Is the 21st century going to be the Century of Human Capital?

At the SHRM Conference in Chicago, Fareed Zakaria spoke about the rise in importance of human capital in the 21st century. The ability to enter into competition or start new business ventures is easier than ever given the increased access to technology, information and financial resources. These factors are no longer the barriers to entry that differentiate which companies succeed or fail. The key differentiator of the 21st century: the ability to attract, engage and retain talent. I agree with Fareed and would add that it’s not just talent but the range of skills and people that are needed to keep a company innovating. That’s a whole different kind of talent.

The barrier to innovation has been reduced by 95%.  Innovation is the new driver for business. You need only think of the smartphone market; how far blackberry has fallen behind and how Android, a late arrival, is now giving Iphones a run for their money. You don’t know whose nipping at your heels ready to take your place in the market.  Even though these considerations often seem in the realm of CEOs and Boards of Directors, Human Resources professionals need to be front and center supplying their company with the right mix of talent capable of keeping the company innovative. Regardless of the sectors, size of organization, type of product or service, global or local – all organizations face the same challenge:  How to attract, engage and retain the right type of workforce necessary for its sustainability.  This is the largest barrier to entry and risk to organizations.

HR must be at the table when developing business strategy. How else can they provide meaningful leadership on the range of people needed to be successful? Once the business strategy has been created by the business team (marketing, sales, finance, technology and YES HR), then HR can begin building meaningful HR strategies to ensure the company stays ahead of their competitors.