Opinion Column

Delfi business: People lessons from the best

By Larry Schruder

Getty images

Getty images


We all search for ways to be better versions of ourselves – a never-ending pursuit of self-improvement and opportunities for growth. This is clearly true for us as individuals – and as also true for our businesses. For business, the path to self-improvement is made easier by reviewing those businesses that are judged to be succeeding better than the rest – and then searching out their key contributing success factors that might help us guide our business to a better version of itself.

This year, 2018 is the 25th anniversary of Deloitte’s Best Managed Companies in Canada – a program that is rapidly being expanded to more than 20 countries around the globe. The key to success and the loudest learning from this year’s Canadian winners: “Treat Your People Right and Win”.

The best companies get it – the quality of the people they possess is a key differentiator between the top performers and the rest. Our businesses live in a world of a seriously diminishing supply of talent. Those business leaders who can hire the best resources, develop them into powerful team players, and retain them by continuously mining their creative passion to contribute will be leaders of successful businesses. The data is in – so we need to sit up, take notice and learn from the best.

Success is no longer solely determined by business smarts (strategy, marketing, finance and technology). These are all necessary conditions – but not sufficient to be in the best category. The top performers also need to be healthy organizations from a people perspective – fully staffed with competent people, engaged in high-performing teams, with high morale, low turn-over and minimal organizational confusion and politics interfering with achieving success. Best managed companies have elevated human resource management to a mission-critical strategic imperative, with a strong executive presence at the decision table.

Best managed Companies spend more time and money than their competitors on people processes. They invest more time and resources in recruiting the best in class, the candidates with the best fit for the role and organization. They are careful who they let onto the bus – and would rather go with an empty seat, than allow a passenger to get on who is not a good fit for the longer journey. They elevate hiring into one of the most important decisions that a leader makes – and give leaders all the modern tools that ensure that only the best in class are invited into the business. Leaders in best managed companies screen for the required technical and competence skills, but hire for the softer skills (creativity, collective problem solving, passion for results, interpersonal skills, humility, and team performance). Best-in-class recruitment is a necessary prerequisite for best-in-class corporate performance.

Best managed companies also recognize that feeding the personal growth needs of today’s employees is almost on par with financial compensation as a motivational and retention tool. And the key personal growth areas are in the softer skills mentioned above. Employees do need regular feeding to maintain technical competence in our rapidly changing world, but they also need access to development in skills that make them better people – both at and away from work. The learning agenda in best managed companies includes how to be a better team player, how to be more aware of personal interpersonal style and its impact on others, how to deal more effectively with conflict situations, how to lead and inspire others. Best managed companies understand that personal technical expertise does not automatically make one an effective team player – so they invest in growing the necessary interpersonal competencies required for strong team performance.

Best managed companies know that employees want to be treated with respect, to know that their opinions matter. They ensure that employees have the opportunity to contribute to process improvement and innovation. They realize that today’s recruits are joining a talent pipeline that is critical to their future success. They understand that every employee is an investment and that care needs to be taken to get them into the best possible seat on the bus – for both business performance and personal career development.

Best managed companies have earned their reputation because in their organization, “People Matter” is more than a slogan – it is a critical business strategy. We should all be paying attention and learn from the best.

Larry Schruder is president and co-owner of The Delfi Group, an Ontario-approved Vendor of Record. Reach him at Larry.Schruder@thedelfigroup.com.


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