As co-founder of Scouted, I’m often asked, “What inspired you to start your business?” or “what gave you the confidence to start Scouted?” I could delve into the entire long story over a beer or two (I prefer wheats and sours), but for brevity’s sake it’d be a conversation I had in early 2014 at my family’s Passover Seder.
My co-founder and I were seated next to a family friend, who also happens to be a seasoned, successful entrepreneur. We were chatting about having recently left the hedge-fund world and how we were now flirting with the idea of starting a business. We knew that we “crushed at execution”, but we didn’t know what we wanted to to execute on; that’s when our family friend said, “good business ideas are a dime a dozen, but a good business partner is hard to come by.”
That remark struck us as profoundly true. It ultimately was the core principle that inspired us to start Scouted: Behind every idea, every product, every new technology…is a group of people. Every vision needs an all-star, committed, and relentless team to bring it to reality. In today’s ever more competitive world, one thing is very clear: Talent is the key to winning.
How do you compete? How can you be sure that your company is prepared for the ever-changing future?
Simple. By having a Chief Talent Officer in your C-suite.
While HR used to be seen as a back-office function, a requisite department to deal with the range of employee issues that most managers were neither interested in nor trained to handle, today’s most innovative and successful companies understand that their talent strategy is not a supporting beam of their company’s overall structure, but rather a key pillar in ensuring their company’s future relevance and success.
The role of a CTO is to ensure all levels of management, starting with the C-suite, are aligned with a unified blueprint for attracting and developing the best possible workforce. They also play a key role in establishing an overarching company culture. Questions of whether employees are happy, engaged, growing, productively challenged, connected to mentors: this isn’t just HR’s concern anymore; this is every manager’s concern. Addressing these talent management priorities are integral to the advancement of your business. A CTO oversees the acquisition and development of talent in harmony with the growth of the company.
Think about how NBA teams recruit players. A general manager wants to bring on players who fill skill gaps on the team, yes. But they are also thinking strategically about how all the players will work together as a team, the best ways to help each player improve, and the style of play that is most likely to help the team win. The players, meanwhile, are looking for a promising paycheck, yes. But, they also want to join a team that values their strengths and that will help them maximize their potential and continue to develop and excel. This dynamic is exactly how a CTO functions within a company. They scout talent based on the needs of the company, build a winning team, and manage the changing needs of the unit and the individuals to best set everyone up for growth and success.
The way we work has changed. Our recruitment needs to catch up.
The standards and skills we’ve long used to assess what makes “the best” employees are also changing. As Inc. points out, Facebook was founded by a college dropout and Spanx was started by a door-to-door salesperson. Traditional credentials are no longer the main hallmarks of exceptional talent, and we don’t know what skills might be needed in an industry five or ten years from now.
A CTO’s job is to take a dynamic approach to hiring, looking past GPAs and years of experience, and be able to recognize individuals who will be able to grow with the company’s needs.
A Gen Z-er will have 15 homes, 17 jobs, and 3 careers over their lifetime. You can’t just expect employees to put their head down and work for the next 20 years. Loyalty is now the exception, not the rule. A leader who intimately understands the strengths and expertise of the folks working for you saves time and harnesses the full power of your workforce. It also, and this almost goes without saying, builds morale. A CTO is responsible for leveraging the employee value proposition (EVP) throughout an employee’s tenure at the company. When your talent feels appreciated and recognized for their unique skill sets, that might easily be the difference between them seeing your company as a stepping stone to whatever is next, or perhaps committing more long-term to your company. Better talent management translates to a more productive workforce.
Here’s the bottom line: you can’t have a coherent business strategy without a coherent talent strategy. As you build and evaluate your C-suite, to set your company up for success you must make sure there’s a chair at the table for a Chief Talent Officer.