The approach of a new calendar year can be one of those times leaders begin asking themselves author Jim Collins’s famous question, “Have we got the right people in the right seats on the bus?” It’s a good question for any time of year, of course … but since the turn of the calendar can often deliver a sense of new purpose and focus for both teams and leaders, the period leading up to January 1 can indeed be a great time to reassess your organization’s personnel strategies. Here, then, are four best practices you should consider now for getting the right people into the right seats in 2019 … the people who are the very best fit for your business.
- Apply the SEARCH model. This is the best starting point, and it’s a step that too many leaders skip. SEARCH stands for skills, experience, attitude, results, cognitive skills, and habits/competencies. Together, they form a success profile. The success profile for any position you hope to fill must be clearly defined in all five areas. So: What specific skill sets will they need to be successful? What experience will they need to perform at 100% capacity within this role? What attitude – that is to say, what belief system – matches up with the team and with your organization as a whole? (Just as important, what attitudes and belief systems do you not want to hire?) What results will the successful candidate have already generated? Finally, what kind of “muscle memory,” what pre-existing behaviors and competencies, are required for success in this role? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you can’t expect to recruit effectively for this role. It’s that simple.
- Look inside. “Looking inside” means closely considering your current talent base. What current employees present a SEARCH profile suggesting they can successfully move into a new role … or can be developed to the point that they will soon be able to fill that role? Don’t make the common mistake of looking only within your own group. Look within the whole company, based on the SEARCH model you have developed. Start identifying the most promising employees before January 1. Start looking for projects you can assign and tasks you can delegate to these people now, before the year ends, so that you can gauge their performance and have a clearer sense of what your 2019 staffing picture will look like. Your aim is to validate that the people you have your eye on really would do a good job in the new role, and also give them a little on the job training. Note that we are talking here about strategic delegation, meaning delegation of tasks that match the career path you are trying to build for this person. That’s different from delegation that’s designed to take tasks you don’t like doing off your own to-do list!
- Look outside. For some roles, you will choose to look outside your organization for candidates who closely match the position’s SEARCH profile. The goal here is to reduce the probability of making a bad hire in a key position – which is, let’s face it, an expensive and stressful experience, and one of the worst ways to start the New Year. Steps you can take right now for filling important roles include: getting referrals for qualified candidates from current employees … leveraging your LinkedIn network to generate similar referrals … and utilizing the services of an outside assessment provider, such as Devine, to generate competency and behavioral information that you can evaluate before extending a job offer to any outside candidate. Note, though, that you must conduct this assessment after you have defined the SEARCH criteria for success within the job! Too many leaders run these assessments without having any clear sense of what they’re comparing the results against. That’s a waste of time, money, and attention.
- Talk things over with people you trust before you make a job offer. The more important the position you’re filling, the more important it is to have multiple people whose experience and opinions you trust weighing in on the decision. There are a lot of leaders who resist this idea. Many claim to have a “gut instinct” for what makes a great hire, and find lots of reasons not to bring key team members in collaboratively so they can have a vigorous discussion about whether a given job offer would really make sense for both sides. Very often, we find that these are the same people who make expensive bad hires … over and over again. Yes: Your “gut instinct” should be part of the equation … but it shouldn’t be mistaken for an effective hiring process. It’s estimated that the cost of a bad hire is typically five times the person’s annual salary. That’s a lot of money to risk on a “gut decision!” Make sure your process also includes interviews with multiple internal people, and make sure you have in-depth discussions with all the relevant stakeholders before you extend an offer.