There have been many interpretations of Bruce Lee’s famous quote over the years. What is it to “be water”? Water flows and adapts. It has no plan, but deals with the environment that it finds, and it fully explores the space. It has no expectations of what it will find. It forgets immediately when it leaves one space to find another.
For businesses and talent organizations, in particular, this advice rings particularly strong. In today’s rapidly changing and competitive market for talent, it’s important to be flexible in approach. To succeed, companies need to learn from everybody and everything and not get locked into one particular style.
Savvy leaders are starting to understand that talent is one of the most important factors in a company’s success. And that talent is becoming even more difficult to recruit. According to a recent survey on talent shortages, 32 percent of U.S. employers have difficulties in filling job vacancies especially in skilled trade positions.
Today’s most strategic recruiters are using new recruiting tactics to attract candidates. They are creating strong employer brands that give real personality to their firm as an employer, and promoting this through social and mobile friendly campaigns. These recruiters are embracing changes in technology and new communication techniques to reach their target audience.
Advantages of Customizing Jobs
Beyond flexibility in talent acquisition strategies, companies need to be accommodating and work with candidates to customize their jobs. Part of this involves being flexible and collaborative with hours and locations. There are many benefits of collaborating with talent to design their optimal workplace flexibility.
Buy-in: When companies work with employees to customize their work-life fit, they are showing that they truly care about them and are treating them with respect and trust. Talented employees recognize this commitment, and this builds enormous buy-in and a better workplace culture.
Broader Talent Pool: When workers do not need to be physically present in the office, the talent pool becomes global. By being flexible about work location, companies can build productive relationships with talent across the world. And with social networks, intranets, project-specific groups, and teleconferencing, distances become irrelevant.
Smart Strategy: Many organizations today view workplace flexibility as a strategic move, rather than simply an employee benefit. It’s been seen numerous times, that talented people want to work for companies that treat them with respect and consideration and have empathetic, energetic, and progressive cultures.
Value Added: Truly engaged workers do not leave the job behind when they are off the clock. They carry their current projects with them, and are always open to new inspiration or insight. Workers who telecommute are open to input, away from an office environment where stagnation can set in.
Strategic Flexibility as a Key to Growth
A Harvard Business Review study looked at a sample of rapidly growing firms to determine the reasons behind their explosive growth. According to the authors of the study, few of the firms displayed a unique competitive position. All addressed a customer need, but their value propositions were often not well-defined and unfocused. And while some companies were founded on innovation, none had created an interconnected set of capabilities that was difficult to replicate. The study’s authors concluded that the real force behind the success of these growing firms was their ability to adapt.
Because these companies were small, they had fewer embedded systems and processes that constrained flexibility or impeded decision-making or slowed the pace of execution. As a result, these firms were able to obtain a significant advantage by their ability to react quickly to developments in the market and to make necessary changes in their operations.
The study concluded that the rapid growth of these companies could not be explained by a traditional competitive framework, but rather in the ability of the leaders to recognize the need for change, understand the effect of the change, and to make the change.
Larger companies can also benefit from embracing strategic flexibility as a growth tactic. Some ways to get started include:
Not Being Wedded to a Concept – Companies should be able to shift focus and pivot as needed to meet market needs and opportunities.
Constantly Scanning the Competitive Environment – Companies should continuously scan the environment and their own ecosystem for opportunities both within the immediate business and outside of it.
Staying Close to Employers – By being heavily involved in the sales and service processes, company leadership is able to get close to customers’ concerns and suggestions. This ability to take the pulse of the customer and act on it can lead to significant competitive advantage.
Staying Close to Employees – Communicating with employees at all levels of the firm on a regular basis, whether formal or informal, allows ideas and concerns to become apparent quicker.
“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” ~Bruce Lee