A young protégé of mine recently began negotiations with a rather large financial services organization and as she shares her experiences I have to tell you that I remain disappointed and a little surprised at how poorly so many employers are handling this process!

On one hand she is very interested in the position, on the other she is more than a little put off on how much the process resembles a transaction rather than an invitation.

 Most of our employment models are and have been based on an acquisition model. We create sets of rules or protocols for everyone; applicants, hiring managers, and human resources to follow. The model isn’t an invitation to join up, it is a transaction.

We aren’t facilitating a relationship with a whole person; we are acquiring a piece of human capital!

How we continue to hold on to those concepts was reinforced for me a couple of ways recently.

The first was a question posed on a social media site about whether a leader or manager should be hired exclusively based on their experience and qualifications. My concern is that 90% of the time when we discuss qualifications, we are talking about technical qualifications.
When we talk about experience we don’t always explore the parallels and differences between past environments and our environment. How similar or different are they? We don’t just apply this two dimensional model to leaders, we apply it across the board to all candidates.

The other was a position expressing a very different viewpoint. The author discussed that hiring for your current culture could backfire if you have a dysfunctional culture and everyone is just complying and you might pass up the opportunities to build strength through adding some cultural and intellectual diversity to the mix.

I think both these pieces had legitimates points. People need to be competent. Unfortunately competency alone won’t make them engaged or highly productive.

Having people who bring intellectual diversity to your mix, assuming you have a functional culture can bring strength as long as there is congruency.

I believe that if you make hires that aren’t congruent, and you don’t at least explore congruency in all your hiring and placement you are giving yourself an extra challenge.

I will go further and say great organizations are not only aligned with their employees, but all their stakeholders.

My premise is that when you invite people to join up with you in support of a set of shared goals, values, and benefits you will likely see a much higher degree of success than relying on strictly competencies and qualifications. So far in experimenting with my model for over 15 years in multiple settings I have found my premise to be accurate. You invite them to join you rather than see the relationship as an acquisition.

These days there is a lot of discussion around the concept of employee engagement.
There is a lot of rhetoric and discussion around engagement. I believe that the fundamental foundation of engagement is alignment. Alignment defines itself in terms of effective execution. We mesh strategy with reality, align people and talent with goals and deliver the results we commit to. The keys are that we do it willingly and proactively and we do it in furtherance of a group of shared goals and values. In that fashion it differentiates itself from a morale building or employee satisfaction initiative. Those are generally outcomes of effective engagement.

Engagement is systemic. To do it successfully and sustainably it involves every element of the interactions between stakeholders including customers, shareholders, employees and communities. It is also integrated. You can’t just address one part of the equation.

There are two primary ways to create and sustain an engaged organization:

  • Build it in.
  •  Bolt it on.

I can tell you that building it in rather than attempting to retrofit is by far the better solution.
So let’s talk about building it in.

Although this may seem trite and overused you start this process by developing the core values of the organization. There shouldn’t be too many of them and they should be yours. Don’t borrow them from another organization no matter how much you admire them.

  • Your values need to be written in stone. Not complying with a core value means you don’t get hired or you don’t get to stay. No exceptions.
  • Your values need to be understandable and applicable to every job at every level.
  • Your values need to be promulgated by the C level, but owned by everybody.

The next thing you do is change your hiring criteria. I recommend that you hire for attributes and if necessary you train for skills.

Technical competency remains important, but my recommendation is look to the track record of performing tasks and completing projects as indicative of those abilities rather than certifications, education, and experience. I emphasize experience because I find it typically pretty unreliable. Most people and organizations equate tenure with experience, they are quite different.

Different roles have different attributes, but for me I have a core set that I require in anyone who works in my organization:

  • Commitment to the Team (congruency).
  • Ability to see the Big Picture
  • Ability to learn and share New Skills
  • The ability to listen for and discern for Key Information.

There is a reason why I insist on these attributes-

  • You can teach smart people to do almost anything!
  • It is hard to teach people to be smart!
  • People who are committed to your mission will reflect it!
  • Changing people’s core values is very hard!

When I talk about smart people I am not just talking about intellect, I also include emotional intelligence.

I also encourage clients to “re-recruit” existing staff using the following model:

  • Train current staff on new competencies and expectations
  • Compliance works short term, but Commitment is essential for the Long Term
  • Retrain, Re-Assign, or……..
  • Remember WIIFM (What’s in it for me!)

This kind of thinking, inviting employees to join up with you rather than seeing the employment relationship as a transaction isn’t new; it just isn’t happening in enough places.

In my opinion the benefits far outweigh the costs so I would challenge you to introduce these new paradigms into your mind set and to re-examine your approach to recruitment, selection, and advancement to one of invitation and alignment rather than the traditional view of it as merely acquisition of human capital.

The data is out there, engagement and strong employment brands yield hire organizational performance in every key performance indicator. It just requires the courage to act differently.

So I want to leave you with my best practice model -

  • Define candidate position requirements (technical skills) 
  • Delineating appropriate candidate attributes (cultural fit) 
  • Recruit the candidate pool
  • Assessing the candidate pool
  • Making the final decision and “on boarding” the successful candidate

When I say assess that is precisely what I mean. There are excellent, affordable assessment tools out there. The costs of a bad hire is 2 to 5 times annual salary. Interviewing alone is notoriously unreliable.

The process doesn’t stop when the candidate accepts your offer.

A number of years ago I had an opportunity to attend a demonstration by a man named Monty Roberts who was the primary proponent of a new methodology of training horses. Although Monty is reasonably well known in horse circles a more common vehicle for the average person to connect with him is that the character played by Robert Redford in the movie The Horse Whisperer, was based on Roberts and his methods.

Conventional wisdom has been that you break a horse in. You teach them obedience by imposing your will on them. They learn to obey you and depend on you.

Roberts’ methodology was and is a little revolutionary. Instead he argued you should give a horse the opportunity to join up with you. He explained that horses are a herd animal, they can’t survive in the wild on their own. Given the chance they have a natural proclivity to join up with other horses or even other animals of horses are not available. As my wife is an avid horse lover I have had a chance to see this phenomenon personally.

That demonstration stuck with me and the concepts became part of the foundation I build into every hiring decision. I will never again acquire human capital; I will invite select individuals, whole people, to join up with me in furtherance of a set of values and goals we share…..

“If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it you almost don't have to manage them.”
- Jack Welch


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