Thought Leader Q&A With Jason Lauritsen: Utilizing and Sustaining the Best and Brightest Talent

Thought Leader Q&A
Thought Leader Q&A

Jason Lauritsen is a former human resources executive turned consultant and keynote speaker.  His company with partner Cy Wakeman, Bulletproof Talent, helps organizations to develop accountable leaders and employees who are bulletproof to their circumstances.  Their Reality-CheckTM employee engagement survey  is changing the way companies measure and manage employee engagement by introducing personal accountability into the process. 

Jason is the co-author of the book, Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships and is half of the dynamic and provocative speaking duo, Talent Anarchy

Jason is also frequent writer on topics of talent and leadership and has written for ERE, TLNT, Human Capital Institute, and the Monster Thinking Blog.  He regularly blogs at www.jasonlauritsen.com and www.TalentAnarchy.com.  His blog was selected by Monster.com as one of the eleven best HR and Recruitment blogs to follow in 2011.  You can follow him on Twitter at @JasonLauritsen.

Q&A

What are the most common challenges that HR teams will face when trying to become a high performance team and how can they overcome it?

Our history is probably our biggest challenge.  HR was born out of a necessity to handle legal compliance and administrative work that emerged as the modern organization formed a hundred or so years ago.  The problem has been that as the organization has evolved, HR has clung onto this legal and administrative identity.  And it’s holding us back. 

As we look to the future, HR needs to reinvent itself.  Talent has become a strategic issue in business and HR needs to retool in order to be capable of delivering solutions to our businesses. So, specifically, HR leader need to lead their organizations through some intense planning processes to get clear at the organizational level on what talent means for the organization’s success and how the organization must evolve to win on the talent front.  Without talent, businesses aren’t going to survive in the future.

Then, it’s time to take a hard look at our people and processes in HR.  Outsourcing and insourcing of administration has to be a real consideration.  The focus of the HR organization has to shift from administration to talent.  This represents a sea shift in most organizations.  We also have to raise the bar in terms of the quality and expectations we have for those coming into HR.  To be a high performing team, we have to have high quality talent on the field.    

Employee engagement levels are at all-time lows and continue to plummet. What do you attribute to such high levels of disengagement among employees?

I attribute this directly to a lack of leadership and management skill within our organizations.  Engagement is a choice that is made by each employee, every day.  One of the fundamental failures of our organizations today is that we’ve made it okay for employees to be disengaged.  Employees want to be engaged and it shouldn’t be optional.  Leaders and managers need to learn how to hold employees accountable while at the same time caring for them and helping them achieve their career goals.

Engagement is a dangerous measurement to look at without context because engagement can be bought without achieving the corresponding performance.  So, as the economy has been down and employers have cut benefits and salaries, of course engagement is down.  As the economy improves, engagement will improve.  None of this matters without a consideration of performance.  A highly engaged workforce that doesn’t perform well isn’t valuable. 

What advice would you give to the newest generation of HR pros who are just entering the workforce?

Become a student of business and human behavior.  At the end of the day, our job in HR is to help our organizations understand how to do a better job of turning human potential into business productivity.  That means knowing the science behind when and how human perform optimally and finding ways to design that into how your company manages people. 

Also, relentlessly ask yourself, “How does what I’m doing help the business produce results?”  If you can’t answer this question for what you are doing, it might be a waste of time.  

What advice would you give to senior leadership and CHROs as these new professional join the workforce?

Ask them questions and listen to their ideas.  Teach them.  Give them more responsibility than you are comfortable with and hold them accountable for living up to your high expectations.  But, make failure survivable so that they can learn and grow quickly.  

What's the most important thing an organization can do to keep the best and brightest talent?

Keep people in over their head and pay them more than they think they are worth.  If they aren’t worried about money and they are so challenged (in a good way) with their jobs, they won’t have time or motivation to look for another job.  

While they are both important to developing high performance employees, which do you feel is more valuable - training or mentoring?

Mentoring is far more important and valuable assuming the mentor is skilled and understands his or her role.  Mentoring is all about helping the individual process and extract the learning from their own experience.  This is a far more powerful and lasting way to develop talent than training.  

Would you rather hire for skill or attitude?

Default response is attitude.  But, it depends on the position.  It is never this simple unless you are hiring for an entry level position that will train you in everything you need to know to do the job.  Attitude is critical, but so is mindset and work ethic.  Personality style, communication skills, intelligences—these are all really important too.  If the question was hard skills versus soft skills, I’d hire for soft skills almost every time.