What a bricklayer tells us about the future of our business

Three bricklayers are each asked what they’re doing. The first says he’s laying bricks, and the second says putting up a wall. But the third states he’s building a cathedral. The first had a job, the second had a career, but the third bricklayer held a vision. Who do you think is willing to work hardest?

This story illustrates the significance of having engaged employees. You can set all the goals you want for your company, but ultimately you need a team to help you reach them — an engaged team, made up of people like that third bricklayer. Fostering that engagement begins with taking a strategic approach to human resources.

headshot Chris CerviniChris CerviniCompanies that view their “people planning” strategically give their HR leaders a voice at the management table. They have moved their people practices from transactional — focused on hiring, firing and other compliance responsibilities — to transformational — where they align their people systems and functions to support leadership’s vision. In today’s tight labor market, this gives you a competitive advantage. Harnessing strategic workforce planning not only helps drive profits — some reports say up to 1.5 times the profits of those who lag in this activity — it also fosters a culture of organizational excellence that differentiates your company as an exciting, rewarding place to work. That helps you to retain the talent you’ve got, and it makes you more attractive to new talent.

“Successful leaders think about how people can help them realize their business goals and needs,” said Jeffrey Jolton, Ph.D., managing director of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ People Analytics practice. “It’s not thinking about your people as an HR thing and your business as a business thing, but rather that they truly are integrated and dependent on one another.”

Getting HR right does take companies to higher levels. Boston Consulting Group surveyed 1,263 executives from a range of businesses across 85 countries, and sorted them into six levels of talent performance. Businesses with strong HR capabilities — talent magnets — consistently outperformed those with weaker capabilities — talent laggards. At each successive level, profits rose by an average of 5 to 15 percent.

This study shows, as PwC’s Dr. Jolton puts it, that strategic human resources “…doesn’t grow out of HR trying to justify HR. It grows out of wanting to get the most out of our people in a way that positively impacts our business.”

That’s exactly what Chris Cervini, Lakeside Produce president, set out to accomplish two years ago when he and Lakeside’s senior management team realized the company needed a more robust HR focus to achieve its vision.

“The change definitely came with time, and the realization that the traditional way of operating may not always be the key to success, and will not always take you to the level you want to be at,” said Cervini.

Lakeside’s plan included strengthening its culture and introducing “Lakeside 5” values. The company also demonstrated it appreciates and values employees by providing clearer understanding of their duties and expectations, by empowering them to take on new roles and responsibilities, and by supporting their growth.

“We invested in our people through training and development,” said Cervini. “Not only did that develop their knowledge, but it also strengthened their confidence, communication skills and leadership abilities.”

Today, he notices greater unity and cohesiveness within teams, and more interaction and communication across functions and departments. The culture has improved, and people simply seem happier, friendlier and more helpful.

“Our turnover rates have improved, and correspondingly, we have better retention,” Cervini noted. “We’ve been able to promote from within more, and we’ve been able to develop our team.”

Note: strategic HR is not only for big companies. “The science of creating a powerful work experience and the impact it has on a business is real and relevant to every business,” said Dr. Jolton. “The applications may feel different and have different specifics from business to business, but the broader themes are relevant to all businesses.”

For help transforming your people practices for the future, look to Center for Growing Talent, as Lakeside Produce’s Cervini did. CGT’s mission is to develop solutions specific to our industry to attract, develop and retain talent. Lakeside took advantage of the leadership development programs offered by CGT for every career stage, from young professionals to senior executives as well as women. CGT recently partnered with PwC to launch new resources to help produce and floral industry companies retain talent.

Our industry is in a unique position to help grow a healthier world. You’ll need an engaged, motivated workforce to ensure your company is ready to seize a share of that opportunity. Do you have enough of those third bricklayers? For help, visit CenterforGrowingTalent.org/resources/retain — or visit in person with CGT staff at Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit in Orlando, FL, this October.

Margi Prueitt is executive director of Center for Growing Talent and senior vice president of Produce Marketing Association. CGT is a nonprofit, charitable organization created by and for the fresh produce and floral industry to develop industry-specific solutions to attract, develop and retain talent. To learn more, visit www.centerforgrowingtalent.org.

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