The old saying that an organization’s most important asset is its people happens to be true. While at any given minute, technology, or a product line, or real estate, etc. may represent a critical asset to an organization, over time, the people that comprise the business are truly the most important component. Unfortunately, being the most important asset doesn’t make it the best asset. Sometimes, people can get in the way of success.
As a leader, your success is directly tied to the quality of the people that support you. No matter how skilled or dedicated or intelligent you are, the work of those around you will profoundly influence your achievements. Their motivation, their commitment, their professionalism, their loyalty, etc. represent a collective force, for good or bad, that far exceeds that of a single manager or leader. As such, one of the most important things you can do is to hire well. The fact is that not all employees are created equal. Some are more productive, more honest, more competent than others–and bring more value.
When it comes to “non-trainable” traits such as integrity, dependability etc., the difference between making great hires and poor hires just might be your own future! So make the effort to do it right. Sell the opportunity, not the job description and take the time to assess character. If necessary, waiting a little for the right person will provide a much better pay off than hiring the wrong person quickly, even if that comes at a greater cost (compensation, vacation time, work schedule, commuting, etc.) than you’d prefer.
In addition to compelling expertise, skills, and performance, you’ll also want to identify candidates who are a good match for your organization and the people in it. This is not necessarily about “culture.” It’s about how a new hire complements what you already have and makes it better–and whose personal values at least don’t conflict with those of the organization. And this next point is really important. Some of the most powerful hires are people whose previous work experience is not even related to the position you are hiring. Most important skills are transferable to different work contexts and if you can get someone who loves to learn, values colleagues and teamwork, has passion for his or her work, is entrepreneurial, etc., you are far better off than with someone who is a specific content expert, but status quo in other ways.
Lastly, over my many years of hiring senior managers one key thing I’ve learned is that, within reason, the terms of employment only matter if the person you hire doesn’t work out. In other words, senior managers/leaders are expected to deliver many multiples of their cost in value returned to the organization. Settling on a less competent or enthusiastic or capable person to save a few bucks in compensation or to avoid a delayed relocation, etc., on the front end, is ill-advised because if the person doesn’t deliver many times their compensation in value, it was an ineffective hire to begin with! Very few organizations have the resources to pay everyone at or above market value, but most organizations have the resources to pay market or above to the most valuable people.
Hiring is a team sport. Working with HR as a business partner, with other managers and individuals who will be the new person’s colleagues is essential to good hiring. And if you are a senior manager, don’t make any hiring decisions for people who don’t report directly to you. That is a poor practice that shifts accountability to you from the person who should be the hiring manager. It also creates confusion for the new hire and his manager.