Want or Need? Rethink Your Recruitment Priorities

Recognizing Long-term Potential Means Looking Beyond Short-term Expectations

Uncle Sam Recruiter

Before preparing a new job posting, recognize that the “ideal” candidate does not exist—yet.

In trying to separate the good from the great, people like to start with perfection and list all the traits that make someone ‘ideal.’

The Difference Between Needs and Wants

Whether it is describing the ideal mate, planning the perfect day, or defining the ideal candidate for a position, conventional wisdom holds that by making a wish list covering every preference, you have a firm base for comparing your options.

The trouble with this approach is that people are usually very bad at distinguishing “needs” from “wants.” You see this disconnect often in the form of budgeting and buying decisions, but the same principle applies to recruitment.

Think of this way: Needs are basics; Wants are all bonuses.

Typically, a new-hire wish list is made up of few Needs, layered between lots of Wants that ultimately hurt your chances of finding the best fit for the job.

Aim to Replicate Success

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat through a meeting where a new job posting is being drawn up, and the “must have” column gets so big and detailed, that even existing employees wouldn’t be able to fit every requirement.

You can define true Needs quickly by looking at what makes your current team function. Not what makes them excel—that comes later, through practice and slow, steady cultural integration.

It is easy to reinvent the wheel when preparing to do recruiting, but expecting new hires to come in to your organization ready to meet and exceed the performance of existing employees is beyond unrealistic, and sets the whole relationship up for failure.

Plan on Remedial Training

The fact is, you need to plan for remediation in any recruitment effort.

Too many executives hear this and think it is a compromise: if they aren’t getting the absolute most skilled recruits, they must be settling for mediocrity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any job in any company has a learning curve.

Bruce Tulgan, researcher, author, and expert on generational issues in the workplace, explains how organizations face a baseline skills gap even in the most promising new, youthful recruits.

He says this:

One of the things we’ve measured over 23 years is, what are the hiring managers saying? And an awful lot of what they’re saying, with increasing incidence, is that [Millennials] have the hard skills, but they lack the old-fashioned soft skills.” 

Before you can capitalize on any fresh talent, your recruits have some learning to do to get acquainted with your company, your staff, your product, your mission, your systems, your expectations (let’s face it: nobody is completely forthcoming in an interview).

If every new hire is going to require an upfront investment to train and get up to speed, why pretend that raw talent matters more than the will and ability to learn, fit in, and care from day one?

Tulgan goes on to say:

One of the things you have to do to succeed with the new young workforce, is find a way to channel their fresh training and new technology that they’re comfortable with, the new processes, new ideas, new energy—you have to find a way to tap that. But you also have to find a way to teach them some of the ‘here is how we do things around here, and this is our culture.’”

Reframe Your Needs as Learning Opportunities

Getting the best talent on your staff isn’t just a recruiting challenge, it is a responsibility of management and leadership. Know that going into a new hire decision, and you can make sure they know they are expected to learn, grow, and evolve alongside your organization, from the beginning.

Presenting potential recruits with a role as a learning opportunity allows you to cultivate a cultural fit alongside the skills fit your organization needs. This is where an investment of effort on their part will be met with an investment of training, high expectations, and coaching on your part.

Tulgan continues with this:

Good management is synonymous with teaching, and good followership is synonymous with learning. Good management is constantly, systematically focusing on what they can do to make things better. People should be doing that up, down, and sideways every step of the way.”

Whether that is remediating soft skills in Millennial recruits, or getting older workers up to date with the latest technology, every member of your team needs both expectations, and opportunities to continue learning and growing.

Attract Character by Demonstrating Character

If your hard skill need happens to be programming, remember that:

You don’t need the best programmer in the business, you need the best programmer your company and your culture can attract and retain.

When it comes to posting a new job and attracting candidates, you have more reach and access than ever before. The number of resources and opportunities you have to set yourself apart from the other dull, grey “Help Wanted” postings online (especially free ones) gives you freedom to experiment, have fun, and put the focus from the very beginning on what really matters: finding the right fit.

Try doing this:

  • Convey that you take cover letters as seriously as resumes.
  • Show how skills needs align with cultural norms.
  • Ask what you can learn from applicants, and what they hope to learn from you

If you are looking for skills without consideration for character, you’re trying to hire a robot, not a person. As a result, your job posting is probably going to come across as equally robotic.

