Dr. Albert Nussbaum: Business strategies lead to success when people-driven

An elaborate business strategy is gene­r­­ally considered an essential condition for business success. And yet, there is no lack of examples of companies that are not quite able to translate their strategies into success. Even large international cor­­porations occasionally fail with strategies set up by a number of bright minds. For, what determines the success or failure of a strategy is the people meant to im­­­ple­ment said strategy.

The development towards a more and more knowledge-based society and the competitive necessity for constant inno­­vation in a globalized world have turned skilled staff into a company’s most im­­portant consideration. Nowadays, many a firm is already suffering from a perma­­nent lack of skilled labour in Germany, which is only going to increase based on the demographic evolution. This short­­age is no longer limited only to excep­tio­­n­­al talents or upper- and middle-level executives. According to companies, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find “the right people” in the technical field in particular, but also for many special­ized functions.

That the requirements of the modern work world have become much more complex within the past few years is an aggravating factor. As the pace of change in companies and processes is accelerating, the need for cross-linked thinking, teamwork and international compa­ti­­bility is growing. Whether an employee will be able to fulfil the required tasks, thus, is primarily determined by a multitude of personal characteristics in ad­­di­­tion to the specialized knowledge re­­quired. Due to the misleading designation “soft skills”, those factors are being neglected in favour of technical skills in many a com­­pany. Yet, the business reality shows that skill deficits are considerably easier to make up for than personality misjudgements.

In that regard, companies are as prone to misjudge their employees as the em­­ploy­­ees are to misjudge themselves. In fact, employees who are not successful in their positions do not necessarily lack skills. Different tasks simply require dif­­fer­­ent personal characteristics and abilities.
In that sense, rather than characterizing people as bad workers, it is more ap­­pro­­priate to characterize their employment as not matching their personality.
Therefore, it is crucial to find the best pos­­sible match between the requirement pro­­file of a job on the one hand and the em­­ployee’s profile on the other hand.
In reality, the perception of the ideal per­­son for each job often leads companies to want to hire “the best” for a position. In this process, however, it is often overlooked that “the best ones” are not ne­­cessarily “the right ones.” Outstanding talents are not always easy to integrate into existing and operational structures. What is more, they are looking for an em­­ployment opportunity that allows them to fully develop their abilities. Such people suffer when continuously underchal­lenged. Moreover, top people are fierce­ly fought over in the market, which usu­­al­ly re­­sults in extraordinarily high labour costs.
For companies operating in particularly dynamic market environments, certain personal characteristics are becoming increasingly important as so-called fu­­ture qualifications. Above all, those in­­clude the ability and willingness to learn. Not only specialized content or new technologies. But also new languages and contact with other cultures. Those things require a certain amount of candour. Further crucial personnel selection criteria include team spirit, service men­­­tality, and ability to cope with stress. From the point of view of a company, all those factors lead to one single question: Does this person possess a personal de­­velopment potential?
In the same way that future staff must meet those criteria, companies, too, need to adopt new criteria. For, in the future, com­­panies will not be making employment decisions on their own anymore. Nowadays already, highly skilled em­­ploy­­ees practically get to choose their own tasks as they please. Companies are forced to adapt to new requirements and conditions.
All too frequently, the pay fac­­tor is mis­­judged – on both sides. Nat­­ural­­ly, skil­­led workers must be well paid.
But the decisive factors are a harmonious work environment and the opportunity to utilize personal potential success­fully.

A company’s environment is also gaining in significance. The compatibility be­­tween work and family and the so-called “corporate social re­­­sponsibility” are two factors influencing the decision to join a company. “Em­­ploy­­er branding” is a way for companies to gain a market advantage by trying to convey a positive im­­age of themselves. However, skilled staff can­­not ac­­quired and kept until it is turned into a true concept of “employer attractiveness.” That must in­­­­clude appre­­cia­tion, de­­­­­velopment, and pro­­motion of people in the company.

Today more than ever, a company’s en­­vironment is also defined by its location. The appeal of a company is in part shaped by its infrastructural, geographic and social setting.

Mercuri Urval is an outstanding example. As an internationally active personnel consulting firm, Wies­baden offers us a central location in Ger­­many with a quick connection to one of the world’s largest airports. In addition to that in­­ternationalism, Wies­­baden also reflects a high measure of professionalism as a significant location for the consulting industry. Last but not least, its charming landscape and culturally sophisticated ambiance awards Wiesbaden a profile that make the companies established here attractive to a highly skilled and demanding workforce.

In the end, strategies are only as good as the people meant to implement them. When the right people converge under a suitable set of conditions, they will be able to do remarkable things. Com­pa­nies must create those conditions in order to generate success. At the location of Wies­­baden, the prerequisites for that are fa­­vourable.


dr_albert_nussbaumThe author has a doctorate in business psy­­chology and has been general manager of the German branch of the internatio­n­­al personnel consulting firm Mercuri Ur­­val since 1987. He is also a member of the company’s international board of di­­rectors and a member of the supervi­sory boards of several subsidiaries. The main focus of his work lies in competence development, organization design, and strategy implementation.