Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 29 – bringing innovators into a business and keeping them there 12

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on April 4, 2017

This is my 29th 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 1-28.)

I began systematically working my way through a to-address list of issues that are relevant to finding and bringing in innovative, creative new hires, in Part 27 and Part 28 of this, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of discussion as:

1. First, you need to reach out through communications channels that the people you seek to reach actively use,
2. Then you need to craft conversation starting messages that will prompt them to reach back to you, and to at the very least look further into what you have to say, and into what you do and are as a business.
3. Then you have to actually engage, and with a goal of starting a conversation – which would lead to these people thinking of your business as a possible next employer, and with their coming to see one or more positions that you have available as possible good next career steps for themselves.
4. And this crucially means you’re learning more about them, just as they reach out to learn more about you.

I offered at least orienting, framework responses to the first two of these points in the immediately preceding installments to this series. My primary goal for this posting is to continue from that start, to address the remaining two points of that list. And I begin doing so, at Point 3 by making what should be a tritely obvious point – but one that in practice is all too often overlooked.

• Conversations have to be two-way in order to be conversations.

The standard business culture expectation and practice, is that the vast majority of a job candidate search and hiring process conversation has to be essentially one way, with the business doing most of the talking and potential new hires doing most of the listening. They provide feedback and information that a hiring manager and their Human Resources colleagues would use in making their candidate filtering and selection decisions, and from early on when first winnowing an initially large resume submission list, through making their final decisions from among the smaller number actually brought in for interviews. But the overall emphasis is from within the business outward in all of this, and with any job candidates or potential job candidates primarily just offering information that the business would need and use as it carries out its selection processes.

What I am writing about here amounts to turning that entire process around and onto its head, and making conversations more genuinely two-way and in fact more genuinely collaborative. What can I as a hiring manager or owner, and this business as a whole offer you, and what can you offer us, and how can we best meet each other’s needs and priorities, working together? Candidate filtering and selection and all of the best-fit oriented considerations that enter into a more traditional hiring process, still take place and in many respects in the same way. You still look for the best people to meet your current and anticipated needs, and people who can work effectively in your business and with others there and in the context of your corporate culture in place. It is just that allowing your hiring system and its selection processes to take place in a more open and even collaborative context can help you and your business to find the people who you really need, and particularly when you need new hires who do not simply fit into cookie cutter, standard employee moulds.

• Think of this as hiring with a goal of improving your odds that the best out there will see working with you as their best choice too, and that you will find them in the first place so you can help make that happen.

I stress here that while I am writing about business processes in this, I am also writing about the underlying business culture in place too, and about the sometimes need to change and even profoundly change that too – if this type of approach is to work. Openness and a willingness to actively listen and engage with new people cannot work, if those words simply become slogans and unpursued ideals that are more routinely honored in their breach than in their practice. If a change to this type of business process system is announced as the new one to be followed and the new way to do things, but without any real buy-in from those who would have to actually implement it and make it work, it cannot succeed. I am going to very explicitly return to the issues of corporate culture in all of this when I delve into the issues of working with the people and systems already in place as a business enters into this type of systematic change, later in this series. I bring up this aspect of this challenge now too, because the issues that I at least briefly allude to here and that I will delve into more deeply in that later posting, are important for every aspect of what I am writing about in this series and certainly in this part of it.

That stated, let’s consider the specifics of Point 3 itself, as offered above. I have been addressing its issues up to here from an overall process perspective. I wrote Point 3 in terms of the temporal order that this would take place in. And I pick up on that face of Point 3 here by adding in a need for feedback and course correction, and certainly if evidence gathered already as to hiring process success would indicate that good and best candidates are falling away at some step and at an unacceptable rate.

Review how these systems work and both in general and in the hands of specific stakeholders who actually do this work. If effective hiring performance fall-offs and unwanted hiring candidate losses are happening, or if there is significant evidence that would suggest that this probably is happening, that raises two fundamentally important questions:

• Is it the hiring process itself that needs to be corrected as a system? Consider for example, a scenario in which the decision making process and its step by step flow is saddled with avoidable delays in carrying out next steps – while the great candidates who you most want are still actively looking elsewhere too and going elsewhere as a result.
• Or is this a training issue where some of the key people involved in this activity from the business side need to learn how to communicate more effectively in a hiring context? Consider here, a scenario in which key hiring managers create avoidable friction or disconnects in the basic message that they convey to potential new hires, that would conflict with any more open and two-way engaging approach, and that would tell these people that this is a business that does not really listen. Are some of your stakeholder participants saying or doing things that would discourage or turn away your potential best new hires and in ways that they could learn do differently and better, or simply stop doing entirely?

I only assume here that your business is in a position to be able to effectively compete for new staff and even for the best of them, in the face of what your also-hiring competitors can offer. I only assume in that, that your business has sufficient strength of position and sufficient resources to be able to compete for good candidates, and that it and you are going to be able to effectively argue the case that you have a lot of good to offer them too.

Picking up on the second of the above-stated bullet point possibilities, but this time in terms of business culture and the possibility of disconnects that it could create here:

• If a hiring manager persists on taking a more “I talk, you listen, We have the upper hand in all of this” approach and even when meeting with essential hire candidates – who have options elsewhere,
• Things are not going to work out well and certainly not consistently and certainly not long-term.

I express that example scenario in perhaps extreme terms but I have seen it play out essentially exactly as stated, and even when a business has a real hole in their essential in-house skills sets and then finds that they have just avoidably let a great candidate walk away who could have filled it.

• Start conversations and actively continue them from there – and take the initiative when that would increase you and your business’ chances of achieving its best possible hiring results, and certainly for any high needs candidate search and hire campaigns.

Point 4, in many respects simply reiterates and reinforces a basic message that should already be very clear by now, at least when considered in terms of this flow of discussion. Every candidate and potential hire that you might face and consider, and for any job opening is going to do their research on you and your business – and on you personally if you are the hiring manager and if they have your name and title, and you have a social media presence of any sort – and if they actually have any interest in this job. You have to expect that. And as part of the critical, essential business-side due diligence of these potential conversations and collaborations, you need to research your job candidates too, and both to help identify who you would best consider and pursue, and so you can do so more effectively – so you can develop and engage in the right conversations with them and for both you and for them.

I offered a brief what’s-next list of discussion topics to come in Part 28 of this series, for after completing at least a first take on addressing the issues raised in my above-repeated four point list. And the core item that I would look into after completing that, was a complex of issues that I have already mentioned in passing above, which I repeat here as initially stated in Part 26:

• “And beyond that, how can you more effectively bring current employees and managers on-board with change, as their business pivots towards being more innovative – and even in its basic business processes where that would create greater business flexibility and competitive strength?”

I am going to address that more individual employee and individual manager-oriented set of issues in this series. But to set the stage for it, I am going to turn back to reconsider a closely related and at least equally complex set of issues that involve bringing innovation into a business from a structural perspective (as delved into in some detail in an earlier series that I would cite as being particularly relevant here too: Innovators, Innovation Teams and the Innovation Process, which can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 and its Page 3 continuation as postings 366 and loosely following.)

My intent here and for purposes of this series, is not to recapitulate or reframe my earlier discussion of innovative teams per se, or of other relevant organizational structures and systems as a whole, but rather to focus in on one aspect of that larger conceptual and operation challenge: enabling a smoother integration of the type of change that I address here, into a perhaps very settled existing system and in ways that can increase buy-in from stakeholders and gate keepers already in place – and at a structural organizational level. Then I will turn to consider the more interpersonal dynamics of this.

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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