Most of us know that success in business depends on people. From an entrepreneur-led startup to a large organization, we don’t go very far without relying on individuals and teams. Some go so far as to say that the only real competitive differentiation organizations have is people.
But hiring the right talent isn’t easy. We’re often worried we may pick the wrong person.
A hiring mistake can cost up to 5x the bad hire’s annual salary. -SHRM
As the CEO of a large company, I’m often pushing managers to fill open positions. To me, an opening that drags on too long causes all kinds of other problems. Customer needs not met, employees doing multiple jobs for too long, and milestones delayed.
Scott Wintrip takes on the topic of hiring talent in his new book, High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant. Through his global consultancy, Wintrip Consulting Group, Scott has worked with companies around the world to hire top talent in less than an hour. I recently talked with him about his research and his new book.
It’s Taking Too Long!
Why is it taking longer and longer to fill jobs?
Two factors have caused the time it takes to fill a job to reach all-time highs: the skills shortage and an inefficient hiring process.
There’s a persistent talent shortage that’s pervasive across all industries. For example, when you look at middle-skill roles (jobs that require education beyond high-school and below the level of a four-year degree), there’s a gap between the number of jobs and the number of people to fill them. According to the National Skills Coalition, middle-skill roles account for 53 percent of jobs in the United States. However, only 43 percent of U.S. worker have current skills at the middle-skill level.
Copyright Scott Wintrip. Used by Permission.
Qualified people also have more employment choices than ever, including the option of doing their own thing by joining the “gig economy” as freelancers. Because of this, an increasing number of people are leaving the traditional workforce. When you combine this with increased globalization, borders will matter less, creating a talent competition unlike anything we’ve seen before.
The old way of hiring—keeping a job open until the right person shows up—doesn’t work when there’s a people shortage. A reactive process keeps a job open for weeks or months. To have the people they need, organizations must permanently change their hiring strategy by engaging in the new way of hiring: actively cultivating top talent and then waiting for the right job to open.
“Dating and hiring have a lot in common.” -Scott Wintrip
This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.
Does your organization possess the skills necessary to successfully implement your strategic plan?
Strategic Planning Is Not Enough
Organizations invest a lot of time, talent and money in a strategic planning process. They carefully consider market segments, opportunities, trends and competition. Then they develop strategic initiatives and projects. They examine assets, products, pricing, costs, headcount, revenue projections and develop detailed 3 -5 year projections. Sometimes shareholder value and market value models are created.
“One often-overlooked aspect of a talent assessment is leadership.” –Bruce Rhoades
I have spent considerable time with organizations on strategy, planning and process as strategy officer, as interim CEO for several companies and as a consultant. I am surprised how often the entire process misses a key element of strategy: a strategic talent assessment.
If the organization does not actually possess the key skills to execute the strategy, what skills are needed and how can they be obtained? No matter what process is used for strategy development, a strategic talent assessment is needed before “dropping the flag” on execution.
“A strategic talent assessment examines the skills needed to execute.” –Bruce Rhoades
Ideally, the assessment should be performed when key strategic initiatives are identified. It is especially important to assure that the talent is available to assess the market and opportunity at the next level of detail before committing major resources.
The assessment should be performed at a sufficient level of detail to enable successful execution. Avoid a tendency to categorize talent at high, abstract levels. A good test for the level of detail is to imagine that you are trying to hire a person with these skills — how would you identify that the person possesses the skills? For example, do not just indicate “technology skills” but specify the exact technology skills. Likewise, do not indicate “sales” but what type of sales skills – consumer, consultative, B2B, etc.
One often-overlooked aspect of a talent assessment is leadership. Even if all the necessary talent resides in the organization, execution will fail if leadership is absent. We have all seen a sports team with an abundance of individual talent but with no leadership to get the talented individuals to perform and deliver as a team.
“Even if the necessary talent is present, execution fails without leadership.” –Bruce Rhoades
The result of the talent assessment should be a “skills gap” matrix that lists the skills currently resident in the organization and the skills needed to execute the strategy. They can even be ranked critical, important, necessary, etc. The “skills gap” matrix should be used as a guide to acquire the necessary talent.
One gap that often occurs in current strategies is when organizations want to utilize “big data analytics” in products, marketing or sales but actually have no resident skills in analytics, statistics, large database technology or modeling.
Another example is when organizations want to capitalize on “social media” but have scarce skills in the organization that actually understand how to best use social media to reach their goals.
“Execution before the proper skills are in place can waste resources and damage credibility.” –Bruce Rhoades
Is it possible to eliminate the performance review process?
Should customers come second?
Do open offices work?
Most businesses have rules and practices that have developed over many years. Whether inherited from long ago practices or invented by the company, these rules often continue unquestioned.
My friend Dr. David Burkus is a business school professor and author who questions many common business practices. His research reveals that many of the rules are outdated, misguided, and possibly counterproductive. His research looks at the contrarian practices of companies such as Zappos and Netflix where the rules are being rewritten.
“Great leaders don’t settle for low levels of efficiency.” –David Burkus
David, in one book, you have assembled some of the most contrarian practices being used in business today. What led you to this approach?
After I wrote my first book, The Myths of Creativity, in which I talked a bit about practices like hackathons and 20% time that spurred innovation, I started to get even more curious about the things innovative companies were doing that seemed unusual or opposite of best practices. As I travelled down that rabbit hole I found lots of people writing about why the ideas were unique and appealing, but no one was making the case for why these practices work so well. Since organizational psychology is my background, I started to look at these ideas through the lens of human behavior and found compelling reasons for why they might be better than best practices.
Do you believe many of our management practices and principles are outdated? Is this a global view?
Well that depends. As Daniel Pink rightly pointed out in Drive, the shift from industrial work to knowledge work left a lot that needed to change about how we motivate people. I think that shift has broader management implications, which I explore in Under New Management. So yes, if you’re organization does mostly knowledge work, it’s likely that your management practices are rooted in some outdated assumptions.
Ban Email and Increase Productivity
Let’s look at email. Does banning email really work? Do these techniques work in larger organizations? Doesn’t moving to other technology tools just move the problem and not address the fact that it is people, not the tool, that cause it?
Email is an amazing tool because it’s cheap and it’s asynchronous. But it’s a difficult tool for exactly that reason. It’s easy to send…so we send it far too much. And because it’s asynchronous, it moved us to a world where we’re always on. There are a lot of other tools that are also cheap and asynchronous, but it’s a matter of how the tool is used.
And yes, to some extent, it’s a people issue. The companies that banned email took a deep look at their communication needs and settled on another tool for internal communication. If you’ve looked at what your team’s communication needs are and email meets those needs….great. But odds are, there’s a better tool out there.
“Leaders are discovering that limiting email improves productivity.” –David Burkus