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The competitive environment.

Competition is an accepted b America. It's part of our national culture. We learn competitiveness as children, and it becomes a natural part of our existence. Each of us competes against others in many aspects of our lives: in sports, in school work, for a better place in line at the checkout counter, and for a more advantageous position in traffic as we race toward work or home each day. We compete with ourselves to do things better, faster, or cheaper than we did previously.

So, it's normal for people to compete in the work environment. People compete for the best office and parking space. They compete for attention from the boss or a favored customer. Promotions and special assignments are considered competitive arenas. The winner earns the benefits that come with winning. Losers, if the losing is perceived as bitter, may leave the playing field to seek another opportunity to compete with a chance of winning. The Competition for Good People

It is an accepted fact in organizational growth, development, achievement, and stability, that we need to attract the best people possible to work productively as a smooth-functioning team.

Good people can be found on college campuses, working for other employers, and within our own organization. Here's where the competition starts. Other employers know where those fine people are, and they want to hire them, too. There are only so many people available. In the decade of the 1990s, it's a seller's market.

Good people working for other companies are often receptive to overtures from interested employers. We have a natural tendency to better ourselves, particularly if we can do it with the security of stability and strength. Many good people are accurately described as risk takers. These particularly aggressive people will probably go into business for themselves, so think carefully before trying to recruit independence-oriented entrepreneurial mavericks. You may lose them before you're ready to let them go.

Recruiting people already employed by other companies will be increasingly difficult as employers struggle to hold on to them. Recruiters will be challenged to show significant advantages to entice people to make career changes. Employers will become alert to the constant competitive environment in which we will all operate.

In their efforts to find the best people, employers would be well-advised to look inside their own organizations. Some of your employees may be targets of outside recruitment efforts while you overlook their potential. Before looking outside, consider the value of your own team members. You may have some wonderful talent, anxious to stay with you to make even more of a difference for their employer.

A word of warning: Don't take for granted that your best people will stay with you. Continue to reinforce their value, their opportunity, their mutually beneficial long-term relationship with you. When you begin taking them for granted, you open the door for the competition to come a-courting.

How to Attract Good People

Part of keeping good people is attracting the right ones in the first place. The things you do to make your company more appealing for outsiders will also enhance the value of employment for those already on your team. Create the right kind of image, and your recruitment efforts will be more successful.

The values shared by the majority of the good people you want to attract and keep lean heavily toward employers being solid corporate citizens. It will become increasingly important for companies to demonstrate their civic responsibility by their involvement in community activities, respected contributions to industry and trade associations, and caring for their employees.

Your corporate image is enhanced by good publicity, advertising, and public relations. Whether you engage an outside publicist or manage your promotion program internally, strive to gain positive exposure in the media. Share with news representatives information about new products or services and achievements by your people.

Other opportunities for valuable exposure include talks to local civic groups, seminars at conventions and conferences, and testimony before legislative committees. Consider also sponsorship or support of educational programs. Offer your company's expertise as a resource to news media such as daily newspapers, business newspapers and magazines, trade journals, radio talk shows, and television news shows.

Consider ways you can brag-tastefully-about your people to your customers and prospective customers. For example, if someone is quoted in an industry magazine, reprint the article (with permission), highlight your company representative's comments, and send the marked article to interested customers.

Seek appropriate publicity for promotions, new appointments, discoveries, inventions, and significant accomplishments. If one of your people is elected or appointed to an office in a trade or professional association, recognize that achievement and dedication inside your company and to the public.

The same positive exposure you get in the outside world will strengthen your bonds internally with your people. Take advantage of every chance to reinforce how important each one of your team members is to your organization.

You can build employee loyalty by writing a letter to your involved team member expressing your appreciation, support, and admiration. You can make an even stronger impression by sending the letter to the employee's home. Be sure to put a copy in the personnel file. These efforts will be well received by the employee and will also be noticed by others. People watch how others are treated; your actions should always generate good feelings. Separate Yourself from the Crowd

What is unique about your company? Why should someone work for you instead of your competitor or a company in another industry? How can you establish your organization and your opportunity as being different from other alternatives in the employment marketplace?

Your better applicants are going to compare the offers they receive. They will look for comfort factors as they make their choices. They will also look for discomfort factors that may inspire a negative decision. When applicants visit your offices, they are judging your company by what they see. When you go to work tomorrow, look objectively at your office's neighborhood, grounds, building, reception area or lobby, and the offices an applicant is likely to visit. You may be surprised at what you see. Look critically; your applicants will.

One suggestion might be to have management and leadership books on display in your office. Of special importance will be those dealing with human resource issues. The books in your office send messages to visitors about your interests. Show them what is important to you. Show visitors you keep current with the developments in your field.

Another comfort factor is your company's reputation for quality in its products and services. To earn and maintain this reputation, you and other leaders in your company should devote serious attention to quality. If you are sincere and if you really focus on quality, you will earn respect and admiration for the way things are done in your organization.

Not everyone is going to be excited about work. Not everyone is going to throw his or her total energy into being a team player. Each person comes from a different direction. Your challenge is to pull them together so your people are all going the same direction.

Many books and magazine articles point to what has happened in Japanese management as being a good example for US managers to follow. However, many of the management techniques that have made Japanese industry strong originated in the United States. While the Japanese have applied the techniques diligently, Americans have gone off in search of new fads and approaches. What works is basic, down-to-earth, caring involvement with the people who make progress and achievement possible.

For example, consider the following principles from Matsushita Electric (Panasonic), where morale is high:

* respect

* awards

* communication

* courtesy

* discussion

* negotiation

* consensus

* loyalty to employees

* socializing

* training

* few direct orders

* long-term thinking

* innovative freedom

* job permanence

* clearly assigned responsibilities

* special welcome to new people

n generous help with retirement

n discipline

Your People Are Competing

As working people, we compete. Using all the resources at our disposal, we go after the best jobs, the highest income, the greatest status, and the strongest opportunity to make a valuable contribution to our employer and our society.

Look at your good people, those you want to keep on your team. How sensitive are you of their striving? Wise leaders will use all their communication skills to observe how people are competing and what is important to them. Ask questions. Listen. Ask some more.

If you want to keep good people, give them as much of what they want as you can. Understand how they are consciously or unconsciously-competing with each other for attention, favor, and opportunity. Guide their competition to be positive for them and for your organization.

Encouraging people to put forth their best effort can easily produce winners. But in competitive environments, you may also produce losers. If two people are competing for the same job, you may want to keep them both. Consider what you can do for the person who does not get the choice assignment or promotion. If you aren't able to do something to make your selection a win-win situation, you risk losing the person who does not win the one position open.

Give people alternatives of relatively similar significance. If someone doesn't get an expected or desired promotion, what else can you offer? A challenging special assignment? Promise of the next open promotion? Be careful not to make promises you can't keep. Don't manipulate the system beyond reasonable limits for personal reasons. Stay focused on the long term. Know that different people want or will be satisfied with different kinds of rewards. Learn enough about each employee so you can respond to individual needs.

We Compete to Keep People

Efforts to attract, inspire, and keep the best people we can find must be continuous. It's almost like creating a force field of protection around our people. They are captive as long as we continue to maintain that force field. As soon as we relax our diligence, the competition can move right in to take advantage of all we have done to cultivate a fine employee.

You will find competition coming from four different sources. The first source is nonspecific. The second source is companies within your industry. Third is employers from other industries. The fourth is from within your own organization.

Our nonspecific competition is an internal attitude that can easily lead to proactive or reactive behavior. If our key employee is not satisfied, there will be a greater receptivity to alternative employment. Under these circumstances, people are apt to be less productive and less motivated to work for the common good of the organization and themselves.

When no specific outside attractions exist, the competitor is really without form. The alienation feelings will often lead the employee to seek other opportunities, almost indiscriminately. You risk losing the employee because of what has happened or not happened within your own environment. You are actually pushing these people out, rather than having them attracted by competitors.

The competition for good people in your industry is dangerous. The companies that compete against you also want your people. You have trained them; they've proven their worth to an employer in your field. Even more valuable perhaps is their knowledge of your systems, customs, pricing, and a myriad of other facts that comprise corporate intelligence.

Many employers feel it is heartily advisable to build strong feelings of loyalty and competitiveness among their work force. The fierce attachment to their company is directed against the competitors. The us-against-them power is aimed at encouraging innovation, efficiency, and profitability to make the host employer successful against the competitors. That same energy also stimulates resistance against even the hint of going over to the other side. Not wanting to be traitors, employees who leave the company also leave the industry.

Many companies deliberately recruit outside their industry. They seek employees with applicable skills, talents, knowledge, background, or training. Bringing fresh perspectives from a different industry might enable a new employee to help keep the organization alert, innovative, responsive, and on the cutting edge.

Some companies have grown so large they have a number of separate divisions or subsidiaries. The people who operate the various entities may not know each other, particularly below the senior management levels. Even though they have the same core ownership, they function much like different companies in separate industries. These divisions may try to recruit people away from each other. They can offer the attractiveness of being able to continue with the same health plan, the same retirement program, and other similar comfort factors.

This interdivisional recruiting can be healthy for cross-training and crossdivisional cooperation. But, it can also cause serious conflicts. Any such recruiting and transferring of people on a temporary or permanent basis should be done aboveboard with full knowledge and communication by the appropriate officials in each entity.

Appreciate the fact that we are operating in a multifaceted, multidimensional environment. While you should not spend your time looking over your shoulder for your competitors, know that they are there. Make your strategic decisions and implement them as if the competition is right behind you. If you don't, they'll be passing you before you know it.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Herman, Roger E.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:column
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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