the practice of every general manager clocking a three to five year foreign assignment as part of their career trajectory. There are multiple universities and schools within P&G and they strongly believe in internal grooming. AG Lafley, Chairman of the Board, President & CEO of P&G had stated in jest to Fortune ‘If I get on a plane next week and it goes down, there’ll be somebody in this seat the next morning.’ Such is their explicit pledge towards top talent management. Now P&G’s predominance is unique and commendable as they are in the highly competing and ‘shelf life threatening’ consumer product business. Can other firms replicate P&G’s talent management case in point; sure others do attempt but P&G’s business alacrity is augmented with deep marketing/advertising budgets, they spend $ 2 billion annually on R&D and embrace myriad lead level strategies. Apart from these, P&G believes in the immensity of the need to nurture talent.
A firm’s existing employees unquestionably are invaluable assets. It is economical too to groom talent from within but in an arena where game changers operate, the firm needs a thinking bandwidth that is distinct and this can be accelerated with a combination of internal plus external talent. Innovation, continuous innovation, disruptive innovation are three different game changers and seek a structure of thought and philosophy that is different. P&G has brought innovative consumer goods into the market place. As the past P&G CEO Bob McDonald puts it ‘We know from our history that while promotions may win quarters, innovation wins decades.’ P&G ardently believes in innovation but when it comes to game changers, path breaking innovations and disruptive trailblazers, the strobe shifts to Apple, which manifest a different pattern of top talent management.
Apple is in the high tech business. Well to be precise they began as a high tech company, repositioned into consumer electronics company and now verging upon a positioning as a luxury goods company with iWatch. Apple is about people centricity. They have an exceptionally stringent recruitment policy. Steve Jobs in an interview has stated that ‘We’ve interviewed people where nine out of ten employees thought the candidate was terrific, one employee really had a problem with the candidate, and therefore we didn’t hire him. The process is very hard, very time-consuming, and can lead to real problems if not managed right. But it’s a very good way, all in all.’ Apple believes in nurturing talent from within as well as external hiring.
Curiosity is an instinctual and innate attribute. Animals as well as human beings have it. It is about inquisitive thinking, observation, exploration, investigation and learning. Children are incredibly curious and this curiosity is endemic to Apple employees too when it comes to revolutionary products. With their brilliance they transpose this curiosity to their customers who hanker for Apple products. Curiosity is a major driving force behind human motivation and Apple exploits this innate attribute by feeding their employees with precisely this stimulation. Apple produces $ 2 million revenue per employee and about $ 478000 profit per employee, such staggering numbers speak volumes about their people management skills. Success in one project or task at Apple will beget movement of the employee into something altogether different thereby employees remaining bathed in excitement of a new project.
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS
Today mergers and acquisitions are top-notch strategies for technology augmentation and growth. Apple has made 67 acquisitions, Google has made 167 acquisitions, Microsoft 175, Yahoo 112, Facebook 53, Qualcomm 40, Amazon 17 and there are many others who follow suit. Along with these acquisitions comes new talent with different skills, attributes and attitudes. Apple doesn’t believe in solitary blueprinting and etching hence love to acquire small companies that can be integrated into existing company projects with consummate ease. Acquisition intensive firms need to have systems in place to integrate fresh talent into the fabric of the firm and only organizations adept at this will continue in this vein. Apple seems to be one such firm who understands the integration dynamics well. The future will see many more firms seeking this modality to rapidly grow hence talent commixture is inevasible and will be the new order of the day. External recruits will grasp the culture and business etiquette of the new firm with admirable promptitude. They have to, as this will be the established practice. They will be coming with remarkable management and leadership skills and possess internal resources to tackle any fervent resistance from incumbent employees. Contribution gestation periods will be shortened and team concordance will happen faster.
Younger generation is nomadic in their intention, adopt non-conformity as a way of being and raring to jump companies in search of this thrill. They embrace risk, seek adventure and enterprise more than security as their value. More than monetary incentives, it is the excitement hysteria that sustains top talent. Talent exodus is rampant hence keeping them excited with revolutionary projects is not a luxury but a corporate mandate in a highly disruptive innovation oriented arena. A composite format of talent acquisition plus talent nurturing is imperative here.
Corporates frequently grapple with internal versus external talent hiring debates with constructs such as internal hiring is cheaper, quicker, in consonance with company culture, better connected etc. whilst external recruits needing more gestation period to perform, they don’t hit the ground running on day one, don’t quickly get a hang of the company’s culture and so forth. Throw in a few statistics for instance Booz and Co. states that of the CEO’s hired externally, 35 % were let go versus 19 % who were promoted from within and one has a good depiction of the scales. Sure, external hiring is not all hunky dory but in disruptive markets it may be needed for innovation, growth and fresh perspectives. There are augmenting statistics for external hires too. According to Bloomberg, nearly 30% of companies participating in the study recruited CEO’s from outside the company in the past year.
The idea of this blog is neither to assign solemnity to internal talent grooming/ promotion, as the merits are innumerable nor usher in the rationale that external recruits are smarter rather the objective is to emphasise the aspects of talent composition in a hugely disruptive market. More than internal vs. external talent recruitment perspicacity, the focus of firms should be on how to disrupt the market with path breaking products/services. Talent is but one amongst many resources to bring this mission to fruition. Recruiting external talent as well as nurturing both internal and new talent, as an ongoing practice is important. After hiring smart people from outside, one needs to invigorate and sustain them hence talent management has to be made a board level mandate.