Are you truly tapping into the wealth of experience, knowledge and innovation that literally exists at your fingertips? Each of your employees possesses a rich background of accumulated knowledge and skills that often remains dormant due to the narrow focus of most job descriptions and the silo-oriented nature of most organizational cultures. Rather than seeing your human resources as a rich tapestry of wisdom to be mined and celebrated, too often people are utilized as narrowly defined cogs in the wheels of the organizational “machine.”
To use a technological analogy, imagine purchasing a powerful new computer and then utilizing it only for adding numbers or typing letters. You’ve paid a great deal of hard-earned money for a machine with enormous potential and then you treat it as an adding machine and typewriter. The opportunity cost to your organization of not taking advantage of the computer’s multitude of other features is astronomical. Well, the same is true when you overlook or under-utilize the boundless capabilities of your workforce.
Here are a few simple ideas to begin capitalizing on the vast potential of your human capital:
- Get to know your people. Too often in the rush of daily business leaders fail to take the time to really get to know their people. We’re not talking about performance reviews here; we’re talking about recurring personal chats to learn what makes our people tick. What are their passions? What types of jobs and experiences have they had in their past?
- Capture personal information. Build and regularly update a database of your people with information about their education, hobbies, skills, abilities, experience and future aspirations. Not only will this equip you to readily locate internal resources when needs arise, it also will allow you to better tailor your employee motivation efforts by offering incentives directly correlated to a person’s unique interests.
- Match needs and resources. As the need to fill existing or new positions arise in your organization you will have a ready storehouse of information regarding internal resources that can help you fill those needs. This can be a very powerful tool for strategically allocating resources in real time.
- Cross-pollinate your organization. Create opportunities for employees to do job rotations so that they can cultivate new skills about which they are passionate as well as polish existing skills that might benefit the organization in the future. This can help strengthen both the depth and breadth of your talent pool and can serve as an important complement to your succession planning process.
The benefits of exploring, cataloging and more fully utilizing your human capital can be profound:
- Improved employee loyalty, engagement and accountability. When people are allowed to do what they love and to grow their skills in new areas of interest they become more personally invested in the organization. Instead of merely being employees, you can cultivate a sense of shared ownership in the success of the organization.
- Greater job satisfaction. One hallmark of the Gen X, Gen Y and Millennium Generations is their desire and expectation to be offered and rewarded for assuming challenging and meaningful positions early in their career. While the aging “boomer” generation tended to be willing to “pay their dues” and wait their turn for promotions and challenging work, the younger generations expect to have those opportunities more immediately and are willing to go elsewhere when they do not find them.
- Better business decisions and problem solving. By including people with diverse backgrounds and experience in your daily business operations you create an environment that leads to more strategic thinking, greater creativity and less blind spots as various options are considered.
- Increased organizational stability and sustainability. By nurturing a more highly engaged workforce that feels appreciated and fulfilled you reduce the likelihood of excessive turnover and the need to regularly go outside of your organization to find talent for key positions as your organization grows.
In these times of ever-tightening budgets, increased competition and the seeming paradox of doing more with less, the companies that survive and thrive will be those that find creative ways to make maximum use of their human capital.