Kick-Start Your Firm’s Growth By Hiring Candidates With Game-changer Competencies

This article covers how you can directly accelerate your firm’s growth rate through recruiting. If you’re skeptical about whether that is possible, be aware that data reveals that human capital has a much greater impact on kickstarting a firm’s growth than any financial or capital investment. And of all human capital functions, recruiting by far has the highest measurable impact on revenue and profit margins.

As a result of recording’s high capability, I am a strong advocate of the TA strategy that is known as business impact recruiting, whose focus is on impressing executives by directing a firm’s recruiting resources so that they have the highest direct and measurable impact on strategic corporate goals (i.e. growth, revenue, innovation). For example, recruiting can directly increase revenue when it focuses its best recruiters and a high level of recruiting resources toward hiring better salespeople. Within a few months, when those newly hired salespeople sell 10 percent more, executives can unambiguously see the dollar increase in sales revenue.

Another component of this business impact strategy is to understand that all new hires are not equal. And that you maximize your business impacts when you specifically recruit new hires who have what I call “game-changer skills.” These unique skills provide significant measurable business impacts that can only be described as breathtaking. Firms like Apple and Google have found that an innovator new-hire will produce at least 25 times more than an average employee in the same job. With the increasing use of data in talent acquisition, top firms have found that there are other high-impact game-changing competencies.

In another example, Google found that the single most important game-changing competency that predicted on-the-job success across all jobs was learning ability. However, unfortunately, I find that literally only a handful of firms have identified and quantified the value of even these two relatively obvious game-changer competencies.

The Top 10 Game-changer Competencies That You Should Be Targeting

To impact company growth, recruiting must go beyond its traditional role of filling positions with productive people. But rather than guessing, firms must use a data-driven approach to identify all of the game changer competencies that have a significant impact on the growth rate of their own organization. And if you’re curious about which competencies often appear on most corporations game-changer lists, I have listed them below, with the most impactful ones appearing first.

  1. Innovation — the top five firms in market cap (Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon) all share a single common defining feature, which is serial innovation. As a result, no competency is more impactful than hiring innovators across all business functions. Incidentally, hiring “idea people” is insufficient, because you won’t get the desired growth unless their ideas are actually implemented. So instead focus on hiring innovators who also collaborate, influence others, and problem solve, in order to get their ideas quickly implemented.
  2. Rapid learning — the likelihood of innovating and coming up with high-impact solutions increases dramatically when your new hires continually remain on the leading edge of knowledge. Individuals who have what is also known as a “growth mindset” develop their own process for continually learning and then applying that knowledge to company problems and opportunities. These rapid learners also learn broadly, because they don’t just learn within their own function, but instead they learn across multiple functions and even between industries.
  3. Adaptable — businesses now operate in what is known as a VUCA world, which is unfortunately, defined by a great deal of uncertainty, volatility, and constant rapid change. New hires who are capable of comfortably handling this continuous rate of rapid change are called adaptable. New hires can quickly pivot, adapt, and go in an entirely different direction when the market, technology, or competition demands it.
  4. Speed — almost everything in the world of business now moves much faster. This means that it’s not enough to simply be able to innovate and adapt because successful new hires need to be able to do both rapidly. Certain new hires can do the same tasks and make decisions much faster while maintaining quality. So your hiring process needs to identify prospects and new hires who work fast and have a sense of urgency, because they will automatically identify ways to do high-value things faster.
  5. Strategic thinkers — most new hires are only capable of focusing on the immediate future and what is happening immediately around their current job. However, a higher impact approach is to seek out new hires who are future focused, with a strategic big-picture perspective. They have the capability of connecting the dots, and identifying and understanding the inner-relationships between multiple seemingly unrelated internal and external factors.
  6. A high career trajectory — most individuals are hired based on their immediate ability to do “this job.” However, individuals who are already at least partially capable of also doing “the next job” provide additional value because the new hire can probably already fill in at the next-level-up job. And by starting with this additional capability, it means that there is a high likelihood that they can also be promoted into the next job. This ability and likelihood of moving up are known as having a “steep career trajectory,” defined as having a high likelihood of being rapidly promoted multiple times, of becoming leaders, of being able to move between functions/Strategic Business Unit, and of eventually becoming part of the succession plan. High career trajectory individuals are also likely to stay at the firm long enough to provide a much higher than average long-term business impact.
  7. A global mindset — in a world where firms need to grow around the globe continually, new hires who can only focus on and operate in their home country will limit the firm’s growth. Instead, the focus should be on hiring individuals with a global mindset. They fully understand the global economy, and as a result, they come up with scalable solutions that can be applied globally.
  8. Diverse thinking — many firms focus on hiring diverse individuals. However, the best firms go a step further and focus on hiring individuals who think and attack problems in a diverse way. This broader but more impactful approach requires that you hire and retain individuals who have demonstrated that they “think differently.” They reflect the needs of your diverse customer base, whether they meet the standard EEOC definition of diversity or not.
  9. Day 1 mindset — new hires who maintain “Day 1 vitality” act as if they are at a startup, even though they work at an established firm. Amazon has championed “Day 1” attitude. Amazon expects individuals to act as if they work at a startup by continually experimenting, making decisions with only 70 percent of the desired information, and focusing on results, rather than existing processes.
  10. Leadership results — everyone agrees that leadership capabilities are important for company growth. But few firms have found an accurate way of assessing current and future leadership capabilities. So I instead recommend focusing on those new hires who have demonstrated that their leadership at the team level has produced above-average results. Because what it takes to be a great leader changes continuously,  limit efforts to try to project which new hires will become future leaders, unless you have hard data showing that your past projections have been accurate.

