Charles Pfeffer

Executive Coaching & Leadership Consulting

The “right people on the bus”

My friend Kostas Peters, a great consultant in the area of marketing and sales management recently asked about how to get the right talent into the right positions. He used author Jim Collins‘ expression, “getting the right people on the bus”. I see this as a matter of four levels of context: the core philosophy of the business, the strategy, competency management and talent attraction, development and retention.

Without a well defined core philosophy, including clearly defined values, it hardly matters what kinds of people we bring into our organization. Once you define a core philosophy, it serves as a filter for attraction and selecting people. The core philosophy shapes the brand of the business and the people you hire must embody this brand.

The strategy incorporates the way that people are deployed to carry out the activities of the business and relative value of human capital to other kinds of capital within the the concept of the business. Consulting companies, Law firms, Hospitals and Universities, for example have a very high relative human capital intensity as compared to say steel mills. So when people are key asset in the strategy, the core philosophy ought to back this up.

Competency management includes describing the key skills that are essential to executing the strategy and the sourcing and development processes for ensuring these competencies are always available and refreshed. This connects directly to the next context, talent attraction, development and retention. This obviously includes recruiting, training, development, compensation and quality of work life.

So to get to Kostas’ question, the way you get the right people on the bus is to define what the bus is, where it’s going, what you want and expect and need from people on the bus, where you want them to sit and how you want them to behave and interact, what they can count on from you, from the organization and from each other, how you’ll reward and promote their growth and so on. It’s a holistic process and one that the CEO ought to have a visceral understanding of, supported by the head of human resources and all the other key leaders.

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