At the SHRM 2012 Annual Conference, Jim Collins paraphrased one of his main points from his bestselling book Good to Great - “the single most important strategic pillar of any great enterprise is people.” Collins went on to tell the conference attendees that “the most important executive skills for building a great organization are the ability to pick the right people, to make disciplined people decisions and to make sure all key seats are filled with the right people.”
The question you need to answer is “how successful have I been at making disciplined people decisions and do I have a firm grasp of what qualities my people need to possess?” Tomorrow morning, take a long, hard look at your employees. What do you see? Do you see a team that makes you proud? Or do you look around and wonder to yourself, “who hired these people”? And if you were the one who hired “these people”, do you know what happened to give you the team that you have?
If you look around and realize your bus is not full of the people needed to drive your company forward, it would be easy to come up with some well-deserving scapegoats; recruiters, line managers, or maybe finance. But do you really know why the team you envisioned is not the team you employ?
The first thing you need to ask yourself is “what is it about this employee, or this group, or this department, that isn’t what I thought I was getting or what I thought I needed”? You know you asked all the pertinent questions. You knew what the job requirements were, what skill set was needed, what type of previous work history would translate well into the role, who needed to sign off on the hire, how much to pay the individual without overpaying for a skill set, and so on. But did you interview for “fit”?
Fit is that component of the candidate that lies beneath the surface and can be the largest factor in determining if an employee, or a group of employees, will provide you with the results you are seeking. Technical skills can be taught to most people, but you can’t train an individual to have certain innate personality characteristics. Fit has to do with how the individual’s values, morals, norms and strengths mesh with your organization’s way of working, values and norms. And no, I am not talking about the values and guidelines for behavior that certainly adorn your office walls somewhere. Rather, I am talking about how work actually gets done.
If your organization takes pride on teamwork, ingenuity, collaboration and experimentation, but in practice, your organization actually is more focused on command and control, hierarchy and saving face, you had better not hire based on the organization’s values. You had better hire based on the work unit’s reality. If you have hired a group of employees who thrive on individualism, experimentation, freedom of expression, and of working within groups of highly collaborative individuals, you must ensure that you are hiring them to work in a setting that mirrors these traits. If the way of working is more of a hierarchy where individual experimentation is frowned upon and where one person or a small group of people control the decision making process, your new employee is doomed to fail.
To combat this disconnect, ask yourself and your team the following questions:
- How does work really get done around here? Are we collaborative, are we individualistic or do we control both how and what work is accomplished when?
- How open are we to change? Do we look for new solutions or are we comfortable in holding strong to our traditions?
- How do we communicate? In person? Through email? Do we talk “to” or talk “at” our employees?
- What do we expect in terms of commitment? Is this a “work until it is done” environment, or a “work until the end of your shift” environment?
- How do we recognize good performance? Do we believe the individual’s paycheck should be reward enough? Or do we practice public recognition? Or are we a private “thank you” type of group?
As the leader of an organization, you have the responsibility to ensure your culture mirrors the behaviors you expect from your people. If is doesn’t, don’t waste another day trekking down a path which is leading you to a destination divergent of your goals. As a leader, your ability to envision your organization’s future is one of your most necessary skills you need. But so is your ability to look at things and see their true reality. Honing these skills, answering these questions, will allow you to fill your bus with the right people.