Most organizations and companies need to recruit external talent. Many believe they have found the holy grail of talent when they identify and bring a manager or exec in from outside the company. And, like in War Games, their “confidence is high! I repeat, confidence is high.”
The fact of the matter is — some statistics indicate up to 50% of the time — the candidate crashes and burns. What went wrong? Everything seemed to point to guaranteed success.
In our work with clients and their organizations in situations like this, we find three things went wrong:
- Not clearly understanding the job that needs to be done (before the advertising and hiring)
- Not clearly understanding the organizational context in which the new manager will work (not assessing the organizational culture for alignment of the new manager)
- Insufficient candidate vetting (meaning, a mismatch in skills and attributes of the new manager to the role and/or the organization itself)
If you do not know the job that needs to be done (which Michael D. Watkins defines as start-up, turnaround, accelerated growth, realignment, and sustaining success), then finding the right candidate for the job is a stochastic event. The best way to determine what job needs to be done is to ask. Ask individuals who are part of the operating unit, who receive services, and who provide services. Understand what needs to be done now for the department or company to be successful. And, as addressed in our previous article, Hiring for Fast-Growth Departments or Companies, we strongly encourage you to consider the criteria transformability; that is, a candidate’s interest in and ability to adapt to change. This process is really a 360-degree review of the department or the operating unit.
Organizations have personalities. They have established cultures. Many can behave like the body’s immune system, ravaging foreign invaders that appear as a threat to the system. We had a client who hired a CIO who did not represent the culture of the organization. He was direct and abrasive. The organizational members were polite. The hiring manager believed the CIO would “shake things up.” The only person that got shaken up was the new hire. He lasted six months, even amidst a “polite” culture.
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When you know the job that needs to be done and you have an understanding of the culture of the organization, you then outline the skills and behaviors that the ideal candidate should possess. Breakdown the skills and behaviors into “musts” and “wants”: the non-negotiables to get the job done versus the “would-be-nice to haves.” No candidate can meet all the criteria an organization can mobilize in the selection process. But the successful candidate must at least meet all of the “musts” identified. We recommend a personality-based and job-performance indicator that measures a candidate’s potential for success. We also recommend an interview process that includes superiors, peers, and subordinates. Also, the assumption is that what the job is (that is, the current and necessary essential functions of the job) has been assessed and accurately captured on a job or position description to clearly frame expectations from the beginning.
Hiring candidates from outside the organization can be a risk for both the candidate and the organization. Make a concerted effort to reduce the risk and increase the chance for success. Not only does “everyone win,” but more importantly, work gets done, the company continues to grow, and you do not end up with a retention problem.
Talent integration is essential for organizational success. But it starts with a thoughtful and detailed recruiting process; whether the candidate comes from within the organization or from outside the organization. Assuming that a talented person will show up and begin producing great work is naïve and reckless. If you want your organization to grow, if you want to minimize disruptions, if you want to reduce turnover and if you want to control costs, start with recruiting and integrating the right talent.