Kick-Start Your Firm’s Growth By Hiring Candidates With Game-changer Competencies

This article covers how you can directly accelerate your firm’s growth rate through recruiting. If you’re skeptical about whether that is possible, be aware that data reveals that human capital has a much greater impact on kickstarting a firm’s growth than any financial or capital investment. And of all human capital functions, recruiting by far has the highest measurable impact on revenue and profit margins.

As a result of recording’s high capability, I am a strong advocate of the TA strategy that is known as business impact recruiting, whose focus is on impressing executives by directing a firm’s recruiting resources so that they have the highest direct and measurable impact on strategic corporate goals (i.e. growth, revenue, innovation). For example, recruiting can directly increase revenue when it focuses its best recruiters and a high level of recruiting resources toward hiring better salespeople. Within a few months, when those newly hired salespeople sell 10 percent more, executives can unambiguously see the dollar increase in sales revenue.

Another component of this business impact strategy is to understand that all new hires are not equal. And that you maximize your business impacts when you specifically recruit new hires who have what I call “game-changer skills.” These unique skills provide significant measurable business impacts that can only be described as breathtaking. Firms like Apple and Google have found that an innovator new-hire will produce at least 25 times more than an average employee in the same job. With the increasing use of data in talent acquisition, top firms have found that there are other high-impact game-changing competencies.

In another example, Google found that the single most important game-changing competency that predicted on-the-job success across all jobs was learning ability. However, unfortunately, I find that literally only a handful of firms have identified and quantified the value of even these two relatively obvious game-changer competencies.

The Top 10 Game-changer Competencies That You Should Be Targeting

To impact company growth, recruiting must go beyond its traditional role of filling positions with productive people. But rather than guessing, firms must use a data-driven approach to identify all of the game changer competencies that have a significant impact on the growth rate of their own organization. And if you’re curious about which competencies often appear on most corporations game-changer lists, I have listed them below, with the most impactful ones appearing first.

  1. Innovation — the top five firms in market cap (Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon) all share a single common defining feature, which is serial innovation. As a result, no competency is more impactful than hiring innovators across all business functions. Incidentally, hiring “idea people” is insufficient, because you won’t get the desired growth unless their ideas are actually implemented. So instead focus on hiring innovators who also collaborate, influence others, and problem solve, in order to get their ideas quickly implemented.
  2. Rapid learning — the likelihood of innovating and coming up with high-impact solutions increases dramatically when your new hires continually remain on the leading edge of knowledge. Individuals who have what is also known as a “growth mindset” develop their own process for continually learning and then applying that knowledge to company problems and opportunities. These rapid learners also learn broadly, because they don’t just learn within their own function, but instead they learn across multiple functions and even between industries.
  3. Adaptable — businesses now operate in what is known as a VUCA world, which is unfortunately, defined by a great deal of uncertainty, volatility, and constant rapid change. New hires who are capable of comfortably handling this continuous rate of rapid change are called adaptable. New hires can quickly pivot, adapt, and go in an entirely different direction when the market, technology, or competition demands it.
  4. Speed — almost everything in the world of business now moves much faster. This means that it’s not enough to simply be able to innovate and adapt because successful new hires need to be able to do both rapidly. Certain new hires can do the same tasks and make decisions much faster while maintaining quality. So your hiring process needs to identify prospects and new hires who work fast and have a sense of urgency, because they will automatically identify ways to do high-value things faster.
  5. Strategic thinkers — most new hires are only capable of focusing on the immediate future and what is happening immediately around their current job. However, a higher impact approach is to seek out new hires who are future focused, with a strategic big-picture perspective. They have the capability of connecting the dots, and identifying and understanding the inner-relationships between multiple seemingly unrelated internal and external factors.
  6. A high career trajectory — most individuals are hired based on their immediate ability to do “this job.” However, individuals who are already at least partially capable of also doing “the next job” provide additional value because the new hire can probably already fill in at the next-level-up job. And by starting with this additional capability, it means that there is a high likelihood that they can also be promoted into the next job. This ability and likelihood of moving up are known as having a “steep career trajectory,” defined as having a high likelihood of being rapidly promoted multiple times, of becoming leaders, of being able to move between functions/Strategic Business Unit, and of eventually becoming part of the succession plan. High career trajectory individuals are also likely to stay at the firm long enough to provide a much higher than average long-term business impact.
  7. A global mindset — in a world where firms need to grow around the globe continually, new hires who can only focus on and operate in their home country will limit the firm’s growth. Instead, the focus should be on hiring individuals with a global mindset. They fully understand the global economy, and as a result, they come up with scalable solutions that can be applied globally.
  8. Diverse thinking — many firms focus on hiring diverse individuals. However, the best firms go a step further and focus on hiring individuals who think and attack problems in a diverse way. This broader but more impactful approach requires that you hire and retain individuals who have demonstrated that they “think differently.” They reflect the needs of your diverse customer base, whether they meet the standard EEOC definition of diversity or not.
  9. Day 1 mindset — new hires who maintain “Day 1 vitality” act as if they are at a startup, even though they work at an established firm. Amazon has championed “Day 1” attitude. Amazon expects individuals to act as if they work at a startup by continually experimenting, making decisions with only 70 percent of the desired information, and focusing on results, rather than existing processes.
  10. Leadership results — everyone agrees that leadership capabilities are important for company growth. But few firms have found an accurate way of assessing current and future leadership capabilities. So I instead recommend focusing on those new hires who have demonstrated that their leadership at the team level has produced above-average results. Because what it takes to be a great leader changes continuously,  limit efforts to try to project which new hires will become future leaders, unless you have hard data showing that your past projections have been accurate.

Look For Self-Motivated Individuals

Motivating new hires is a time-consuming task. It is largely made unnecessary if you hire individuals who, in addition to having game-changing competencies, are also self-motivated. These self-driven new hires also add value because when their work is done, they automatically seek out more work to remain busy, to learn, and to increase their overall contribution.

Action Steps for Maximizing Your Business Impact

Once you’ve identified the high-impact, game-changer competencies at your firm, there are some additional actions that you will need to take.

  • Develop a formal process for identifying these high-impact, game-changing competencies in your recruiting prospects and candidates.
  • Work with the CFO’s office in order to quantify the dollar impact added by each of these competencies. And as part of your business case, remember to show that in addition to their direct business value, these individuals will also act as a magnet to make it easier to attract others.
  • Prioritize your jobs so that you focus your recruiting on the jobs that have the highest business impact when they are filled with individuals with game -hanging competencies.
  • Set a goal to develop a talent pipeline approach, so that you have a continuous supply of talent with game-changer competencies.
  • You may need to develop specialized sourcing processes that can successfully find individuals with these high-value competencies.
  • Gather market research data so that you fully understand the attraction factors that will successfully draw individuals with these competencies to your firm.
  • You may need to develop supplemental and focused hiring processes. These processes will have to be tailored so that they effectively assess and successfully sell these unique individuals who are often rejected under the standard corporate recruiting process (g., innovators, diverse thinkers, and strategic thinkers).

Learn More About Implementing a Game-changer Competency Hiring Strategy

If you want to learn more, I will be offering a session and answering questions on this important topic at the October ERE recruiting conference in Minneapolis. If possible, I hope to see you there.

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Dr. John Sullivan

Dr. John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions. He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.