Originally posted on LinkedIn by Jim Gilchrist

This post addresses the topic hiring innovative and talented people. The BPIR website contains many case studies and expert opinion articles covering similar subjects. BPIR membership will provide you with unlimited access to these valuable resources. All topics are conveniently summarized into concise snippets that are linked to the original and printable article.

As we experience economic evolution, and the emergence of the “new economy”, we need to understand that our business attitudes and approaches must evolve accordingly. Many of us already accept that achieving profitability and organizational growth will be a challenge in this increasingly competitive global economy. But the all-important question remains; “what are you going to do about it”? Those organizations that ignore the new realities of the evolution, and who return to past “old economy” thinking, will fall behind. Those who adapt to the changes, reluctantly or otherwise, will keep pace. But those organizations that embrace and facilitate change will take the lead in the new economy.

The opportunities that will arise in the new economy will mostly be captured by innovative organizations that are staffed by innovative people. Performance-oriented and typically dissatisfied with the status quo, innovators will be excited about the challenges of the new economy and passionate about finding real solutions to real problems. Determined to make a difference in both their organizations and their industries, these select people will have the most “impact” when employed in the right roles in the right organizations. But when employed in organizations that operate contrary to their innovative nature, by continually utilizing antiquated business and management approaches that no longer work, they will readily seek a more suitable employment match.

Organizational innovation starts at the top. It is essential that upper management has an innovative long-term vision, and that they build an innovative culture via leadership that is manifested through innovative policies and procedures. This goes so much farther than simply technological innovation. To build a truly innovative organization, it is essential that upper management embraces innovative business best practices, and that they integrate these concepts throughout all operational activities at all levels. To be successful, it becomes crucial to that we hire organizational leaders who have a track record of making quantum improvements, and in helping their organizations to break free from the status quo. To successfully build innovative organizations, we need to realize that innovative people are attracted to innovative managers, and they are repelled by the mediocre.

Innovation is Personality Based

To capture innovation, many organizations target passionate people who love their work. But passion by itself does not always breed the necessary discontent for things that are no longer working as they should. Individuals who are professionally innovative are often not only passionate, but they also possess a relentless drive to innovate around practices and approaches that no longer accomplish what the organization needs done. Consistently, innovators they have a track record of surpassing everyone else when it comes to successfully overcoming resistance to change and the barriers to innovative execution.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; un-rewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination are omnipotent”.

Calvin Coolidge, US President

We know that superior performance is always dependent on an appropriate match between a person’s work personality characteristics and the specific requirements of the respective position, the departmental team, the immediate manager and the organizational culture as a whole. But we can make some generalizations that are typical of innovative people. For the most part they are:

  • Exceptional problem solvers relative to the demands their position in the organizational hierarchy
  • Self-motivated and typically over-achievers
  • Able to maintain focus and concentration on the right things at the right time
  • Not easily distracted, and able to maintain their focus over time
  • Intellectually competitive and driven to surpass the competition
  • Open to new ideas and they welcome logical change
  • Highly expressive of their opinions and ideas
  • Able to absorb and utilize vast amount of information and to multi-task
  • Able to overcome resistance to change by creating interpersonal relationships with others
  • Willing to take risks, and accept mistakes
  • Capable of making logical decisions quickly
  • Able to learn from their mistakes and grow
  • Energetic and fast learners
  • Self confident, and
  • Highly ethical and devoted

Innovative People Will Respond to Innovative Hiring Practices

You cannot say one thing then do another. If you position your organization as being innovative, you will not be successful in attracting and hiring innovative people by using outdated, non-innovative recruitment and selection practices. In the new, internationally competitive, economy there will be significant demand for high-impact, innovative managers and staff. It is foolhardy, even in a high unemployment economy, to assume that innovative people will be readily available. Most innovators will be retained by their employers because they understand their current and future value. And SHOULD an innovator be temporarily unemployed, it would be unwise to assume that they are going to find, and select, your organization instead of all of their other options. This is “old economy” thinking, which did not really work then, and certainly will fail in the new economy. Innovative people are not attracted to web postings, job fairs, newspaper ads or corporate website posted opportunities. They are different than the “run of the mill”, they are in demand, and they know it. If you want to compete for high-demand innovative people, you would be wise to proactively find them and recruit them, rather than hope that they find you.

Since the key to future business success will be in developing processes that drive continuous innovation throughout every aspect of the organization, it’s important to realize the significant impact of the recruiting function to organizational competitiveness. In line with the new demands of the new economy, the appropriate re-alignment of such functions as candidate sourcing, recruitment and assessment is essential to hiring more innovative individuals. In other words, we need to develop a recruitment process that is consistent with the organization’s innovation objectives. Here are some suggestions:

  • Define innovation relative to the organization, department, team and position to be filled
  • Make the hiring of innovators a primary goal
  • Develop a hiring plan based on your definition
  • Prioritize filling innovative positions and remove any possible barriers to hiring them
  • Know and promote the elements of your organization that would attract innovators
  • Encourage external hiring when you cannot identify internal innovators
  • Recognize and assess for key innovative personality traits
  • Be different than your competition by defining innovation without using the word “innovation”
  • Redefine how to identify and engage innovation in an interview
  • Utilize appropriate and valid assessments to identify innovation as per your definition
  • Adjust the candidate experience to verify that your organization is innovative (ie: no “cattle calls”)
  • Realize that your current hiring system probably restricts the hiring of innovators, so review;
  • how position requirements are defined,
  • methods of candidate attraction,
  • interviewing approaches,
  • internal assessment capability, and
  • adjust them specific to your hiring objectives rather than use a “one approach fits all” approach
  • Follow through with an innovative orientation and retention programs
  • Track success based on the initial innovation related goals

Too often, organizational leaders mistakenly under-value the importance of organization-wide innovation, or they misinterpret how truly innovative their respective organizations actually are. And even when there is recognition of the need to develop more innovative business practices, and to hire more innovative personnel, many often postpone taking action to due to other priorities. But as the economic system quickly changes, our adaptive response needs to be just as fast. We need to understand the cumulative effects of the global recession, the shift in domestic sector strength, the shift in regional market strength, the growing economic clout of Asia and the subsequent competition to attract talent to that region, the increasing drain of experience through the retirement of the baby-boomer demographic, the lack of experience and preparation of new graduates, the lack of available prepared internal “successors”, the increasing pressure for higher productivity to be achieved with fewer resources, the upcoming personnel retention challenges that will occur as the recession lifts…. and so on, and so on…. Not to mention the global competition for talented innovative managers and staff.

Anyone who thinks that it will be “business as usual” in the new economy is due for a serious “wake up call”.

Jim Gilchrist B.E.S.
CEO, CAES Career Advancement Employment Services


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