“Hire the brightest”
“Recruit the most qualified when recruiting new employees”
“Build a team with the most competent members”
These are all phrases and wisdom which are well-known to managers. These ideas are so recognized and adapted, that they hardly deserve a second-thought, right?
WRONG. Nowadays, they appear to be incorrect.
In today’s business environment, which is highly competitive, fast-changing, and globally connected, a truly successful team should consider different elements. According to a recent paper from professor Jonathan Bendor from Stanford, focusing on having a variety of skills rather than a pure talent pool is often a better team-building technique.
Traditional wisdom worked in a certain and linear world. But today’s workplace is anything but predictable. We’ve moved from certainty to an absolute uncertainty, and to a world of strong differences in which old wisdom falls apart.
What years of experience have taught us about hiring “the best”
We’ve worked with all sorts of companies over the past 20 years, from retail to biotech, these principles apply to them all.
Last year, we worked with a company specialized in batteries. They were constantly looking for “top of the class” engineers from a specific set of universities. They were all the same, with similar skills and knowledge. And of course, they were starting to struggle when it came to innovation and team-work.
One time, we managed to get one of our favorite candidates (with a different background) to interview with the hiring team – they were all positively surprised! He didn’t have the same knowledge as the rest, but his complemented what the others lacked – therefore building a stronger team.
Different people have different skills. One engineer may be a lithium-ion battery specialist, another an aluminium-ion battery expert, and the third one, a specialist in batteries for nickel-hydrogen. All three together will very likely build the best batteries ever!
“The best” usually come with BIG egos
For teams to succeed they most include people who fulfill four roles: the mover, the supporter, the opposed, and the observer – it has been proven that in times of crisis, this is a winning mix.
If we only recruit “the best”, the ones with the highest grades, or the strongest personalities, it is very likely that our team results in only movers or only opposers – therefore losing full potential.
Market needs are too wide
Today’s customers come from all sorts of backgrounds and new generations expect new things – teams need to be prepared for this, they must include individuals from different ethnicities, different ages, genders, and overall perspectives and experiences.
This allows them to pick different tools or procedures to solve problems, or to face clients’ needs. One will know how to use a hammer, the other one how to use a saw, and the other one how to put it all together – therefore building “the house”.
This rule applies to all teams and companies
Google has been applying this hiring principle for a while, they no longer ask for grades, they no longer look for what is considered to be “the best”, but they now focus on abilities and skills. They train their people continuously and they encourage innovation and teamwork.
Their HR team (known as “People Operations”) isn’t made of psychologists or people with similar backgrounds, they have found success in diversity. A fourth of the team are engineers who understand future technology, a fourth include psychologists who understand human behaviour, a fourth include people with business backgrounds who may align the area’s goals with the overall business strategy, and finally, people who come from strategic management consulting can put it all together and foresee change.
This ensures that different “tools” and insights are shared, bringing the company closer to success and more capable of embracing changes.
Even with the right mix of resources and skills in a team, successful managers must be aware that what they want is not always going to align and what their workers want. Given this, managers must carefully understand the interpersonal dynamics within each team and then reward the cooperation.