The company’s most valuable asset

People are the most valuable asset of most companies. Your strategy to attract, hire, and retain talent will have a big impact on the success or failure of your business. To solve hard problems, you need to assemble a team with diverse skills, personality traits, and viewpoints. Bringing together individuals with different mental models, experiences, and worldviews creates an opportunity for a competition of ideas that reduces blind spots and spurs innovation.

The people you hire will determine your ability to innovate, and you must create the right incentives to accelerate innovation. At Google X, the company’s research and innovation lab, bonuses are given to teams that kill their own projects by disproving their hypotheses.

Successful teams can be characterized by their rate of learning and ability to implement new insights quickly. This is why venture capitalists often focus more on the quality of the founding team than on the business idea, which is likely to evolve and change, while the team will remain.

You will build a competitive advantage if you attract people who are smart, motivated by learning, and want to work at your company. Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer, filters out less-than committed employees by paying them to leave. After four weeks of training and a week on the job, new hires are offered a $3,000 bonus to leave if they think the company is not right for them.

Recruiting and retaining talent is the largest expense for most businesses. Building effective hiring practices to attract the right people and investing in professional development to retain those people saves a company money in the long run as it will reduce turnover and facilitate high-performance teams.

You must be a good detective and a good salesperson to hire the best employees. Your detective skills allow you to look for patterns and signals in a candidate’s work history to find a good match. Your sales skills allow you to promote the company’s vision and highlight opportunities for the candidate’s professional advancement.

The current approach to hiring is broken. Résumés are not an effective way to assess talent, and most companies fail to effectively run a structured interview process well enough to minimize bias. Whenever possible, it’s more useful to use assessment tests and in-person working sessions with members of your team to assess a candidate’s potential. In interviews, make sure you create a structured process to reduce bias by asking predefined questions that are mapped to the job description, which should detail the position’s clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and required skills.

To ensure consistency, the same interviewers should ask the same questions in the same order of all candidates. This helps minimize bias. You are detective looking for clues, patterns, and signals. Don’t ask how potential employees would solve a problem in the future role. Ask how they solved a specific problem in a past role.

Avoid these common mistakes

  1. Prioritizing customers over employees. This may sound counterintuitive, but employees are the ambassadors of every interaction your company has with customers, partners, and vendors. Happy and engaged employees will drive high customer satisfaction.
  2. Rushing the hiring process to fill a position due to high workload. Although it is tempting to hire quickly to get help with a crushing workload, hiring the wrong person creates more work and stress and problems in the long run.
  3. Not prioritizing professional development and mentoring. Growing talent from within not only increases retention but can also help attract high-quality candidates because happy employees offer the best referrals.
  4. Hiring only people who think and act like you. Seek out people with different experiences and worldviews who can challenge your thinking.

My Talent Checklist

In addition to screening for relevant job skills, I prioritize these traits and ask myself these questions about a candidate.

  • Curiosity. Do the candidates have a curious mind? Have they demonstrated a high rate of learning?
  • Integrity. Are their values aligned with the company’s values? Do I respect and admire this person?
  • Intelligence. Can they deconstruct ideas, think critically, and see important connections between concepts and second-order effects? I always try to surround myself with people who are smarter than me.
  • Energy. Have they shown the ability to move fast and get things done?
  • Communication. Can they communicate their ideas clearly and persuasively? Would I enjoy working for this person?

Attract and retain smart, curious, and motivated people who want to work at your company. And you will be unstoppable.


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