Winning ways Featured

8:00pm EDT July 26, 2009

No matter how lousy the economy is, a team staffed with star-level talent holds a distinct advantage over competitors that aren’t staffed by superstars.

While the economy and its woes predictably drew top billing from respondents of the 2009 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey, driving sales and recruiting/retaining top talent ranked a close second and third.

This month’s cover package, which contains the results of our 10th annual survey, reveals that all three issues are interconnected. When you have top talent capable of increasing sales, they are able to roll up their sleeves and sweat a little more than usual to help your organization weather tough times.

But finding those people isn’t easy, as Jeffrey Friedman, chairman, president and CEO of Associated Estate Realty Corp. admits. Keeping them is even harder, especially when you want to hire candidates with the potential to be better than the people making the hiring decisions.

“Good managers really want people who can do their job, because the more people that we have who are that capable, the better the overall company is,” Friedman says.

This “hire smarter and better” philosophy is shared by many successful organizations but can encumber executives who feel threatened that they might be hiring their replacement long before they’re ready to voluntarily give up their job.

That is a shortsighted view.

Having a team of all-stars provides a bevy of benefits that manifest during good and bad times, acting as an insurance policy when people need to step up and take on larger roles. And beyond ample compensation for these employees, it’s imperative to invest in their career development.

AEC offers an extensive training academy for each of its employees. Similar tactics held true for Workplace Practices Survey respondents, who additionally employ a mixture of mentoring (38.5 percent) and Web-based training programs (53 percent) as part of their employee development initiatives.

Further, of the 145 organizations that participated in this year’s survey, manufacturers reported that they dedicate 9.4 percent of their HR budgets for tuition assistance and job-related training while nonmanufacturers dedicate 6.3 percent.

Taken as a whole, it doesn’t matter what your product or service is. Just like a baseball team with great hitting and lousy pitching, or vice versa, if you don’t have talent represented across the board, you’re not going to win a lot of games.

Contact executive editor Dustin S. Klein at