Carlos Leyva

Silicon Stories

Chapter 7: Talent Wars, E-Teams and E-Cultures

Human Resources as a Competitive Advantage

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Historically HR has the dubious honor of being the butt of more departmental jokes than any other business function. HR was perceived as being too bureaucratic and controlling. They are criticized for an obsession with paperwork and viewing their principal role as employee lawsuit prevention. In other words, they are perceived to be a necessary evil, but essentially reactionary and powerless.

In enlightened organizations this is all about to change. Since much of the drudgery of HR functions is being outsourced or automated, smart HR organizations within fast companies will begin to deliver strategic value with a focus on organizational competitiveness and the bottom line. They are moving just as fast as they can to avoid the fate of the Irish elk.

Through many generations, the Irish elk became the victim of an evolutionary quirk that led to its demise. Each year its antlers grew larger, eventually becoming so heavy that it was unable to lift its head and forage for food. It became weaker and weaker and eventually starved to death. The antlers that had helped the elk survive in the first place became exaggerated over time, leading to its extinction.

If you accept the premise that the outcome of talent wars will determine the winners and the losers going forward, then it follows, just as surely as night follows day, that HR is likely to rise in prominence. However this will not be the HR that we have all joked about, but a transformed HR that will have everything to do with competitiveness and very little to do with administration. It will be an HR made of crazies in search of their own kind.

You say you don’t want emotional, volatile, and unpredictable, just imaginative? Sorry they only come in a package…I can offer you a dedicated, loyal, honest, realistic, knowledgeable package, but the imagination bit will be rather limited.

—Patricia Pitcher, The Drama of Leadership

Hired any crazies lately? Why not? Steve Jobs probably has. Steve experienced both great success and spectacular failure in the marketplace, but always brought creativity, intelligence, and imagination to the table. Legend has it that Steve often hires artists, poets and historians for his product development teams. Is he completely nuts or is he onto to something important? The magic according to Steve is that:

They have exposed themselves to the best things that humans have done and then brought those things into their projects .

Do a good job at creating the right culture and team environment and, at best, all the competition can do is steal some of your talent, they can’t steal the engine that knows how to create and nurture it. HR must become the engine that creates and nurtures a highly creative, hyper-productive, workplace environment.

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