Last week, I wrote about how I do not hire for talent, knowledge or skill. I also explained why a business candidate’s potential, supported by motivation, curiosity, and energy, is the primary characteristic that is necessary for a team member to join us.

One of the prominent recruitment and talent management leaders in the world, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, has explained how potential must be the essential quality for hiring in the 21stCentury. As I wrote in the earlier article, Fernández-Aráoz has noted that through human history, we have entered into the fourth era of hiring:

  1. Selection based on physical attributes. For most of human history, selection was made based on physicality because humans were needed to fight wars and build communities.
  2. Recruitment based on experience, intelligence, and past performance. For most of the 20thCentury, talent was recruited based on testing, education and past performance as work became professionalized.
  3. Talent spotting at the end of the 20th. As of the 1980’s, and with the evolution of a more complex world, with the advent of technology, for instance, skills and competencies were the criteria used for hiring.
  4. Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment (VUCA). The military idea of VUCA has become mainstream, and in today’s environment, businesses have to hire talent based on their ability to operate in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment.

Businesses that want to succeed in the 21st Century have to shift their thinking from what has worked in the past. One of the worst expressions and thought in the English language is, “We’ve always done it that way.” The most innovative businesses, including small companies and not just the multi-national corporations, understand that the potential, energy, motivation, and curiosity of talent are much more important than what they’ve done in the past.

Candidly, I’ve hired for potential many times, and I’ve been proven wrong rarely. Most of the time, what I’ve determined that the person in front of me can do the job with the right kind of training and support, even if they do not have the direct experience. Most of the time, I’ve been spot-on and the individual I’ve hired has risen to the challenge.

In 2017, Fernández-Aráoz followed up on his original article and along with Andrew Roscoe and Kentaro Aramaki published for Harvard Business Review the piece, “Turning Potential into Success: The Missing Link in Leadership Development.” In it, they explain the missing link, which is turning potential into success.

As Fernández-Aráoz and his colleagues noted, the predictors for success, especially at the leadership level, are motivation with a “fierce commitment to excel,” determination, curiosity, insight and engagement.” If you accept the fact that someone’s potential to perform is much more important than their experience in doing a particular job, how do you develop that potential, especially when Gallup has published that 51 percent of American managers don’t feel connected to their work, and Indeed has reported that 71 percent of people who have a job are looking for a new opportunity?

The HBR article captured how a business can go about maximizing the potential for success in the digital era. The first, and most important, place to begin is by having clarity around the competencies for a job. These competencies can range from collaboration to results orientation. The next aspect to take into account is to assess the motivation that is necessary for a particular business. Different businesses will require different kinds of motivation. For instance, nonprofits will be looking for people who have a passion for a specific cause, while a brokerage house is seeking to hire talent on their motivation for money. Third, a company has to develop a growth map for the high performing talent that it wants to grow. Finally, the best way to support people who have a high level of potential and drive is to provide them with the proper development opportunities. Development can include moving them to different jobs within a company, so they understand all of the parts of a business, even if they don’t seem qualified based on their past work history. Remember, it’s not about past performance, but potential, energy, engagement, and curiosity. That’s where I usually place my bet when we hire new people.

Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)


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