4 Key Ingredients for Making People Your Competitive Advantage

May 13th, 2019

In today’s workplace, as an HR and Talent Leader, you hold the keys to your company’s number one competitive advantage: your people. They’re the key to the success of your business. People build and make companies. They drive strategy, sell products, support customers, and make decisions. It’s all about people.

How are you adapting your HR Strategy to make your people a competitive advantage?

Here are four key people-centric strategies from our People as Competitive Advantage program that will help give your business a competitive advantage in today’s fast-paced, highly competitive environment:

1. Become a Strategic Partner to the Business

Historically, HR was essentially designed to manage labor. In most cases, we worked for management and did what they felt was best, often with little discussion or influence. And we rarely had a seat at the table. But that strategy—or lack thereof—no longer works.

We’re living in the fourth industrial revolution: we've digitized the majority of our business processes, products, and services. In this world, client-centric operations, 24/7 customer service, and a continuous process of iterating and improving reign. And they are all entirely dependent on people.

HR has to take a strategic approach to these shifts and become deeply involved in the challenges that the organization is adapting to. As our founder, Josh Bersin says “A great HR partner has to consult and to consult they have to listen and really know what’s going on in the business.”.

2. Take an Employee First Approach

As consumers, we’ve developed high expectations for experiences. Look at how we expect to discover and consume entertainment content. Companies like Netflix and Amazon provide tailored recommendations, they let us watch what we want when we want. And so we’ve grown accustomed to shaping our experiences to meet our personal tastes and habits. That shift is happening in the workplace too. Today, employees expect their experiences in the workplace to be just like their experiences in their personal lives. Personalized, relevant and efficient.

Each moment an employee interacts with the organization and other employees through their employment journey comprises the “employee experience” and determines how an employee feels about their work and your organization. To ensure we are meeting the expectations of our people and retaining and nurturing talent, we need to embrace an employee-first approach to HR putting our people at the forefront of our decision-making. We need human resource activities to happen where our employees do their work, not take people away from their work to do HR “stuff”. HR should aim to enhance the employee experience, not detract from it.

3. Implement People-Centric Technology

People-Centric technology is what enables and delivers an employee-first approach. HR technology was originally designed to automate and simplify processes. While they have eased the administrative burden and improved productivity, they weren’t designed with employees in mind. And not all technology is created equal. In this new world of work, you must implement technology that moves HR into the “flow of work”.

Our job as HR practitioners is to build, use, and implement technologies and tools that are centered on people. Tools that help connect people, help them do their jobs better, increase productivity, and even job enjoyment. This ultimately enables your business to perform, innovate, and succeed.

4. Build an Agile, Collaborative Workforce

We are entering the era of agile: an iterative practice that helps teams collaborate more efficiently and more effectively. Agile provides a method that breaks work down into smaller pieces, helps teams move faster, and brings products closer to customers. This collaborative methodology improves the way teams interact with each other allowing them to better adapt to changing circumstances and better serve customers.

For HR, the shift to Agile, collaborative work has had profound effects on everything from performance management to career planning. And it can leave us wondering what changes we need to make in our own processes to align with changes happening in our organizations. But before we get to that question, we need to answer more basic ones: What does an Agile mindset look like? And how do the best teams work? By adopting Agile mindsets, workflows, and approaches you can help individuals, teams and your organization thrive in today’s dynamic, global, and crowded business landscape.


To learn more about how to transform your organization by putting people at the core, explore our People as Competitive Advantage program within The Josh Bersin Academy. This program is all about people. How to attract and retain them, engage them, and how to redesign an organization to best leverage, empower and inspire them. Join HR practitioners across the globe in putting people first.