Look For Self-Motivated Individuals

Motivating new hires is a time-consuming task. It is largely made unnecessary if you hire individuals who, in addition to having game-changing competencies, are also self-motivated. These self-driven new hires also add value because when their work is done, they automatically seek out more work to remain busy, to learn, and to increase their overall contribution.

Action Steps for Maximizing Your Business Impact

Once you’ve identified the high-impact, game-changer competencies at your firm, there are some additional actions that you will need to take.

  • Develop a formal process for identifying these high-impact, game-changing competencies in your recruiting prospects and candidates.
  • Work with the CFO’s office in order to quantify the dollar impact added by each of these competencies. And as part of your business case, remember to show that in addition to their direct business value, these individuals will also act as a magnet to make it easier to attract others.
  • Prioritize your jobs so that you focus your recruiting on the jobs that have the highest business impact when they are filled with individuals with game -hanging competencies.
  • Set a goal to develop a talent pipeline approach, so that you have a continuous supply of talent with game-changer competencies.
  • You may need to develop specialized sourcing processes that can successfully find individuals with these high-value competencies.
  • Gather market research data so that you fully understand the attraction factors that will successfully draw individuals with these competencies to your firm.
  • You may need to develop supplemental and focused hiring processes. These processes will have to be tailored so that they effectively assess and successfully sell these unique individuals who are often rejected under the standard corporate recruiting process (g., innovators, diverse thinkers, and strategic thinkers).

Learn More About Implementing a Game-changer Competency Hiring Strategy

If you want to learn more, I will be offering a session and answering questions on this important topic at the October ERE recruiting conference in Minneapolis. If possible, I hope to see you there.

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If you found that this article stimulated your thinking, connect with me on LinkedIn

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Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on staging.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

 

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4 Comments on “Kick-Start Your Firm’s Growth By Hiring Candidates With Game-changer Competencies

  1. Thank you Dr. Sullivan.

    “If you’re skeptical about whether that is possible, be aware that data reveals that human capital has a much greater impact on kickstarting a firm’s growth than any financial or capital investment”
    – What are the sources of this “data”?
    – Why do not newly acquired/merged/restructured firms (ones indicating a desire for this growth “kickstarting”) typically announce they are hiring substantial numbers of these kinds of people instead of often announcing large layoffs?

    “Firms like Apple and Google have found that an innovator new-hire will produce at least 25 times more than an average employee in the same job.”
    – What is your source for this information?
    – What do you/they mean by “produce”?
    – How do you/they define “innovator new-hire” and “average employee”?
    – Why would this apply to all types of firms?

    If I properly summarize your point, it is that companies will do much better hiring the very best people. Is that correct?
    If so, I agree, with the following modification:
    Companies should hire the very best people that they can realistically expect to hire, and that unless they are the best companies overall, they should not feel entitled to have the very best people overall.

    1. Sullivan answers to Keith’s questions
      “If you’re skeptical about whether
      that is possible, be aware that data reveals that human capital has a much
      greater impact on kickstarting a firm’s growth than any financial or capital
      investment”

      – What are the sources of this “data”? A study of 3,000 companies by researchers at
      the University of Pennsylvania

      – Why do not newly acquired/merged/restructured firms (ones indicating a desire
      for this growth “kickstarting”) typically announce they are hiring
      substantial numbers of these kinds of people instead of often announcing large
      layoffs? You should ask them. My article
      was only focused of firms that want to be serial innovators

      “Firms like Apple and Google have
      found that an innovator new-hire will produce at least 25 times more than an
      average employee in the same job.”

      – What is your source for this information? Alan Eustace at Google and Steve Jobs at
      Apple

      – What do you/they mean by “produce”? Job outputs and dollar value added

      – How do you/they define “innovator new-hire” and “average
      employee”? Average new-hires
      produce around the average output for their job, while innovators produce
      multiples more value as a result of their implemented ideas.

