"We really want to hire top talent."
This is the number one thing I hear from growing companies. It's a great starting point, but it's not the whole picture. What you should be looking for is company-compatible top talent.
"What do you mean company-compatible top talent?"
I'm so glad you asked...
There is no one-size-fits-all employee
Someone who thrives in one environment may quickly sink in another, because the atmosphere, leadership styles, expectations, priorities, and values differ greatly from company to company.
"But, Jill, won't they weed themselves out based on these aspects?"
Well, at least not most of the time. This is especially true for employees early in their careers.
Most of us have been taught to think about job compatibility based on skillset and salary requirements, not on the company environment.
An employee recruited from a large corporation may be really excited about the idea of working at a startup, only to realize that the day-to-day is much different than what they expected or hoped. Suddenly, they are asked to make decisions without approvals, figure out best practices with procedure manuals, and get big results with limited resources. This can truly be a nightmare scenario to someone who has thrived in a very different environment up to this point.
While startup vs corporate culture is one obvious example of this, every company has their own expectations, beliefs, and values that have been forming since day one. The trick is identifying what these are, so you can hire for people aligned with them naturally.
"OK, sure - but does it really matter? Won't they stay anyway?"
Unfortunately, no. Long gone are the days of sticking it out. Skilled employees have tons of options and no longer feel a sense of responsibility or loyalty to companies.
Gallup's State of the American Workplace report recently found that 51% of all employees are actively looking for a new job or watching for openings. That means over half your staff has their eyes on a better opportunity. HALF!
Holy bananas is right.
The odds of an incredibly talented, but incompatible hire leaving quickly are even greater.
For example, let's say Katie is the Director of Marketing for a fast-growing company in the tech space. She's been with them for three years and has scaled their sales significantly by utilizing the newest breakthroughs and theories in digital marketing. A recruiter from a larger local company finds her profile and is incredibly impressed with everything she's accomplished in such a short time. They have a marketing role open and it seems like Katie could be a great fit.
Lured in by a bigger salary and more stable schedule, Katie leaves her current role and joins the new company. The first few weeks are exciting, as she takes in the history of the company, their current goals, and strategy.
By week three, Katie is getting antsy.
She wants to jump in and start implementing her ideas. The CEO, however, feels strongly that they stick to the marketing plan that's already been laid out. Katie isn't great at sticking to a plan. In fact, she's found all her success by moving fast, breaking things, and making mistakes - all while accomplishing some giant wins along the way.
While taking risks was a large part of her previous company's culture, they are frowned upon at the new one, given the larger stakes of experimentation and watchful eye of their board of directors. This is the disconnect.
Katie tries to make it work. She begrudgingly follows the well-documented plan, but slowly starts dreading work more and more. Meanwhile, she is also quite vocal about what she'd like to be doing and her CEO is growing increasingly frustrated with her pushback, not understanding why she can't just implement like other employees do.
It doesn't take long for reality to set in.
Katie just isn't a fit.
And it's making both her and the company miserable.
No, this doesn't mean Katie isn't incredibly talented and bright – it just means that her strengths don't align with what the company needs.
Less than four months into the job, Katie quits to join a local startup team that is better aligned with her style of work. Yes, Katie had to make a couple moves, but it's the company that's out a significant amount of money, time, and momentum.
Now they have to start the process all over again
"Oy. That has definitely happened to us before."
Trust me, you're definitely not alone! I see this happen over and over again at growing companies who are hungry for talent with great accolades, but haven't taken the time to understand what company compatible top talent really means to them.
While it's important to know what skills you're looking for in an employee, you also need to know what strengths and work-style preferences make an employee compatible to your specific atmosphere and needs.
Nailing this aspect is often the difference between a long-term fit and replacing your new hire only a few months after they start. Definitely worth the investment.
To happier employees,
Looking for more hiring practices to hire compatible company talent?
Learn more from the Want to Work There Podcast here!