Everyone says it, and I believe most leaders believe that, the people on your team are your most valuable and strategic resource. There is no doubt in my mind as I look at the organization I have worked for, and the organizations I have consulted with that many hiring decisions do not include the kind of process that goes beyond compliance to job requirements. Most human resource departments provide interviewing techniques and guidelines which focus exclusively on canned questions, which is fine for ascertaining if the candidate has the relevant job experience and skills. What is missing from this standardized approach is a systematic approach which allows one to discern if the candidate is the right ‘cultural fit’ for the job.This idea has been talked about for many years and there some organizations like W.L. Gore & Associates, Mars, Zappos, Patagonia, and Google to name a few, who only hire candidates whose values and behaviors appear congruent with their organizational culture.Unfortunately, too few organizations do this and many times end up with individuals who are a bad fit.
So how does an organization ensure that it isn’t simply going through the motions when hiring new employees but rather, has determined what are the ‘non-negotiables’, beyond qualifications, for new associates. According to RoundPegg, an organizational culture research consultancy, “Hiring people whose values match company values should be one of the top competencies of an organization committed to a high performance culture. The biggest lever you have at your disposal to align the company is to ensure that the new blood is the desired blood.” This belief and practice is truly what separates a highly effective organization from a mediocre or poor performing one. What is really unfortunate about these organizations, is that they are stuck in a downward spiral with no plan to break the cycle.The reasons for this could be; an over-emphasis on complying with rigid hiring practices, a ‘fetish-like’ desire for particular qualifications or pedigree (only hiring candidates who have graduated from elite universities), or a homogenous approach where diversity of thought is not valued. Any of these approaches will not allow for bringing new team members who are going to take your organization to the next level of performance – which I believe is what you want every time when hiring a new associate.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with C.L. Max Nikias, President of University of Southern California. During our discussion he mentioned that the major accomplishments and successes of his organization could be credited to his excellent leadership team. Further, he stated that the people on his team are the most important asset, which triggered my question, what qualities and characteristics are non-negotiable for his leadership team? His response was not only authentic and with his permission to share, an excellent model for hiring the right person, rather than the person who looks most qualified on paper. C.L. Max Nikias non-negotiable requirements for hiring leaders are knowledge, character, and judgement. I cannot recall a time in my entire career during a hiring decision or when a new hire was introduced to the organization that their ‘good character’ or ‘judgement’ was mentioned in their list qualifications! As I reflect on my time with Mr. Nikias, the following thoughts are worthy of consideration if you want hire the right people:
- Make hiring decisions which are unequivocally beneficial for both parties. It is far too easy to hire someone who simply meets the job qualifications on paper. But qualifications won’t help when the new persons’ attitude and actions are incompatible with the values, mission, and the culture of your organization.
- Ensure your interview panel understands that cultural fit is equally important as knowledge and expertise. Too often we take a lackadaisical approach to interviews and treat the task as just one of many tasks to complete. This approach is irresponsible and short-sited. It is imperative to step back and ask, what kinds of questions do we fail to ask that would provide a better assessment of the candidates suitability for the position?
- Make it your highest priority to ensure that you have the right people in the right jobs. Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan devote a chapter in their book Execution – The Discipline of Getting Things Done — “The Job No Leader Should Delegate – Having the Right People in the Right Place.” They emphasize strongly that leaders cannot delegate the process for selecting and developing people. When one finds people in the wrong jobs, it sends the message that those leaders are not personally committed or deeply engaged in the people process. Leaders are obsessive and fanatical when selecting talent.