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Why the human factor is becoming more important in giving companies a sustainable competitive advantage?

Prof. Dr. Lidewey E.C. van der Sluis, head of the Nyenrode Think Tank,  contests that the human factor is becoming more important and is often the differentiator that will give companies a sustainable, competitive advantage.

“Many companies nowadays, particularly professional service providers, actively build their organizations upon and around human talent. Service is inextricably linked to knowledge that needs to be shared, developed and translated into performance and innovations. People have that knowledge.”

“The baby boomers will soon retire en masse and there are fewer talented people being groomed to replace them.”

The new generation of managers and entrepreneurs have clear career preferences and this also contributes to the talent shortfall, she explains. People starting in organizations now think differently about their careers and ambitions than the baby boomers that preceded them. They want to develop their talent to the full, and find an optimum fit with a prospective employer and their own work-life balance requirements. These and other career preferences are just some of the things that must be communicated to companies. “The Spice Girls song, ‘Tell me what you want, what you really, really want’ sums up an important objective of the Think Tank. This is what organizations need to be asking talented people. By listening to their answers, employers can connect with and engage good people who really want to work for them. This will contribute to innovations in their products and services and, eventually, add economic value.”

The looming talent shortage is not restricted to the business and professional sectors. “In the Netherlands, for example, while there is a strong demand in the financial and professional services sectors, there is also a shortage of skilled and manual workers in the construction and manufacturing industries. “Jobs like these just aren’t sexy any more for young people, and because they are more likely to be offshored to developing countries, they are not marketed like they used to be.

According to Jim Harris, aligned companies base their staffing and retention processes upon one of four forms of core culture.

Customer Service. Competitive advantage is gained through getting close to the customer. These companies strive to think as their customers do, anticipate their needs, and create value for them. Customer-service cultures often empower the frontline service worker, and create strong customer-employee partnership links that build high levels of repeat business.

Innovation. A second core culture is that of innovation. Competitive advantage comes from unleashing the power of technology to create new products, new markets, and new niches within existing markets.

Operational Excellence. The third core culture is operational excellence that minimizes costs while maximizing productivity and efficiency. Competitive advantage is in attaining process excellence from product or service creation and delivery. The foundation of an operationally excellent culture is to constantly improve systems, procedures, and product or service quality.

Spirit. The fastest-growing core culture is spirit to create an environment that inspires employee excellence. Competitive advantage is gained through unleashing people’s limitless energy, creativity, and enthusiasm. Spirit-driven cultures often embrace a higher-order purpose, a corporate goal that stretches toward a greater common good. They capitalize on the collective energy and spirit of their people to propel them to excellence.

For Jim Harris: “The ultimate benefit is a unique competitive advantage: the ability to consistently find and keep top talent. With staffing and retention processes based upon core culture, an aligned company attracts and retains far more superior employees who fit well with its core culture than a non-aligned company does. High productivity can be directly attributed to a focused, concerted plan to align staffing and retention practices to the core culture.”

And states the three steps to the process of alignment:

  1. The organization must clearly understand how each core culture uniquely contributed to employee connectedness.
  2. The organization must embrace one core culture as its operational driver.
  3. Management must then align all staffing and retention strategies to the core culture.


About Dr. Ev D'aMigo; PhD

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