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.
The 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.