      – Why would this apply to all types of firms? I didn’t say it did, I only focused in this article on firms that want
      to be serial innovators

      If I properly summarize your point, it is
      that companies will do much better hiring the very best people. Is that
      correct? No, very best people is too
      broad and too subjective.

      If so, I agree, with the following modification: I don’t

      Companies should hire the very best people that they can realistically expect
      to hire, and that unless they are the best companies overall, they should not
      feel entitled to have the very best people overall. No, I don’t agree at all. Weak organizations can still hire great talent/innovators
      (i.e. LeBron went to Cleveland)

      Keith – thanks for your questions. BTW come to the
      conference and I can upgrade your thinking.

      1. Sullivan answers to Keith’s questions
        “If you’re skeptical about whether that is possible, be aware that data reveals that human capital has a much greater impact on kickstarting a firm’s growth than any financial or capital investment”
        – What are the sources of this “data”?
        A study of 3,000 companies by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.
        -Much appreciated. Can you send me a link to the particular paper- I would like to read it.

        – Why do not newly acquired/merged/restructured firms (ones indicating a desire for this growth “kickstarting”) typically announce they are hiring substantial numbers of these kinds of people instead of often announcing large layoffs?
        You should ask them. My article was only focused of firms that want to be serial innovators.
        -I would think many firms aspire/consider themselves to be be serial innovators, very few achieve it, and even fewer maintain it over long periods of time.On the other hand, any firm that has more than one patent could be argued to be a “serial Innovator”.

        “Firms like Apple and Google have found that an innovator new-hire will produce at least 25 times more than an average employee in the same job.”
        – What is your source for this information?
        Alan Eustace at Google and Steve Jobs at Apple
        – Well, we can’t ask Mr. Jobs, but (to your knowledge) did Mr. Eustace conduct an independent, objective, peer-reviewed, statistically-valid, cross-industry, study?

        – What do you/they mean by “produce”? Job outputs and dollar value added.
        Thank you.This seems a bit difficult to clearly define. Does a Software Development Engineer add value, but a Software Quality Assurance Engineer doesn’t? What a bout a Sales Rep and a Sales Assistant? What about a Recruiter and A Recruiting Manager?

        – How do you/they define “innovator new-hire” and “average employee”?
        Average new-hires produce around the average output for their job, while innovators produce multiples more value as a result of their implemented ideas.
        – If I understand you properly, here these “innovators” don’t produce more value because of what they create, rather it’s because others accept and develop “implement” their creations. This to me sounds more like effective salesmanship and persuasiveness than innovation and creativity.

        – Why would this apply to all types of firms?
        I didn’t say it did, I only focused in this article on firms that want to be serial innovators
        – As mentioned above, I would think many firms aspire/consider themselves to be be serial innovators, very few achieve it, and even fewer maintain it over long periods of time.On the other hand, any firm that has more than one patent could be argued to be a “serial Innovator”.

        -If I properly summarize your point, it is that companies will do much better hiring the very best people. Is that correct?
        No, very best people is too broad and too subjective.
        – Agreed.

        – If so, I agree, with the following modification:
        I don’t
        – Companies should hire the very best people that they can realistically expect to hire, and that unless they are the best companies overall, they should not feel entitled to have the very best people overall.
        No, I don’t agree at all. Weak organizations can still hire great talent/innovators (i.e. LeBron went to Cleveland).
        – I may have been unclear. I don’t think think that mediocre firms shouldn’t try to hire superior individuals to help improve themselves, rather that they shouldn’t feel entitled to the very best if they can’t offer these individuals more than the well-worn hype of their founders, CXOs or Marketing. A little objective self-reflection and humility goes a long way to remedy this…
        Also, as I have mentioned in the past, your major league sports analogy is mainly applicable to major league sports teams, and not the millions of other firms large and small who seek improvement.

        Keith – thanks for your questions. BTW come to the conference and I can upgrade your thinking
        – You’re very welcome, Dr. Sullivan. People have tried to do that for over 50 years without much success. I seem to have managed pretty well so far…

        Cheers,

  2. I agree wholeheartedly that tweaking your hiring process to get the best fits for your company can accelerate growth. What good is a business strategy without motivated, talented people backing it up? Recruitee is a good example of a company that saw success from identifying criteria on which to judge new hires. You can read about it on The Next Web #storiesofscale series: https://thenextweb.com/insider/2017/08/21/stories-scale-standing-saas-custom-tracking-metrics/

    The criteria that you listed out are also in line with my thinking. The willingness and ability to learn quickly is a highly underestimated skill. New skills can be taught. Personality and meshing with the company’s goals for the future? Not so much. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Here is a free trial of Recruitee if anyone is interested in the software (it also helps with the hiring process and setting up candidate rating skillsets): http://bit.ly/2xHY30C

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