What combat commandos can teach us about finding and keeping great talent.

Front-line Talent

The book “No Easy Day” by Mark Bissonette, is a great read and was made into a highly successful movie. It is a first-hand, behind the scenes account, of the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

It provides a detailed insight into the processes around recruitment and training, to develop front-line mission-critical troops. No surprise, there is a direct parallel in finding and keeping the best talent in any field.

The book goes into great detail around the support and resources that are supplied to each soldier. They are provided everything possible, to ensure they have what they need, to execute their role on the front line. For life or death combat missions, it is pretty obvious. You want the fastest, most powerful weapons, the latest accurate intelligence, communications, vision enhancement, body armour, the list goes on.

Interestingly, the commandos get to choose from a whole array of weapons and equipment, picking the specifications that they prefer. Pretty much anything they need, to ensure they can operate effectively. One pair of night-vision goggles alone costs USD$65,000, but it is dark nearly half of each day, and their business is open all hours.

This is where the business parallel pretty much breaks down. Too many companies tie up top talent with out-of-date technology, processes and administration. The sunk cost of old legacy systems, support decisions that bind people to outdated processes. This is not only a highly inefficient application of resources, it is a barrier to attracting and keeping great people. To me this doesn’t make sense, when the profitability & future of the company, is directly reliant on the quality and performance of its key people.

From my experience, there are two types of roles in every business. There is the core talent that makes the business what it is. They create your unique product or service and design what it takes to keep more customers happy. The secret sauce in any business, lies in how well these people are able to execute their job. Then there is the operations team. Their role is simply to ensure that the core talent have everything they need and that everything gets delivered. (think of when James Bond visits the office)

It is possibly about now, where for some, this perspective might start to sound like chauvinism or even heresy. Surely the culture of a company must treat all equally, as valued contributors to the success of the business. Even the most humble of roles, must be recognised and cherished.

Nup, sorry. Think about it, humble roles became redundant years ago. People quietly entering data, updating records, processing paper are too expensive, when compared to end-to-end integrated systems, that sit in a cloud somewhere. Humble roles are long gone. Today business operations, is a highly skilled, tech savvy crew, that may not even come into the office each day.

There are so many different skill sets and technical functions required for effective business operations, sales & marketing. If you had to employ each one as a full-time role, you would be looking at over $1 million dollars. Double that if you want to include senior level strategic roles.

The simple answer is, just refuse to employ operations roles full time. Why would you want to? It takes 83 days to recruit and induct a non-executive role. More than half the workforce today are millennials. Five minutes after they arrive they are looking for a new “gig” where they get smashed avocado and play fuse ball at lunch-time. Depending on which survey you read, around 69% of employed staff are looking for a new job or are open to the idea! So you end up short-handed and out-of-pocket, only to start the process all over again.

Okay, dumping on millennials is a cheap shot. Fuse ball is a great game that dates way, way back to even before Friends. The point is, that employment is already now very different. Most businesses are yet to recognise the massive opportunities, that a skilled, new generation contingent workforce and cloud technology combine to offer.

Having different terms of employment for the front-line talent that a business must retain and leverage,  to engaging operational skills and resources, that are essential to scale and support the business,  presents a highly effective and liberating approach to resource management.

It liberates management from a whole layer of fixed costs and its limiting impact, on scale and agility.

It liberates HR from a grinding, no-win cycle of recruitment, induction and retention measures, that add cost, slow the business and distract resources.

Most importantly it liberates the front-line talent of the business, providing the essential tools & resources to increase their effectiveness and efficiency. A strategic framework that combines contract skills, with an integrated cloud technology layer, can deliver the best intelligence, business weapons and communications on-demand, within budget. It affords the level of support that top talent needs, enabling them to be more agile in out-maneuvering the competition every day.

By 2020, over 40% of the U.S. workforce will be contractors. They will work around a time commitment and budget that suit both them and the businesses they work for.

The level of technology involved across the range of sales operations and marketing functions today, demands a wide range of skill sets. The benefit is, that the efficiency and automation of the systems, mean that intervention by operations staff is required for only a quarter or a third of the time. (robots really are replacing humans) This scenario presents much of the demand that is driving the “gig economy”.

The benefit of the new generation of contract or contingent workforce is, they know how all the latest systems work, or are able to figure it out while you are having lunch. They are interested in what they do, because they are using their skills and favourite technology to deliver what they are really good at. Most of what they do is measured, so they feel good and can be recognised for the results they achieve. This also means they don’t have to sit your office every day, just to prove they are working. And finally, . . . if they do leave, they are not too difficult to replace, because integrated systems and cloud data are what you keep, when talent walks out the door!

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