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Hiring the right talent is key to business growth, whether you’re a small business or a huge corporation. This is even more true in a knowledge economy, where talent is key to growth, as well as in today’s world, where businesses must pivot frequently.
Yet hiring and managing talent continue to be sources of risk. Managers often view this as a disagreeable task to be dispensed with as fast as possible, and that mindset can lead to poor business results. Today’s human resources challenges call for a different attitude.
Getting a person into the organization is the first step. Keeping them engaged and productive is the bigger battle.
The traditional approach to hiring focuses on experience and academic degrees. We check an applicant’s employment record and references, but do we really expect someone to project a mediocre record or furnish a reference who will provide an unflattering review? This approach worked when jobs were well defined and predictable, but not anymore.
In today’s fluid business environment, it’s essential to identify candidates who can thrive as the job evolves.
In my experience working in media and technology and as a business school professor, I find three common traits among exceptional employees and leaders.
1. Learning agility.
This is the ability to constantly learn and evolve is vital in today’s world. Look for a “learn it all” versus “know it all” mindset. Even the most accomplished professionals should push themselves to continuously evolve.
Here are ways to assess an applicant’s learning agility. Have they:
• Worked in different functions, thus developing new skills during their career?
• Sought experiences in different industries to broaden their perspective?
• Worked in different regions or countries, experiences likely to have fostered original thinking?
• Honed other skills, such as playing sports or taking personal development courses?
This is a person’s ability to spot an opportunity or problem and raise their hand, calling it to the attention of colleagues. In a VUCA world — volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous — you want employees to serve as the eyes and ears of the organization and keep it on track. Waiting for someone at the top to address a problem with clear instructions isn’t acceptable today; you need every member of the team scanning the environment for opportunities and threats.
How do you assess a candidate’s initiative?
• What initiatives have they spearheaded independently, especially outside their job description, without being prompted by their manager?
• What perceptive insights do they make during the interview?
• Do they engage you in a dialogue during the interview, not just respond to your questions?
A commitment to see things through and create impact is the key to unlocking value. Drive is what makes one jump out of bed. While opinions vary on intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, it’s important for people to be driven by both because there are parts of any job that are not intrinsically satisfying, such as filing expenses, and these need some level of extrinsic motivation — an understanding of the job’s larger purpose and a commitment to it.
How do you assess a candidate’s drive? Ask them:
• In the past, what drove them to power through when there were challenges to surmount?
• How have they dealt with failure?
• What about the job motivates them?
• What aspects of their previous work gave them the most satisfaction?
While LID can fight the first battle (hiring the right talent), the bigger battle — keeping employees engaged and productive — depends on the organization’s culture and the immediate supervisor.
It’s important to create and articulate a strong purpose, a guiding North Star that keeps employees aligned to why the company does what it does, especially in a highly fluid environment.
Here the task is to create a culture where employees feel inspired, challenged and empowered (ICE).
Inspiration is the spark that ignites the internal fire and motivates employees to work toward the company’s mission and goals. Inspiration must be fostered, not pushed from the top. It should radiate from all tiers of your organization.
Challenges help people grow. The manager’s role is to keep people in the zone between overwhelmed and bored, where learning and growth happens. The manager should make sure employees have a clear view of what’s expected today and lay the foundation for what may be expected tomorrow. Incremental challenges are valuable. Think video games, which increase in difficulty as you master each level.
Empowerment provides the autonomy and safety to experiment — within well-understood boundaries. It gives employees the license to take initiative, to generate ideas and pursue them, and to acquire skills and resources needed to achieve their individual goals and those of the organization.
Good talent has potential, but organizations need to nurture talent and unlock that potential. A plant sapling has the potential to bear fruit or produce flowers. A nurturing gardener will give it the right amount of sunlight, water and nutrients. In the hands of a less caring gardener who plants the sapling but doesn’t tend to it, the odds of it bearing fruit are much lower.
Hiring talented people with learning agility, initiative and drive is the first step. Keeping them inspired, challenged and empowered drives value creation and helps organizations better handle volatility and disruptions.
Both parts of the process are essential for every organization. Together they transform team members from “hires” — a raw resource — into powerful human capital.
June 13, 2019 at 08:02AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs