The New Talent Equation: Hire Slow, Lead Easy, Develop Intentionally, Fire Fast

In 2014, I had the privilege of visiting Facebook headquarters to learn how this rapidly growing and innovative firm leverages talent to drive results.  When we were talking about their approach to talent, our host said that Facebook, “hires slow, manages easy and fires fast.”  My reaction was, “Wow! That’s a brilliant but simple summary of an effective talent strategy”.

Since then, as I’ve worked with clients as they adapt the talent practices to the new realities of work, I’ve updated the talent equation by changing “manages easy” to “leads easy” because effective leadership is changing dramatically and looks nothing like managing.  I’ve also added the critical component of intentional development.  Traditional training and development is just not having the impact it should and must be radically updated.

Hire Slow.  Technology has significantly changed the recruiting process but I still see plenty of faulty, low impact employment practices.  Companies are stuck on worthless selection criteria (like GPA for college grads) and an overemphasis on functional/technical knowledge that can be rapidly learned in the new job.  Chipotles’ CEO made headlines recently when he stated that, “We look for people who possess certain qualities that you can’t teach.”  There also continues to be an over-reliance on or misapplication of assessments, personality measures being the worst culprit.

Lead Easy.   Millennials and their effect on the workplace is a hot topic.  However, it’s my view that what organizations need to do in response to generational differences is not unique from one decade to the next. That’s because what it takes to create a successful career and the competencies required to be successful have not changed significantly. “Leading Easy” is a great way to describe the style needed to support career success.

  • Challenge them: Hire capable people and get out of their way.
  • Trust them: Establish policies that are NOT focused on the 5% who abuse privileges but the 95% who will do the right thing.
  • Engage them: Provide meaningful, value-added work that is linked to the overall success of the business, a “Greater Good”.  Link individual and team goals and objectives to broader business goals so they can see where they fit.
  • Develop them: Build skills and careers through intentional, planned development based on “moving around” among challenging assignments, not just “moving up” in a department. (See Develop Intentionally)
  • Support them: Create and reinforce a team-oriented culture that fosters innovation and collaboration.  Select and promote talented people who are able and willing step-up and lead or hold back and allow others to lead.
  • Recognize them: Build competency-based talent management systems that define and reward building effective networks, collaboration and growth not longevity or meeting job description specs.
  • Feed them: Throw out the old performance review process and replace it with regular conversations that provide systematic and meaningful feedback, not a rating.  Create a feedback rich environment from multiple sources.

Develop Intentionally.  Traditional training and development has not been very successful ot worth the huge investment.  (See my recent blog post on Training is a Dead End for more in this).  Development needs to be more informal but targeted.  It also needs to built into daily work and not be seen as an event.  Companies are contributing to both business and personal growth by creating development cohorts of similarly situated learners who are assigned a real business challenge.

Fire Fast.  Our host stated that there is no room for “brilliant assholes” at Facebook.  During a similar visit to Google, our host said that Google was better at firing people than hiring (and their hiring process was impressive). There is a huge payoff to identifying and quickly addressing non-performers or those that detract from an organization’s culture.  Marginal leaders create disengagement and drive turnover.  Non-performers drag down the performance of any team on which they participate.

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