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From resourcing humans to investing in them

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Stating that organisations should think of people as assets to be invested in instead of “resources”, Léa Peersman, talent community manager, SYPartners, unveils the five steps to building innovative teams of the future.

Our concept of human capital in business needs an overhaul. In our Taylorist past, we could rely on education systems and HR processes to leverage talent in the best interest of our organisations. But these systems haven’t changed fast enough and people are seeking greater meaning in their work. It’s time for organisations to move beyond thinking of people as “resources” – to recognising them as unique assets to be invested in.

What if we imagined a company as a stock portfolio, and people as its assets? In investing, portfolio managers look at not only an asset’s past performance, but a full picture – market trends, who runs the company, short and long term potential. Through this lens, we would reinvent hiring, job descriptions, and teaming to enable us to better identify, cast, and unleash the true potential of our assets – people.

As a “people investor,” here are five key things to keep in mind when building innovative teams:

1. Innovative teams need a clear purpose

In his annual letter, Larry Fink, BlackRock chairman and CEO, urged his portfolio companies to “also understand the societal impact of (their) business.” Fink and other enlightened leaders know how essential purpose is in driving performance. If your organisation stands for bettering people’s health, for example, employees who share those values are likely to be more engaged. And it matters at team level, too. When unified by purpose, teams see how their actions contribute to the greater organisation. As a “people investor,” the more clear you make the purpose of each team, the better you can recruit talent aligned to it—and a virtuous cycle ensues.

2.  Innovative teams are made of unique talents, not just functions

Gone are the days of putting people in “boxes.” Forward-thinking teams look at every individual as a unique contributor of skills beyond their job title. SYPartners, for example, is pioneering a system to uncover and share employee “masteries” – to help everyone bring their best to the work and learn constantly from peers. It also fuels new teaming models built on masteries vs. availability. Or consider Bridgewater Associates’ “radical transparency” practice; throughout the day, employees rate each other across a range of attributes so everyone has a constant pulse on how they’re showing up. While not a model for all companies, this reveals the growing importance of people analytics. As a “people investor,” implementing tools that enable you see people more fully will help you better match them with opportunities and collaborators.

3. Innovative teams are built across the borders of a company

The gig economy extends far beyond ride-sharing apps. High-end people market services such as Upwork, Catalant, and Working Not Working are changing the way freelancers navigate the job market. Companies must therefore explore new organisational models and double down on people operations and recruiting. As a “people investor,” you need to know how to draw from this incredible talent pool and architect seamless processes for plugging in and out of agile teams.

4. Innovative teams never stop learning

We live in a knowledge economy, and yet we don’t have a way to navigate it. The current education system can’t prepare students for the pace of change today. And what happens after graduation? It becomes the responsibility of companies to train – and retrain – people, to stay competitive. A culture of lifelong learning must be established and nourished. As a “people investor,” this will be a priority as you help employees craft their own paths. With the right tools and networks in place, employees can then become better managers of their own growth.

5. Innovative teams are led by people who get people

Traditional leadership values of authority and experience are making way for capabilities that better equip people to lead in a world that’s constantly changing – such as vision, communication, systems design, and most important, humanity. Great leaders hold a piece of the HR role in knowing how to build teams and create a culture where everyone can be their full self. Investing in people needs to be a shared superpower; in essence, HR of the future will be a more distributed function. As a “people investor,” you will seek partners in these types of leaders and empower them to bring out the best in their teams.

People are the most under-leveraged resource on Earth. But by creatively shifting from resourcing humans to investing in them, we can unleash greater potential in our people and our organisations.

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