Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 13 – involving the crowd as a source of competitive advantage 8

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 3, 2015

This is my thirteenth installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-12.)

I have been working my way through a four part list of to-discuss points that I initially offered in Part 10 of this series and have, up to here, primarily addressed the first two of them, which I repeat here as:

• The characterization of at least some of the core issues and approaches that are available for determining which skills and types of experience you might need next, in-house in building for your business’ competitive future,
• And how to more effectively use online social media as a source of insight, both in resolving that starter question and in finding the right candidates to reach out to for this.

While a quick initial consideration of these two points might lead one to think they would be relatively simple and straightforward, I have in fact divided them, and particularly the second of them into a set of interrelated subsidiary issues that merit separate, individual consideration (see Part 10 itself and also Part 11 and Part 12.)

As a starting point for continuing that discussion here, I assume that you as a business manager or owner, have arrived at an at least significantly focused first round understanding of what you would want to hire for, in bringing highly innovative new employees into your business – you have at least a workable starting point list of the types of projects that you would want them to work on. And you have achieved at least a basic understanding of what your customers and potential customers would want you to offer to the marketplace, if your business were to bring them, what for them are wish-list products that neither you nor your competition offer now. This means your understanding of what you think your innovative new employees should primarily work on, is at least first-draft aligned with what the market wants. And turning back to the market insight side of this alignment again,

• You know something of what your customers would ideally find for sale that you could offer,
• From a combination of reaching out to ask where your current customer base has problems and complaints about what is out there on the market,
• And from going beyond just asking of these more immediate here-and-now concerns to learn about what they would want if they could obtain more novel offerings too.

That last bullet point insight, I add, is not in general going to come to you as described solutions, but rather as sketched out needs, that you and your business’ innovators would find ways to realize in practical, cost effective new products.

And pursuing that line of discussion brought me to the end of Part 12, and to the question of finding the right people to do all of this as new highly innovative employees. And that brings me very specifically to the area of discussion that I would focus on here: tapping into online social media to help you to more clearly know what you have to look for in job candidates and who you would want to consider, and actively seek to hire in order to meet these emerging needs.

I have already posted a separate series on hiring best practices per se that I offer here as a more general reference on that complex of issues: see Hiring 101 (at HR and Personnel, postings 93 and following for its Parts 1-9.) And I at least briefly discussed the hiring process itself in the context of this specific series in its Part 10, where I focused on what you would indicate that you are looking for in a posted job description, and for both essential skills, experience and interpersonal and communications qualities, and as “also desirables” when looking for more “out of the box” innovators.

I begin addressing that set of challenges here, with consideration of consumer and marketplace insight as to their needs, and consumer wish list desires that you would seek to better address. Put succinctly:

• You want to look for candidates and potential candidates who you have reason to believe would help you address those specific needs, and the new next step wishes and needs that are sure to follow.

The people who you will most want to hire for this, might already be out there in the job market looking for a next work and career opportunity, and whether or not they already currently have a job. But they might be fully employed and not looking, in which case you would have to convince them to leave their current work situation if you are to successfully hire them and bring them into your business. What should you look for?

Let’s start with prospective new hires’ LinkedIn or otherwise posted online professional networking profiles. And to consider that set of issues from the employee perspective, I would suggest your reviewing: Using Social Media as Job Search and Career Development Business Analysis Resources 10: thinking through your planned online professional image and message 1. The second half of that series, from its Part 9 on is all about what a business can find out online and through social media about a prospective job candidate and hire, and by extension how a would-be employee can more effectively present themselves for what they offer. Start there, and as part of this due diligence process look for other social media channels that they connect and share information and insights through too (as also discussed in that series in its Parts 11 and following.)

• Start by looking for prospective hires who have already started building a track record of innovative success, and in this don’t just look for “have worked on” statements in the details that are offered. Look for outcomes insight that would indicate something of the level of value created from this effort.
• As a perhaps obvious continuation of that point, try doing social networking site user profile searches using key terms that come to the front from your reviews and analyses of marketplace feedback. What terms keep recurring there that would reflect areas that your business could profitably, effectively develop into, and which possible new hires have the same or related words recurring in their professional networking profiles?

This candidate search strategy is obvious, but it is not likely to be sufficient. And I add it is likely to mostly lead you to people who are already employed, who you would have to win over to changing jobs, and perhaps even where a relocation or other constraints box barriers would be a part of that. (See Job Search and Your Constraints Box for a discussion of those issues and of what constraints boxes are in a job search context.)

How do you find good and best potential candidates who are still just starting, or early in their careers? Look for profiles of people who have more to say about their educational experience and internships, and about any early stage business ventures they may have entered into or sought to start themselves, than they do about established career performance and successes.

And this brings me to websites such as Facebook – which businesses and individual professionals post to and socially network and connect through, but that are largely and even primarily used for more social non-work and non-career related sharing. The challenge here is in finding the information and the insight and the people who you want to find, but without being blocked and turned away by what can be all of the unrelated and distracting rest.

And this also, and perhaps more importantly brings me to active networking, and not just reading content silently online that has been posted by others. Ultimately, if you want to find the people who you need in your business and certainly in meeting this type of new hire need, you have to network and network and network. Social media is interactive and you have to be an active participant in the ongoing conversation.

And exactly as is the case for people looking for work and networking for that reason, this is not just about who your immediate already-familiar contacts are, or who they know who you know too. This is about who your direct connection networking contacts know who you do not know yet but should, and it is about who those possible networking contacts know too, who they could help you to meet too.

And this brings me to the final third and fourth discussion points that I initially listed in Part 10 of this series:

• Relevant staff retention issues, with that including a discussion of better understanding which positions and employees are most crucial now and which will be needed moving forward for their special qualifications,
• And how best to meet the needs and requirements of these employees in retaining them on-staff, that would work both for these key employees themselves and for the business as a whole.

I have already at least briefly touched upon these issues throughout this portion of this series, from Part 10 on. And I have just touched upon the issues of challenging the staff retention efforts of other businesses here in this posting, and hiring away valuable employees from them. I will more explicitly delve into all of this and for both of these last two bullet points in my next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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