Who joins the team?

Selecting a “dream team” of top-flight employees is a lot like choosing sides for a major league baseball squad – hard skills are just one part of the equation. Google CEO Eric Schmidt once said that he was surprised Google hired him. It isn’t unusual for Google to spend 45 minutes in one conversation for a reference check in an overall hiring process that can take five months. The human resources executives reading this may be feeling their work/life balance evaporating with this thought, let alone recruiters, hiring managers and applicants. The fact is, the most important task of any company is ensuring that the people they hire are the very best. This is even more important for small firms. This month, our panel considered the importance of finding the right teammates. During that conversation, it was clear that while we know the best practices to pursue, execution was the critical path to success. First and foremost, the panel believed having a vision that extends beyond immediate needs is imperative. We may need a particular skill today, but the critical question was what do we need tomorrow? All businesses are in varying stages of a life cycle, yet planning ahead, matching needs to overall firm strategy, and taking time to carefully plan those needs create not only a better hire, but the potential for a more lasting relationship for both the firm and the new teammate. Hiring is also a balance sheet decision. As cold as this may sound, there must be a ROI beyond putting out the immediate fire. If we buy a piece of software, we want to make sure that it will last, be upgradeable and become a future asset. Considering the cost to recruit and retain, sound decisions must be made. These decisions around talent, competencies and future fit create a relationship that begins with a lasting promise.The hiring process The panel considered the idea that character, ethics and potential in a candidate are more important than tangible skills. While it sounds obvious, many agreed that the business case for needs and skills sometimes trumps the character discussion. That’s because character and potential isn’t an easy thing to evaluate. A typical hiring process includes soliciting resumes, reviewing skills and holding a set of interviews. What’s flawed with this approach is having faith in the process. Resumes are an embellished, attention-getting sales pitch. Sorting through thousands of resumes is arduous work and mistakes can be made. Finally, who is conducting the interview is as important as who is being interviewed. Interviewing isn’t knowing what clever questions to ask. It’s about listening skills, probing for the truth and determining the character of the person. There’s also the wrong motivation of recruiting commissions and filling the slot as soon as possible. Make a wrong decision and the costs are tremendous. In the future, these processes must improve. In the meantime, hiring is the job of the entire team and must be taken seriously. While many positions we need filled are very well defined, there is an evolution to consider – the evolution of roles, the ability for candidates to meet future needs and the ability of the firm to prepare them. Development is the responsibility of both the candidate and the firm. Therefore, we need candidates who have potential to morph into new roles and we need our managers to mentor people to that future. If your firm isn’t taking hiring as its most important priority, you’re at a competitive disadvantage, maybe not immediately, but certainly for the future. Google may have hired Eric Schmidt in 2001 but they had certainly already begun to project his role far into the future.Dr. Russ Ouellette, managing partner of Sojourn Partners, a Bedford-based executive leadership coaching firm, is project manager of the Future of Everything. Core project participants on this topic included: Rick Gallin, human resources director at Veeco Solar; Morgan Smith, director of organizational development at Catholic Medical Center; and Fran Allain, employee retention manager for the state Division of Economic Development. For more information, contact 603-472-8103 orruss@sojournpartners.com.