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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Problem Isn't a Shortage of Talent, It's How You Hire


Over the decades, many corporations complain about the trouble of finding talent.  However, I question whether that’s true.  Most businesses look for someone who is experienced at doing exactly what the company needs. This is a poor strategy for recruiting. Because skills and competencies become obsolete in a relatively short time period, companies need talent for tomorrow, not today. In fact, organizations constrain their ability to find very talented individuals because they are seeking people who have the exact experience for today. That is just laziness on the part of businesses. Every enterprise needs to have a commitment to train people for tomorrow. If they did, unemployment would be a lot lower.

There is a report from McKinsey which underscores the amount of staff who do not provide sufficient value to the enterprise. Those people will be part of the next round of layoffs we experience in the US. Corporations need to rethink training. People need to be trained to add value to the enterprise. This would increase innovation.


There are many talented people who do not have the exact required experience and who may never have worked in your industry.  For example, I spoke to a friend of mine this weekend.  He runs a pest control company where he recently hired a new salesman even though this salesman had never worked in the pest control industry. Nevertheless, the new hire understood sales and value propositions, and he suggested to my buddy that there were several things the company could do to differentiate itself in the marketplace.  These ideas have helped reshape the culture of the company.

The technical skills required for a certain job are almost irrelevant. Rather, the ability to apply those skills, in regards to other fields of expertise, is a more desirable trait to seek in new hires. 

Usually companies in the same industry are using the same tools and similar strategies to grow.  So over time, most are all seeking the same technical skills and talent as the rest, so the only differentiator is low price or salary. So why not change the values on which your company hires? My friend’s new salesman thought of possibilities that the other salesmen had not considered.

Companies need to be able to identify people who can learn, transfer thought processes and skills and competencies to situations outside of their expertise. Many companies hire former Olympic athletes, not because they have the technical skills the job requires. Those athletes are hired because they possess discipline and a propensity to learn. The dilemma is the interviewers need to be able to do the same in order to identify transferable talent. Otherwise, they will hire people who are as limited as they are.

Training has to go beyond technical knowledge of doing the job.  People need to be able to think outside of their normal daily encounters. Some of the best organizations do this by cross training people in different departments and business units.

For smaller companies without business units, it is imperative to delegate responsibilities that you know are too difficult to for the person to accomplish. Those are great moments for leadership to take the time to coach and guide the individual through the task. Companies that build this practice into their strategy will most surely have top talent who remain loyal to the organization and differentiate the business from competitors.

What do you think? I would love to hear from you. 

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