Hiring? Think selection and look for these 5 things.

Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, The NIIC

Innovation isn’t something that just happens by accident—it has to be cultivated in an organization. The most innovative companies have committed to and followed through with a strategic approach to not hiring but selecting, engaging and retaining their talent.

Disney World in Orlando is the largest single-site employer in the U.S. So, they know a thing or two about people. What they found is you don’t hire, you select. Selection is one of the five levers of their highly revered people engagement strategies (communications, training, care, selection, and culture).

Here are five intangibles to consider when recruiting to build your own culture of innovation.

1) Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill

Periodically, at the NIIC, we have a book club and are reading Carol Quinn’s book Don’t Hire Anyone Without Me. This book spends a lot of time on attitude. At a time when unemployment is low nationally and even lower locally, it has become increasingly more difficult to find “right-fit” talent. In her book, Carol makes the point “As a general rule, the attitude that is hired is the attitude that remains.” Further, she shares that the attitude that she is talking about is “the attitude that is conducive to achieving maximum performance and results.”

Does the candidate see things as they are or what could be? The most progressive companies hire visionaries—people who aren’t comfortable with the status quo. Do those you’re hiring want to build something great, or simply collect a paycheck?

2) Follow the 51% rule.

In his book, Setting the Table, the successful restauranteur Danny Meyers follows the 51% rule. Select based on 51% emotional skills and 49% technical skills. Emotional skills include things like: empathy, intellectual curiosity, kindness & optimism, and self-awareness. These are proven traits of high-performance employees who are integral to customer loyalty and profitability. These traits “tip” the scale.

A well-rounded team represents a variety of skillsets and domains of knowledge. Do those you’re selecting add value to the bottom line or are they more of the same?

3) Foster Meaningful Connections & Relationships

Relationships are the currency of business. The true definition of a collaboration is that we mutually invest in each other’s outcomes. Sounds easy? But it is really hard to do. Too many organizations measure collaboration in quantity, not quality. Go deep with a few rather than go wide with many. What kinds of connections do your prospective team members bring with them? What kind of untapped potential might they have in terms of social capital?

4) Be contingency-oriented

Despite popular beliefs, successful entrepreneurs are strategic about risk-taking. They evaluate contingencies, develop plans B and C, and are willing to take calculated risks. Do your prospective teammates have experience leading through uncertain times, or do they shudder at the thought of uncharted waters? Risk savvy people tend to be more innovative because they aren’t as afraid of what’s on the other side because they have assessed and mitigated the probable risks.

5) Persevere against the odds (Think Grit as defined in the book, Passion + Perseverance = Grit)

Mistakes happen. Are those you’re hiring able to reset and take another step forward following a setback? Most of the products on the market today would not be possible had someone given up after a few attempts.

While a quality candidate might embody only a few of these traits, don’t get discouraged. Just as it is rare to find a unicorn in start-ups, the same is true in finding a unicorn in a person. I firmly believe these soft skills cannot be taught but they can be “honed and refined” over time. They are innate—a form of emotional intelligence or as Myers calls it, Hospitality Quotient (HQ). Also, know that bringing on additional team members means opening yourself up to new inputs and insights that can lead to innovation. People and talent are the drivers of innovation. Are you open to new insights and ideas that challenge your organizational status quo?


Enter search term...

close ×

REIMAGINE: Survive and Thrive During COVID-19

Browse our new digital guide for strategies and resources

Read Now