Solving the talent paradox: Starting top-down
“The best way to be productive is to have a great team. So I spend more time than most CEOs on human resources. That's 20% of my week.”— Kevin P. Ryan
I am often asked the secret of running an executive search firm successfully over the past 27 years. Being a search firm, people naturally believe that this success comes from our ability to find great talent for our client organizations. That, in fact, is the secondary reason. The primary reason is our ability to find & attract the best talent for our own organization. When it comes to hiring our own talent, we have completely reversed the selection process ie.Top down.
There exists a talent paradox today that arises from the fact that with such a vast pool of great potential available in the country & a new generation of highly skilled youngsters ready to look at new exciting opportunities, organizations continue to complain about their inability to find good talent. This paradox exists because of the outdated hiring processes, which organizations keep trying to better rather than change.
A typical organizational hiring process starts with a template given by the stake holder to the HR team. The Talent Acquisition team starts the search process looking for a good match. The shortlisted candidates go through a series of interviews, building the candidate’s expectations, which generally get shattered by rejection at the level of the final decision maker. This not only prolongs the hiring process, it creates a poor image of the company in the eyes of the talent pool & reflects on the competency of the people who have moved the candidate forward towards subsequent level of interviews, only to be rejected at a later stage.
It is very evident that if people shortlisted by HR & other stakeholders are likely to get rejected at a later stage, then obviously the reverse is also true---right candidates get rejected in the preliminary stages, who could well have made the grade at the top. This sad fact has led to the paradox of not being able to find the right talent by organizations, despite their availability.
The reason for this is best explained by Howard Schultz, who says in his book- “Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time”
Hiring people is an art, not a science and résumés can't tell you whether someone will fit into a company's culture.
Today while the recruiters battle to perfect the Science of search--- assessing people on tangible parameters like education, years of experience, accomplishments, personality profiles, etc. the future performance parameters lie in the non-tangible characteristics including people skills, management and leadership style, values and beliefs - stuff that originates as “gut feel” & is intuitive and what Shultz refers to as “Art”. Only someone who clearly understands the company’s vision & ideals & is able to translate that into the selection criteria is in a position to recognise the real talent behind a resume.
Does it make sense for CEOs & promoters to spend so much time on hiring & working on their people? The answer lies in what Lawrence Bossidy, ex-Chairman of the $40b Honeywell Corporation says “I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies”
Years ago I read the autobiography of Mr M.S Oberoi—“Dare to Dream”, where the grand old man of Indian hospitality admitted he spent over 60% of his time on his people. It was an eye opener for me that he used to personally select candidates for his training institute—The Oberoi School of Learning & Development & then was personally involved in placement of every passing out student. No wonder the Oberoi group built some of the finest hotels in the world.
Since we hire talent purely on attributes, we have built a very strong mentoring & development programme that enables people to go up the learning curve rapidly. I run this programme personally, on full time basis, with amazing results.
The future successful organizations will be those who recognise the fact that hiring & developing talent is no more a linear HR function but a more comprehensive business function. I fully agree with Kevin P. Ryan, an American Investor & entrepreneur, when he says “I heavily overinvest in recruiting. I have an understanding with certain search firms that if you find someone great, don't wait until there's a job opening - send him to me”
The day an organization can select candidates in alignment with its vision, the end-point of successful delivery will be met & talent search will stop being a paradox. This can only happen when assessment starts top-down.