Food for Thought…A New Way to Approach the Staffing Challenge

By Ken Garner
In June 27, 2014

We all know that one of the most critical factors to business success is the talent level of our staff. We all know Jim Collins’ quote related to “getting the right people on the bus” by heart. Some of us are confronting the challenge of finding candidates that possess a dramatically different skill set than what would have been desirable just a short time ago. So, I’m always on the lookout for information that provides a different perspective on the talent recruitment process.

When I received the June 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review I was immediately intrigued by a call-out on the cover: “How to Spot Talent (Hint: Experience is Overrated)”. This led me to one of the feature articles, “21st Century Talent Spotting, Why Potential Now Trumps Brains, Experience, and Competencies” by Claudio Fernandez – Araoz. If there is something out there that really trumps brains, experience, and competencies I want to know about it. And I thought you would want to know about it too.

The author’s main point is centered on the idea that today’s business environment is too volatile, complex and ambiguous to allow critical staffing decisions to be based on previously held standards exclusively focused on skills and competencies. Instead, he argues that candidates should be evaluated on the basis of their potential to continually learn new skills and on their ability to effectively adapt to ever changing circumstances. Before I share a more detailed definition of “potential” I want to touch on another revelation shared by the author.

Most of us are just beginning to emerge from tough financial times where every effort to minimize expense was necessary just to survive. Rather than thinking about staff expansion we were focused on how to reduce staffing to the lowest levels possible. “Talent Spotting” was the last thing on our minds. However, as you consider growing or reengineering your staff you should be aware of emerging trends that could make the competition for talent a real challenge. The author sums up three emerging trends that he feels will dramatically impact talent recruitment in the following way –

“Taken independently, globalization, demographics, and pipelines would each create unprecedented demand for talent over the next decade. The pace of globalization has never been faster; the imbalance between old and young has never been so dramatic; views on the pipelines of qualified successors have never been more negative; and the survey ratings of development practices are the lowest I’ve seen. Combine all those factors, and you get a war for talent that will present a huge, perhaps insurmountable, challenge for most organizations.”

Wow, that’s scary stuff. So, how does “potential” provide a possible solution? The author argues that by focusing on potential and the five qualities that he uses to define it you will be able make your recruitment efforts more successful. Here is how he breaks down the five qualities of potential –

  • Motivation: “A fierce commitment to excel in the pursuit of unselfish goals.
  • Curiosity: “A penchant for seeking out new experiences, knowledge, and candid and an openness to learning and change.”
  • Insight: “The ability to gather and make sense of information that suggests new possibilities.”
  • Engagement: “A knack for using emotion and logic to communicate a persuasive vision and connect with people.”
  • Determination: “The wherewithal to fight for different goals despite challenges and to bounce back from adversity.”

The article discusses ways to assess these qualities in new candidates, but also talks about the need to instill and reinforce them in existing organization leadership. The author also points out that you can’t overlook other attributes including intelligence, values, and leadership abilities. In my opinion, there is enough potential value in the article’s content to invest 30 minutes of your time. Check it out.

So, if the war for talent materializes according to the article’s prediction, you now have a different way to approach talent assessment. It’s certainly food for thought.

Ken Garner

President & CEO Ken Garner joined Epicomm – then the Association of Marketing Service Providers – in November 2008 as its President and CEO after a 33 year career in the printing industry – all with the same company. He joined United Litho, a heatset web magazine printing company, after receiving his undergraduate degree. Working his way up the corporate ladder from janitor/delivery driver he held a variety of jobs including V.P of Operations and V.P. of Sales and Marketing. He spent the last 12 years of his printing career as United Litho’s president. In 1994, he engineered the sale of the company to the Sheridan Group and became a member of its Leadership Team.

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