Know Your Greatest Asset

In a time and state that has been named the “knowledge economy,” “the LinkedIn economy” and “free agent nation,” the need to know our people — our greatest asset — is at an all-time high, yet from a capability standpoint, we’re at nearly an all-time low.

We, as organizations of all shapes and sizes, know more about assets such as iPads, smartphones and other miscellaneous machinery than we do about our people.

The time has come to make the case to every executive in your company that in 2012 we must invest the time to get to know our people better than other assets in the organization.

We are recovering from one of the lowest points in the global economy. Graduation rates continue to plummet, boomers continue to get older and retire, and the skills of the workforce are mismatched compared to what the economy needs to grow and thrive, not just remain flat.

So where are these skills? How will you find them in the future? What organizations around the world have these people with these skills?

The answers to these questions will give organizations around the globe a major competitive advantage during the next decade. The only way to find, “follow,” “like,” stalk and steal these people is to get them from your competition.

Of course, there will still be a huge need to monitor talent graduating from various educational institutions ranging from high schools through advanced post-secondary schools, but truly experienced talent with the skills needed to offer a competitive advantage boost will come from your competition.

Not long ago, the holy grail to finding or attracting — instead of stealing — your competitors’ talent was to somehow get a hold of the employee directory from that firm. This had all of the names, phone numbers and emails of the people employed by that organization, and let the cold calling, postcard mailing and gorilla marketing begin.

In today’s technology-enabled world, a simple Google search or journey to LinkedIn will tell us all about our competition’s workforce, including tenure, skills and what they want to be when they grow up. Another few clicks over to will tell us all about our competitors’ weaknesses when it comes to retaining talent.

In a world of transparency, your competition knows more about your workforce than you do, and you have the same ability to know more about their workforce than they do.

It seems backwards, but that needs to be our rallying cry: The only way for an organization to gain competitive advantage with its talent is to understand it. To understand it, we must have a central, global repository of its skills that rivals that of LinkedIn and use that amazing wealth of knowledge to move, manage and cultivate our talent before the competition comes knocking. And that knock is no longer a threat, it’s a guarantee.

Today and for the rest of our lives, we will be in a war for skills. Most organizations have the weapons in their core HR or talent management systems to fight in this war. But they have no idea how to use their weapons, nor do they have the ammunition to compete. The time is now to change that.

Talent leaders must realize that without knowledge of their people and their talents, our jobs as HR professionals will disappear — just like our organizations will. Take it from organizations such as Circuit City, Kodak and Blockbuster. Because of their inability to innovate or to find new skills they needed, these companies have become irrelevant, disappeared or are in need of major retooling to survive.

We can’t wait for IT to come up with the golden answer. It is time for those in HR and talent management functions to take ownership and prepare for a long, lengthy and vicious war for skills.

Only the informed and intelligent will survive, and the big and strong will fall, resting on the laurels of the past.

Jason Averbook is the CEO of Knowledge Infusion. He can be reached at