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Jane Sunley

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Success driven by the Is


Jane Sunley, CEO of talent management specialist learnpurple looks at how leaders can ensure their growth business succeeds and how people and their development play a critical role.
What really is business success? Is it achieving a high turnover and incremental profit year on year? Well, yes, that is the goal, but how about also having an enviable reputation in the market? Being recognised as 'the place to be', growing strongly, achieving goals and making money. Adding to the value of the business through human capital and a brand that's personified by its people.
For any growth business, the key to this type of success lies with three things:
  1. Ideas – innovations which you can easily market, build a brand upon and which meet the needs of your potential clients
  2. Investment – some capital to get you off the ground and establish your presence as well as the lifeblood of any business – working capital
  3. Individuals – the right people, in the right roles, delivering innovations and high levels of service
"People make or break a business – they are the reason you can stand out from the competition, they help you achieve your annual targets and they also drive business growth."
Yet all too often the ideas and investment are discussed day in, day out and conversations around the people strategy are left by the wayside. But people make or break a business – they are the reason you can stand out from the competition, they help you achieve your annual targets and they also drive business growth. So why, when starting-up and growing, isn't more time spent on this incredibly important aspect? There are organisations that invest millions in the product yet baulk at investing tens of thousands in getting the people stuff right.
The answer is not earth-shattering; put simply, growth organisations and their leaders lack the time and resource to do so rather than having a lack of understanding around the importance of a people strategy. And this is highlighted in our latest report, 'Harnessing Talent for Business Growth'. An exclusive panel of over 40 leaders taken up of our 'Purple Revolutionaries' and networks associated with Cranfield Business School and Lancaster Management University revealed:
  • Leaders understand people deliver competitive advantage (90%)
  • A massive 98% agree that people need to be invested in and given development opportunities in order to deliver that advantage
  • Whilst developing people is key to achieving business success, one in five said it wasn't a business priority
  • All respondents agreed managing and developing people to support business objectives is difficult in a fast-growth organisation
  • Financial reasons (70%) and time constraints (66%) were the main causes of compromise around people investment and development
So whilst it's great that so many organisations recognise getting the 'people stuff' right is the key to achieving objectives, there clearly is a gap when it comes to harnessing the power of individuals to help deliver business success and growth. It just doesn't seem to be happening when it comes to putting in place a plan to support company milestones.
In order to bridge this gap, organisations need to become 'people-centric'; that is, putting the people and their development at the heart of its growth strategy. It sounds timely, and both resource- and money-heavy, all of which we know leaders of growth businesses do not have, however it really isn't. Focusing on a few key elements and making a number of small changes can help strengthen your business and employer brand whilst making the organisation more valuable – to the people, the customers and ultimately you as a leader.
"There clearly is a gap when it comes to harnessing the power of individuals to help deliver business success and growth."
For the businesses that succeed in this, and they are the ones at the top of the 'fastest growing' or 'most successful organisation' lists, they strive to be strong in each of the following areas:
  1. Reputation – As a great place to work or do business which is evidenced by awards and accolades, from feedback of your people, potential employees and clients, and the number of on-spec job adverts are all good indicators of 'people-centricity'
  2. Retention – high levels of engagement within the organisation, as well as retaining people whose skills are developed
  3. Leadership – people development shouldn't be focused on one level and it is important learning and development opportunities are identified from recruitment to ensure that as people progress they become inspirational leaders
  4. Attractive – attracting the right people with the right cultural fit for the organisation, when recruiting not only saves time but also ensures you have the best talent in place to achieve your business goals
  5. Organised – to make it all happen consistently, a good people-centric organisation will have a robust, and possibly automated, people performance and management system
  6. Variety – use a variety of learning and development methods as recognise people learn in different ways and 'one size doesn't fit all'. Lots of low cost / no cost methods which people miss out on such as mentoring, job swap projects, self study and shadowing
  7. Communication – open and honest two-way communication, canvassing employee opinion and uncovering their development desires
So whilst becoming people-centric doesn't happen overnight, breaking it down into the manageable chunks is easy to achieve and definitely worth the effort – as you become more focused on your people and their development you will no doubt reap the benefits of an inspired, developing workforce who have the skills and personalities to progress the organisation further and achieve business success.
Jane Sunley is CEO of learnpurple. A summary of the report – Harnessing Talent for Business Growth – will be available to download from later this month


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