Finding someone with the right skills who also fits your company’s culture requires you to not just ask for evidence of skills, but demonstrate an interest in the person offering to help you.

What are the most unique, captivating job postings you’ve ever seen? What made them memorable? How can you go from advertising a job to advertising a culture? Are you focusing on too much on Wants and forgetting what your organization truly Needs? How are you helping your youngest team members learn the soft skills that allow them to fully realize the value their hard skills can provide?

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Edgar Wilson is a Writer, Consultant, and Analyst
He follows trends in Education, Healthcare, and Public Policy
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Leaders: You Do Not Need to Be Nice to Be Kind

Kindness is not softness, it is not weakness, and it doesn’t always have to be nice.

In fact, sometimes kindness requires you to be tough and direct. I have seen the misinterpretation of this word negatively impact many organizations.

Leadership Mistakes

Leaders, in an attempt to be kind, move under-performing employees from position to position in the hopes that they will finally succeed or at least survive. Others allow deadlines to pass without repercussion or avoid having that fierce conversation that is needed in order to drive improvement and productivity.

Many of these leaders have adopted this style of kindness out of a reaction from working with or for a tyrannical ruler. They have witnessed how ineffective fear is in motivating people and driving an organization forward.

However, in an effort to be the antithesis of what they witnessed, they too have become ineffective.

Some are just new to their leadership role and worry about being liked. They lack the self-confidence needed and therefore, spend much of their time trying to please who that work for them.

But, neither of these is true kindness.

Leadership Wisdom

People need to understand where they stand, how they need to improve and what is at risk if they don’t.

Kindness requires empathy, honesty and trust. It means that at times you must be a mirror, reflecting back to a person the impact of their habits and behaviors.

Feedback, constructive criticism and accountability are all forms of kindness. People need to understand where they stand, how they need to improve and what is at risk if they don’t.

Leadership Looking Glass

It means that at times you must be a mirror, reflecting back to a person the impact of their habits and behaviors.

It may be counterintuitive, but letting someone go from their job could be a great act of kindness. For that individual, it very well may be that you are releasing them from the pain of being in the wrong job, giving them the freedom to finally pursue one that better fits their skills.

It could also be that difficult but teachable moment, where someone with a sense of entitlement finally realizes in fact they are not. Although no longer employed by you, they are now much better prepared for their next employment opportunity.

Maybe most importantly, it is an act of kindness to the rest of the organization.

It can be so demoralizing to be hard-working, a driven performer and not see those who aren’t be held accountable for their lack of performance.

Leadership Courage

When we care about others, we don’t want to be the cause of any pain or suffering.

No one relishes having difficult conversations or enjoys taking tough action. When we care about others, we don’t want to be the cause of any pain or suffering. But, avoiding those conversations and failing to take the needed action can be far more damaging in the long run.

Not only damaging to that individual, but also, to the efficacy of your own leadership and to the organization as a whole. Kindness requires that you push past your own discomfort and insecurity to take the needed action that best serves the interest of the company you help to lead.

You do not need to be nice to be kind. But, you must make people feel heard, cared for, valued and respected.

It is also essential that you always act with integrity and honesty and, that you have the conversations and take the action needed to best serve the organization you represent.

If you do all that, you are in fact a kind leader.

Remember: You do not need to be nice to be kind.

Thanks for reading.

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Elliot Begoun

Elliot Begoun is the Principal Consultant of The Intertwine Group, LLC.
He works with companies to Deliver Tools that Enable Growth
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Company Culture Key to Surviving Success

How to Prioritize Organizational Values Above Growth

Company Culture 2

There is a contradiction within most organizations that usually goes overlooked: success can be hazardous to culture.

We tend to overlook this fact because it is so counter-intuitive. If things are going well, we might ask, then how can that be a hazard to anything?

Losing Sight of Cultural Values

Unfortunately, larger or growing organizations can easily lose sight and influence over the importance of their culture. Consequently, this makes refocusing on cultural values a more complicated prospect after they have been ignored or neglected.

