H.R. 2.0 ?

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"Your people are your product." - Jack Spade.

Back in September, Bermuda-based consulting giant Accenture released its survey of 425 senior executives at the world's largest companies in all major industries and geographies:

1. Attracting and retaining skilled staff: 35%
2. Changing organizational culture and employee attitudes: 33%
3. Acquiring new customers: 32%
4. Developing new processes and products to stay ahead of the competition: 29%
5. Increasing customer loyalty and retention: 29%
6. Managing risk: 29%
7. Improving workforce performance: 28%
8. Increasing shareholder value: 27%
9. Using IT to reduce costs and create value: 27%
10. Being flexible and adaptable to rapidly changing market conditions: 26%
11. Developing employees into capable leaders: 26%

(Thanks to the ever-insightful Management Consulting News archives for the above information.)

It's interesting though that attracting, developing, and retaining talent seemed to be such a hot topic (higher, even, than fostering innovation or increasing shareholder value).

What's also interesting is the fact that top execs still place more importance on acquiring new customers than on retaining existing ones. Knowing what we know of the cost of acquiring a new customer vs. the cost of making an existing customer keep coming back, that's evidence that there's still work to be done on our end.

But back to el numero uno: Attracting and retaining skilled staff. I can't help but wonder... Are these companies just talking about it, or are they doing something about it?

"Hire better people," as a mandate, sounds a lot like "Sell more stuff". It's a no-brainer. The question isn't so much about what needs to be done. It's about how.

"How do we hire and develop and retain better people?"

That's the billion dollar question in 2006.

How do companies concerned with becoming better identify, locate, recruit and create bonds with talented, smart, enthusiastic, skilled, insightful professionals? How do they incorporate them into their organizations and empower them to help them grow not only into market leaders but lovebrands as well?

Is the HR world getting its rightful seat at the leadership table?

Is the HR world evolving as fast as the rest of us?

Are the HR tools in use today relevant to the increasingly diverse pool of talent that doesn't necessarily fit into a standardized resume/CV formula?

If this is the most important issue for top executives, shouldn't we be developing a better system than the automated keyword search software still used by the majority of recruiters today?

Is anyone even working on HR 2.0, or is the HR world as a whole stuck in a state of inertia? (Thanks to Seth Godin for the terrific series of posts on the subject.)

Here's a quick little exerpt from his latest three-parter, by the way:

"Football is huge on television in the US, soccer is not: inertia. The fact that General Motors sells any cars at all is related to inertia. It’s not just the middle-America mass market at work here. This explains why an entire race of people on Easter Island became extinct—once they embraced a cultural system that involved cutting down trees, it was too hard to stop, even after they could see the coming danger.

It’s always easier to do nothing (new).

Humans embrace change far more than any animal on the planet. But we’re bad at it."

Check out Part I, Part II and Part III. (Part II's my favorite.)

In other words, we're a lot better at talking about what needs to be done than we are at actually doing something about it.

Let's pretend for a second that I am the C.E.O. of Ford or Columbia Pictures. (So... yeah, I've had a really bad year.) I know I need a better leadership team. A fresh perspective. New blood. New energy. New vision. What do I do? Where do I go?

How are my choices different today from what they were a year ago?

How do I make sure I don't end up with more of the same?

How do I make sure I don't end up with the same pool of "pretty good" that a) I've already picked from and b) my competitors are also dipping into? How do I get away from the resume superheroes who look great on paper but turn out to be little more than average (and often plain lousy) in the real world?

How do I sort through the stacks of credentials to find real talent and insight and passion? How do I find the exceptional talent? The genies still in their bottles? The unconventional creative commandos who will help me rewrite the rules in my industry? The folks who will help me turn my company into everything it could and should be?


It's a real question. I invite anyone reading this to forward my question to their favorite recruiter or HR professional. I really want to know.

Thanks in advance.

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