How ‘smart’ staff might be holding your company back

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"I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way."

Those are the words of famed American automobile executive Lee Iacocca, best known for spearheading the development of Ford Mustang and Pinto cars.

But in today’s disruptive business environment that may no longer be the best modus operandi, according to Sameer Patel, senior vice president Enterprise Social and Collaborative Software in SAP's cloud business unit.

 “Almost every industry is being disrupted around us from automotive to transportation to logistics to hospitality with new digital-first paradigms,” he wrote in Enterprise Irregulars.

“Sometimes, it’s because of more efficient cost models. In other cases, digital technologies re-arrange who controls the demand chain.

Regardless, the most foundational of industries are being re-casted right in front of our eyes.”

Every single one of these disruptors is putting the customer experience at the center of the design process, he said.

SAP set out to look at how the company could make learning, training and employee development more relevant to today’s challenges and opportunities.

“We placed organizational agility as the core design ethos. Agility in how fast employees and teams can spot trends, adapt to market conditions and new customer behavior, and develop new ways of serving customers.

“Agility is the new standard for employee competency.”

The company learned that in order for their clients to compete in today’s dynamic business environment, they needed to foster a growth mind-set – as opposed to a fixed mind-set.

“People who have a fixed mind-set believe that intelligence and talents are largely a matter of genetics; you either have them or you don’t,” Patel said.

“They aim to appear smart at all costs and see failure as something to be avoided, fearing it will make them seem incompetent. A fixed mind-set limits the ability to learn because it makes individuals focus too much on performing well.”

By contrast, people who have a growth mind-set seek challenges and learning opportunities, he said.

“They believe that no matter how good you are, you can always get better through effort and practice. They don’t see failure as a sign of inadequacy and are happy to take risks.”

Patel had some tips for fostering such a mind-set in the workplace:

Get your best brains to wrap around every problem:  “Enabling employees and other stakeholders to quickly form peer to peer learning networks so that your organization can easily capitalize on individual employee experiences.”

Stretch the value and relevance of your courses: “Infusing employee engagement into structured course-based learning and vice versa, to super charge theoretical instruction with practical experiences.”

Improve talent and leadership development: “Scale mentoring and development programs very quickly with expert identification, plan creation, task assignments and progress tracking.”

Elevate remote workers to first class status: “The best ideas come from those who work closely with customers. You now have the ability to record and leverage bite-sized how-to learning videos from the retail shop or a factory floor or in a field service situation.”

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