David Hassell, CEO of the Silicon Valley-based startup 15Five explains it this way:

Generally, the trend has been you go from small and nimble to large and bureaucratic. I don’t know that that’s the way it has to be, but that’s the trend.”

Hassell’s company works with organizations facing cultural dilemmas; that confusing state when a company has grown, but its culture hasn’t grown and adapted along with it. Business is good, because culture is commonly neglected, even in successful organizations.

Row in the Same Direction

One of the first things [an organization needs to do] is ask: who are the early, founding members?” Hassell says. “Why did this group come together—what is their common vision, their shared values, their world view?”

Hassell’s advice echoes a popular sports analog from the crew world that implores teams to “row in the same direction.” This is fine advice, if your only goal is to move the boat in an inflexible path forward.

But when teams exist as an organization, whether it is a business, a corporation, or even a department, the goal is rarely as simple as just rowing in the same direction. More likely, the team’s goal is to both move the boat and to simultaneously grow it.

This requires things like:

  • Developing talent
  • Investing in technology
  • Growing the team and each team member
  • Taking on more ambitious projects
  • And so on…

We Need a Bigger Boat

This is where maintaining culture, preserving foundational values, gets complicated. The boat is getting bigger, and in time, rowers are replaced with motors and engines. Suddenly you find yourself shouting over a massive, powerful machine for everyone to “Row in the same direction!”

But nobody is rowing. They are all specialized, siloed, and focused on all sorts of segmented goals, driven by whatever motivations they happen to respond to.

Your boat—your organization—may not sink immediately, but neither will it be as maneuverable, as responsive to change, or as resilient in the face of obstacles because it is no longer held together by a healthy culture.

The Culture of Growing-Up

Company CultureOf course, aligning values is easier when an organization is small. But something happens during the scaling process. It feels a lot like success. Or even outright victory.

This is because the things that got you started are paying off. The team is growing, revenues are increasing, and you suddenly have demand for things you didn’t need before.

These are things like:

  • An HR department
  • Employee handbooks
  • Benefits
  • Insurance

As well as justification for investing in others that you’ve always wanted:

  • Specialists
  • An-house design team
  • Remote sales reps
  • Marketing department

The mistake that many organizations and leaders make that lead to the sort of bureaucratic growth on which Hassell laments is to think that a good strategy can overcome any organizational ailment.

Culture Trumps Strategy

Implementing yet another top-down solution doesn’t restore intimacy in communication, repair trust in leadership, or fill any of the voids that a keep a culture healthy and resilient.

Everybody knows that culture trumps strategy every day of the week,” says Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University.

Crow, understands the challenges of taking on a neglected, discordant culture. As part of his role at the university, he decided not just to transform his organization (the school), but to take on something much bigger: the culture of an entire country.

His strategy? The same as Hassell’s advice for startups and young companies: seek out like-minded thinkers and work to attract more people who are a good cultural fit.

Start at the Beginning

I’m not arguing that we need to go in and ‘change culture’ or drive cultural changes across people; what we have to do is find ways to understand our cultural heritages better,” says Crow.

To achieve this, Crow helped facilitate a partnership between ASU Online and the Mayo Medical School, in part to change how future doctors and nurses are trained in medicine.

The ultimate goal? To change how America thinks about health, wellness, and medical care.

But he is tackling this outsized goal the same way that small, start-up companies approach their niche goals. He is doing with a strategic partnership, rooted in a common vision.

Recruit With Wisdom

All the key challenges of leadership such as motivating, innovating, and empowering are directly impacted by the recruitment decisions being made, and the cultural values that inform and dictate how recruiting occurs.

Small organizations have it easier because they are at the beginning of the cultural evolution and they can put the focus on hiring for culture right from the start. But as Crow’s initiative demonstrates, rebuilding an unhealthy culture can start the same way.

Conversations about values, goals, and motives are the building blocks of company culture. It is never too late to initiate these conversations—but it is a lot easier to start having them early on.

So how important is a healthy, strong, and growing culture at your organization? As a leader, what steps can you take to get a clear picture of your corporate values structure and continue to improve them for a better culture? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders
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Edgar Wilson is a Writer, Consultant, and Analyst
He follows trends in Education, Healthcare, and Public Policy
Email | Twitter | Facebook

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