Authored by Andrew Benett, the global president of Havas Worldwide and two co-authors Ann O’Reilly and W. Barksdale Maynard, respectively Content Director and Researcher, also at Havas, The Talent Mandate: Why Smart Companies Put People First is an excellent book composed of two main sections:
- A Transformed Business Environment, which explains the need to start a Conversation on Talent.
- Six Essential Strategies for Success: When people are the actual assets of most companies, hiring and nurturing top talent is the way to build up and sustain competitive advantage.
Look for “talent,” and not simply for “workers”
The change in terminology mirrors a significant change in the business environment. Silicon Valley can be deemed to have a significant place in the “Talent Revolution.” However business and sociological changes have compelled lots of organizations, regardless of their size and activity, to place a premium on “T-shaped employees,” expression coined in 1991 by David Guest in 1991 to define employees who combine vertical expertise with the experience and ability to work across functions, as well as on millennials who will account for three out of every four workers globally by 2025.
The semantic difference between workers and talent is critical: “workers” are supposed to do things the way they were always done. Talent makes things happen in “The Rise of the ideas economy,” where it’s not enough to fill a position, and where creativity and agility matter.
The mandate is to ultimately “turn your company as a talent magnet” and address new expectations, ranging from a new emphasis on paychecks with a purpose, to the desire of a more sustainable work-life integration, an uninterrupted digital life as well as more eclectic career paths: “Top recruits are unwilling to sacrifice their own brands to prop up companies that are unlikely to take them where they want to go.”
The six essential strategies to success
This is the heart of the book in six recommendations: 1) Cultivate Your Culture, 2) Attend to Your DNA, 3) Live What’s Next, 4) Create a Sense of Dynamism, 5) Be People-Centric, 6) Make It Mean Something.
These six essential strategies are illustrated through multiple studies of “talent centric” organizations such as Zappos, DreamWorks, Hall Capital Partners, Whirlpool, Unilever, Nestle or Dow Chemical to name a few. Mike Bailen summarizes quite eloquently what Zappos is looking for: “We need our employees to be versatile and adaptable because Zappos embraces and drives change (this is a core value, after all). If employees are too specialized and compartmentalized, it limits our ability to evolve. However, we do need our new hires to fully understand and deliver on the job they are brought in for.”
The days of “the 1955 novel The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and a stifling kind of hyper-conformity,” are gone, and an astonishing 84% of senior business leaders surveyed agree with this statement: “I am most interested in hiring people who are smart and passionate, even if they do not yet possess the skills we need,” again validating the findings and advice of George Anders.
The talent mandate starts at the top. Talent is not just the focus of HR and the recruiting departments. It’s the business of every single stakeholder, starting with executives capable of commissioning new best practices and entrusting business leaders to follow suit. Now how can the mandate actually be carried out? “To create a company that is relentlessly creative and entrepreneurial, you have to start at the beginning— with hiring,” Andrew Benett rightfully notes.
Yet, what about the “how” of the implementation? It’s clear that the mandate entails rethinking the entire talent acquisition function and requires a whole new generation of technology capable of engaging with talent and supporting novel HR content marketing strategies — an additional dimension to the what Andrew Benett call the “we space.”. You can’t reach the moon without a spacecraft!