Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 19 – bringing innovators into a business and keeping them there 2

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on February 28, 2016

This is my nineteenth 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 1-18.)

I began discussing innovators as employees, and as job candidates worth pursuing in Part 18. And ended that installment’s primary narrative by explicitly noting the challenge of identifying sources of potential value in the people who you would have work for you, where you seek out different, non-standard employees with creative, innovative potential.

• And to illustrate the challenges faced there, remember that your most promising innovative candidates who you would benefit the most from, might have mixed track records of knowing their field and having skills that really matter – but of not really fitting in, and certainly in workplace contexts where routine and rote are the desired norm. Look for potential in at least somewhat disruptive and certainly somewhat different, “non-standard” packages and for people who would challenge you and your business to think and act differently – and who look to have the potential for making that work.

I encompass both conundrum and challenge in that piece of advice. If you were to ask essentially any Human Resources professional who actively plays a role in the hiring and onboarding process, or in managing performance reviews from the perspective of overall Personnel policy and practice, you will hear talk of job candidate selection and employee retention as a due diligence process. It is and always will be easier to manage this when job candidates for potential hire, and employees already in place are more easily defined and quantified for what they do, according to standard and even cookie-cutter like patterns. This can even be easy for its narrowly defined standardization in what is looked for and what is done in a “good employee” context, when you are only considering or allowing in people who would do essentially the same things in the same standardized ways, and with no innovative variations thereof expected or wanted.

I am not speaking against rote standardization here. If, for example, you are hiring and retaining accountants for your finance department, you would in essentially all cases and circumstances want to find and retain people who really know and adhere to standard and standardized generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) as are routinely followed and even legally mandated in the country or other legal jurisdiction in which they and your business are operating out of. And if your business is headquartered in one country and a group of its accountants are actually working in a second one, and there are differences in how GAAP procedures are carried out in those two places, you would expect these accountants to know and follow whatever version is required where, when reporting their work. But the key detail here is standardization and the uniform, consistent pursuit of a set accounting approach.

Obviously, you are going to want to find and secure, and retain innovative employees and managers for new product development and refinement. My primary focus here in this posting is in the perhaps vast gray area in-between these two more clear-cut extremes, where your business can seek out opportunity to be innovative and to out-compete its rivals from pursuing and developing better, more innovative business processes. But at the same time I would also address here, the goal of finding and securing innovative product developers too – more obviously necessary innovators.

And this orienting start brings me to the core topic area of this posting:

• The use of social media as a source of insight into prospective new hire candidates, among other resources that are available for this.

I will proceed from this topic to consider the issues of underutilized creative potential that can be found among a business’ current employees, but I will start with new hires. And I start that by posing a fundamental question.

How do job candidates present themselves when initially reaching out to a business, and either in response to some specific job posting or more entirely on their own initiative? The obvious answer to that is through resumes and cover letters. And these tools both open and close doors, and close them in what might be unconsidered ways.

One of the first postings to my HR and Personnel directory in this blog was Human Resources, Hiring Managers and Spam Resumes. And the basic thrust of that brief essay was that it is so easy to click to send a copy of a resume electronically, and it is so inexpensive to do so that the vast majority of job seekers blast submit their same generic resume in all directions and to any and every conceivable job posting that they might in some way be eligible for. And this, in practice means sending those generic resumes to seemingly endless numbers of businesses where the senders are not in fact eligible, for lacking specific absolutely required skills, experience or credentials too. So for self-protection if nothing else, it has become the norm for Human Resources at a hiring business, and for hiring managers when they receive these submissions directly, to scan all of this flood of resumes received into an electronic database, which they then filter and select from using SQL queries that specifically look for key words indicating that specific resumes address their non-negotiable core new hire requirements.

I have already addressed the issues of writing and submitting resumes where you as a candidate would be a good choice for having the necessary qualifications looked for. And I have already written of the need to know what wording a hiring company uses in its job descriptions and on its web site and other online forums, so you can use the same terms that they would use in those SQL queries. And those are important. But for purposes of this posting, and this series, I flip this around by noting that it is much, much easier for a business to arrive at the core requirements and core requirement terms when putting together a job description and those SQL queries, for standard employee, routine work positions, than it is to do this for capturing more individualistic, innovative new hire candidates.

Yes, indicate in your job description that you are looking for creative, innovative people, and ones who can prove they are from their past work. And throw a wider net there, and indicate interest in their non-work innovative efforts and successes too, and particularly if you wish to capture good candidates who are earlier in their work lives too, for this. Then stand back and expect the deluge of spam resumes – and this problem has only gotten a lot worse and a lot more pervasive since I wrote that posting in early 2010. But how do you capture the less-standard and non-standard in a job description, and in ways that you can capture in a fixed SQL query for finding the specks of gold in that flood of sand?

And this brings me to social media. Do a rough-cut first filtering step to select out potential candidates who at least indicate experience using the basic, core skills that a good hire would have, and experience that would be fundamentally relevant for working at a business like yours, and at basically the type of job that you are hiring for. And this can be a less restrictive and a less stringently limiting filtering search than you would use, for example in looking for a best rote, standardized job applicant such as accountant. It probably should be. Then look at those resumes for the novel and non-standard. And select out the candidates from there that you would look at in more depth. Yes, the more individual and innovative the people you need to hire, the more work you will have to do in finding and selecting the candidates who you will want to bring in and meet with face to face, and the more work you will have to do, in many cases, to bring them onboard too. (I will discuss that last point in more detail later in this series when I delve into the issues of businesses actively pursuing possible hires and reaching out to them – and even if they are already employed elsewhere.)

My goal here has been to develop a rationale for pursuing social media as a source of insight in looking for good new hire candidates and I will follow up on that in a next series installment where I will look into actually doing this. In anticipation of that and as background material relevant to that part of this series, I recently offered a series here at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 titled: Using Social Media as Job Search and Career Development Business Analysis Resources (as Postings 397-415.) I wrote this in large part from the would-be job candidate’s perspective, but in the course of that I laid out a road map for what a prospective hiring manager and their business can look for too. So my goal for the next installment in this series is going to be to at least start a more detailed discussion of how a hiring company can mine this rich source of information, and both in better refining what they are looking for in an ideal candidate, and for finding them. I will also at least briefly discuss how a hiring business can use social media to attract favorable attention from innovative and creative would-be hires too.

And as just noted above, I will also discuss the search for new employees who are more freely available, and the search for good candidates who are already employed, where potential new hires of both categories can bring hiring and work performance complications with them (e.g. from having signed non-compete agreements, etc with current or former employers.) And mapping out and understanding these potential performance restrictions can and should enter into the hiring decision process.

Then after finishing my discussion of hiring new employees for their innovative potential, I will discuss retaining them, and then the challenge of finding new innovative potential in your current workforce. In anticipation of that discussion, I note here that a big part of that effort can be grounded in giving your current employees an opportunity to self-identify themselves as innovators and both for how you allow them to connect and communicate in-house and for how you enable them to explore and pursue creative new ideas and projects as part of their work there. So I will discuss intranets and related resources there too, and a range of issues that arise when building terms of employment and the workplace that it would be carried out in, from an innovation-supportive perspective.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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