Hire For Culture Over Knowledge

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Have you ever found yourself hiring the person with the great resume at an inflated salary who knew how to talk the talk but didn’t fit in with your core team players, pressured you to bend on your company’s integrity, didn’t deliver or left the organization by the time (or before) you got any value from their work? We have all probably “been there, done that, bought the T-shirt,” but did we really learn what we did wrong?

As George H. Morris is credited with saying: “Good attitude is most important. Good talent is second.”

The Pitfalls Of A Hiring Mistake 

The problems of hiring the wrong person can present themselves as follows.

• The person creates a lot of work but never completes it. There is no action to support the talk.

• New team players that you thought would solve all problems have just created new ones without solving the original problems.

• Things that seemed so clear and obvious aren’t.

• They display rigidity and an incapacity to build on the existing good assets (minimally good as a framework or starting place) and want to recreate everything from scratch.

• Key team players who are already in the organization became annoyed and feel undervalued.

I’ve found that the reality is simple. There is a certain aspect of hiring for your culture that requires your and your team’s gut instinct. It should not be about who markets themselves best, but who fits into your corporate culture, shares your values and has the attitude necessary to learn. There are simply some things you can teach and others you cannot.

How To Revise Your Hiring Strategy

Recently, we took some time to review (not redo — see above) our hiring processes and realized we were far too focused on the technical skills of a new hire, rather than looking at their attitude, emotional intelligence and personality profile.

Once you have the commitment and a plan in place to change this with real, tangible goals, you can start reviewing your processes and selecting tools and platforms to help you make changes. One tool that can make a huge difference toward your “better culture fit” goal is a behavior assessment tool that can predict both career satisfaction and career success based on discriminating factors like human behavior and competencies. I’ve found that these markers, combined with skills and experience, are key differentiators in determining performance. You can use these tools to benchmark what a “high performer” looks like at your company. You may already be doing personality profiling for your staff; now, invest in it before you make a contract.

Additionally, you can start including a lot more people in the decision to hire someone, including your team members, team leaders and peers. Sometimes you could even include an admin staff member to give a final seal of approval. This also makes each person accountable for the onboarding and mentorship of the new hire: Show me a person who wants to be wrong.

You might be thinking, “Wow, that’s a huge investment for one hire.” It is, and we invest even more to onboard our new team members. If they fail, it is a reflection on your company. You may have a couple of complaints about the investment a candidate has to make to get hired. The truth is that if a candidate cannot understand that due diligence is important, they may not fit. It can be tough on the people who make it through all the technical tests and seem like a good fit but are then not onboarded because they do not share the behaviors that your values require. It should not be your intention to lead a candidate on, so be clear about the process and that your team has the ultimate, final decision.

How To Make A New Hiring Commitment

This year, make a new commitment to your team of directors and HR department. Hire culture over knowledge — every time. This means you may have to devalue the pretty LinkedIn profile and increase your sensitivities to anything that seems “off,” even if it’s minute. One barometer that has proven to be fail-proof for us is to see how the candidate interacts with the reception staff. Are they warm and friendly or cold and elitist? You can look at this not just for candidates but also for your suppliers, customers and partners.

What we have achieved using these strategies is incredible. I can confidently report that we have a happier team (as a whole) and more successful new hires that are billable sooner, promoted in a shorter time and are generally successful and part of the team. And best of all: they’ve contributed to increased customer satisfaction.

Finally, you should make the commitment to never bend your corporate integrity for anyone. When you go home at night, you can then rest knowing you are avoiding:

• Reduced productivity from a misfitting hire or an unhappy stick in the wheel amplifying and creating problems

• Obsession about a title from people looking for a better title, but not delivering on the core of their current job

• Hiring an employee at a high salary that leaves before you realize their investment

• High voluntary turnover rates

Now that the hires are in line with your culture, we can finally get things done your way. The truth is that when you don’t have to push your culture, you’ll be better able to have intelligent conversations about strategy with everyone on the same page. There should be fewer arguments: just conversations. We should have just listened to our gut and made these changes in the first place.

As Lawrence Bossidy, a former executive at General Electric, said: “Nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies.”

Read the Forbes article here.

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