It is often the case that companies rarely get hiring right. It is even a bigger issue, considering the time and resources that is invested into this exercise. A 2012 poll of global HR leaders submitted that, “The talent challenge may even rise with the complexity of global issues. It requires that companies bring in the kind of people that can expertly navigate the issues and drive them on to greatness.” That is the exact problem: “the-who-to” bring in. Our hypothesis below of the top five qualities companies hire may not be conclusive because like one psychoanalyst wrote, “The biggest upset to intelligence is positing an opinionated view and lacking the vision to imagine someday it may no longer be relevant.” However, our conversations with HR leaders and some CEOs and strict but careful observation of some of the world’s highly effective managers plus the turn of events around the world incite us to submit the following as “Top Five Qualities Companies Hire.”
Leadership and Entrepreneurial Drive
Entrepreneurs embody amazing leadership characteristics that build truly great organisations. They usually possess a clear mental blueprint of a better future even if it is a chaotic present. This positivism they demonstrate compels them to stay in and work things out. Call it grit! They just do not give up! They do not know anything else but to keep believing in a better story and continuously figuring out how to actualise that better story. This defining characteristic entrepreneurs exude, to me, must be crucial on any hiring leader’s checklist.
Their energy is such an infectious one that it discards any opaque culture and truly reveals who is aligned and who is not. When it is obvious you are not aligned, there can only be one option on the table: to jump out! Sorry, but you must be truly confused to still stay onboard a bus not headed your direction. General Electric CEO, Jack Welch, in an interview with BusinessWeek in 2006 mentioned that amongst the things he looked out for in a potential employee was an energetic person that could also energise others. In fact he stiffened, “I am desperate to hire someone who is smarter than me.”You just heard that from, unarguably, the most successful business leader of the 20th century. His decisive leadership such as scrapping all non-performing subsidiary businesses; ‘firing’ the least performing workforce; breaking the back of bureaucracy; strategic acquisitions and developing leaders set up General Electric, the conglomerate he led for 20 years, as the ‘Most Valuable Company’ in the world at the turn of the 21st century. We are inclined to think that if such a stalwart business thinker speaks, then we have to do what he says.
Entrepreneurial leaders capture the company’s vision and run with it. They discover and pursue need-based opportunities in territories that many companies uncover and pass by. It is in their DNA to take organisations from here to there. It is this electrifying passion, remarkable zeal, team playing talent and sharp focus on results they bring to companies that see them rising faster than their peers.
Ethics and Integrity
Sometimes, when you study an organisation’s core values and the lack of correlation with its people’s actions, you wonder whether the values mean anything at all to them. Again, it points out the flaw with many senior HR leaders in hiring persons that do not live the company’s values. It must be made increasingly clear that “people aren’t just an organisation’s most important asset; the right people are.” It was clear to us, after series of conversations with HR leaders, that people are hired for their competence (many a time, reflected in their sterling communication skill during the interview and length of experience); and fired for character and misalignment. It informs the fact that many companies hire for the numbers and pay less or perhaps no attention to purpose, values and culture. It certainly costs more if a company has to correct an ethical sideline by one employee than a quarter’s profit margin. You can imagine the costs if you have a lot more unethical people within.
In 2000, leading business thinker and academic, Gary Hamel, wrote a book titled: “Leading the Revolution,” in which he cleverly eulogised the innovative prowess of energy giant, Enron, heaping praise on its executive leadership for creating an organisation-wide culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, which over the years have undergirded the company’s growth and profitability. A year later, Enron fell. An ethical sideline from the same executives Hamel, a year earlier, had praised cost the company’s shareholders their money. It was reported that the company’s directors influenced its auditors to falsify financial reports, creating a picture of profitability whereas that was not the case. Sadly, business professor and author, Gary Hamel, could not see the Enron he so strongly praised a year away.
Our submission is that HR leaders should pay great deal of attention to bringing in persons that share and live the company’s purpose, values and culture. How? Ask questions on their actions in the midst of ethical dilemmas; conduct due diligence by investigating their previous workplace conduct; and look out for passion in their eyes for the company’s mission. A 2012 IBM poll revealed that three defining characteristics will inform who the company’s next leaders will be, topmost is: integrity.
Emotional and Social Intelligence
The most difficult person to lead is yourself. Since ages, man has struggled to control his emotions. He has overly reacted only to regret later. Sadly, this significant flaw, which has a direct effect on human performance or slack otherwise, had been given relatively less attention. Dr. Daniel Goleman, a psychologist found it necessary to lead a renaissance on this subject, terming it “Emotional Intelligence.”
Practice the following
First, be aware of your emotions: Know what turns you on and off. Stay off negative information that prompts a reaction from you. Ask questions why you are feeling what you are feeling right now. Could it be some bad news playing itself back into your mind? Could it be an expectation that is not being met? Be aware of what is inciting your current feeling.
Discipline yourself: Have the discipline to stay away from conversations and vile arguments that infuriate you. Keep a positive mindset and presence. It is a proven magnet that attracts people.
Show empathy: Do not leave your humanity at the office door and only take it back when its 5pm. People should be able to approach you and feel comfortable around you. Demonstrate compassion and concern for the needs of others. In our part of the world for instance, accompany colleagues to funerals and weddings if you can or send a delegation.
Relate well with others: Be a go-to person. Smile and connect with people. Keep a personality that allows people to draw closer to you. As a manager, you are responsible for the effectiveness of the persons you lead; hence, you want to open up so they can come to you for solutions to their problems. Simply, make time for people.
Celebrate major feats or achievements in your life: You just earned your MBA? Or successfully earned HRCI’s Professional in Human Resources (PHR) Certification? You successfully led perhaps the most controversial project for the year and delivered results in time and on budget? Pause from life’s seeming endless streak of activities and celebrate what you have achieved.
When Dr. Goleman talks about Social Intelligence, he captures succinctly the need for managers to exhibit exceptional interpersonal skills that compels their team members to want to “die” for the organisation. He explains that the success of a manager depends on the success of every other person. It is thus the habit of highly effective managers to put a premium on their relationships with people.
The blistering pace of change seems to render the erstwhile management paradigm of long term competitive advantage out of order. Instead, companies may have to leverage the ideas of its people to thrive on short term competitive gains. New hires should demonstrate innovative thinking right from the motivational letters and resumes they submit, through to how they define solutions to workplace challenges during interviews and the critical questions they ask before exiting the room. It is a lot easier to build upon the seed of innovation than it is to insert it into a person. Innovative minds exude the following traits:
- They are curious; asking questions and debating issues always
- They think a step ahead of their level
- They come to you with one new idea or another (even if it does not immediately make sense)
- They challenge thought processes and conventional methodologies
- They possess an endless passion for change and excellence
Smart hires have a global awareness. They follow political, economic and social trends around the world. As future business leaders, new hires for instance should be able to have a general idea of the implications of a Greek financial crisis and a mounting weakness in the Eurozone for the African private sector. They must be aware of the characteristics of Millennials, such as their disregard for values and processes and the challenges these brings to the work environment.
One need not travel around the world to possess a global orientation. You can do the following:
- Watch foreign movies depicting socio-cultural patterns of other parts of the world
- Network with friends from around the world on social media and learn about them
- Join global groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn and share ideas
- Read international journals and follow news around the world
These five critical qualities should shape the priorities of hiring leaders and help them bring in the right people that can deliver on the company’s strategic goals.
By: David Mills