By Lynn Taylor
Published: Bloomberg Businessweek
Economic forecasts are turning mildly positive despite persistent unemployment, and this is spurring forward-thinking companies to plan ahead and manage for an emerging rebound. To gain competitive edge in an evolving marketplace, it is critical to be proactive on everything from financial forecasting and marketing, to departmental restructuring, and hiring.
Looking ahead, perhaps one of the most critical questions is: Do you have the right team for the emerging economy?
It’s not just about raw skills; it’s about ensuring that you have the right mindset onboard as you ride the next wave. The emerging economy will be more nimble, competitive, and technologically astute. It will demand the next big killer idea—and require high value for the least cost—like never before. The rewards will be equally exciting if you’re up for the challenge. Are you ready to hit “reset” with the right players? If so, read on.
THE TALENT EQUATION
To hire for the rebound, you must first evaluate your staffing needs. Are there existing managers who are ready for the next level of challenge within the company? Will you need to recruit new talent to meet your core objectives? Should you change the mix with outsourcing, temporary, part-time, or flexible staffing (and at what level), as adjuncts to traditional full-time staff?
Perhaps consultants who can morph into full-time hires make sense—especially if you’re an emerging company or department. You must determine how to align your strategic staffing efforts with your core business goals in order to put your company ahead of the curve.
Even in times of high unemployment, the search for top talent should not come to a screeching halt—because the recovery always seems to cause a sudden dearth of talent. Establish a plan now for accessing seasoned managers and top-notch players with specialized skills. Even if you anticipate only a limited number of openings in the near term, keep your network of industry contacts refreshed and the recruitment machine well oiled.
MANAGE THE MINDSET
When preparing to take advantage of a growth economy, champion agility and flexibility. The ability to move quickly when unique opportunities present themselves is an advantage that small companies often have over larger ones because of their flatter organizational charts. Don’t let the size of your company hamper your competitiveness.
• Agility: An agile corporate environment means not only the company but also individuals are responsive. That latitude leverages the rebound in your favor. When hiring, look for people who will be comfortable working in an agile environment. Let them know that giving employees license and freedom to share ideas and partake in growth is part of the corporate culture—and make sure you deliver on that promise.
• Flexibility: As swift global changes occur, collaborative multitaskers are highly sought after. Are you unafraid culturally to take thoughtful risks? Are you stuck in the old “tried and true” manner of operating? New ways of doing business lead to further innovation and keep your company running at full throttle. Make sure your company is “safe for success”—a place where small mistakes are trumped by larger, big picture contributions.
Don’t hire “more of the same,” or people who think identically. Avoid a rote practice of hiring people who “fit right in.” Look for team members who offer a diverse range of experiences and have demonstrated their flair for creativity and collaboration.
PLAN FORWARD WITH COMMITMENT
It is always wise to be opportunistic. But to maximize growth, you must also have a core game plan.
• Look Back, Then Sharpen Your Lens: The best leaders are keen, watchful students of business dynamics and history. Economic crises aren’t new to the baby boom generation. Think about initiatives that are in sync with burgeoning trends: going green; shifting demographics, such as what I call the “Gen U” (generation unretired) sector; changing customer attitudes and tastes; and so on. Then ensure that your hires are flexible enough to work within the framework of these shifts that affect your business.
• Stock an Idea Bank: Have your team establish an “idea bank”—an ongoing stream of innovations that tap into unmet market needs—based on their industry knowledge or customer contact. These aren’t necessarily initiatives for now. They may be projects to be worked on down the road.
Encourage people to submit blue sky, forward-thinking, proposals, with the understanding that they may not be undertaken for a while—and revisit those ideas regularly. Some will start to gel and make sense. Others may lead to unexpected gems. These practices will help guide your strategic hiring efforts as well.