Find Top Talent Faster. Apply Lessons From Pokémon Go.
Listen to Episode 78:
Episode 78 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at BusinessAdvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated. Right across from me is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam. It’s always a pleasure to join you again for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper®. If this is your first time listening, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves − and their companies − to that next level of growth and success.
So Pam, here we are in the summer of 2016, and in reflecting back on the year, it seems like just a moment ago, but it was actually at the very beginning of the year when we spoke to Jane Howze in Episode 50. She’s the managing director and founder of the Alexander Group, a global retained executive search firm. We were talking to her about trends in 2016 for C-Suite hiring.
Pam Harper: That’s right. She was gazing into her crystal ball and talking about what she saw. So much of it has come to pass, which is a good thing. It’s also a challenge for us, because of course igniting the momentum that we need for the next level of growth depends upon having that talent in place − top talent, in fact.
Scott Harper: So what do you mean by top talent?
Pam Harper: Top talent, as I look at it − and I think many others do too − is the highest quality. The right talent to enable us to do not just what we need to do today, but also what we’re going to need to do tomorrow to get to the next level. To make those big things happen.
Scott Harper: At all levels of the organization.
Pam Harper: Right; this time we’re talking about all levels of the organization. In Episode 50 we were talking about C-Suite hiring trends, but this is an extension of it.
In fact, I came across a really interesting report dated June 20th, talking about “This Is Why Finding Talent Is Getting Tougher In 2016.” It was a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, and they said that more than 2/3 of surveyed organizations hiring full-time staff indicate they are having a difficult time recruiting for job openings. This is pretty sobering, and they said the number is up from 2013.
Scott Harper: So why is that?
Pam Harper: Well, they had a number of things that they found: lower unemployment, and more job openings, among others. The thing is that there was, across of variety of industries, a challenge in finding people who had the right combination of both the technical skills, which are coming to be more and more important, and also soft skills such as problem solving, interpersonal skills, communication, teamwork, and leadership.
Scott Harper: Those are even harder to find in people.
Pam Harper: You know, from my years back when I had that staffing hat on in corporate − which was a lot of years ago − it was that way then. Some things never change; this is one of those things. I can understand why it’s so challenging because people do hire for skills. There’s a saying that you hire for skills, and you fire for attitude.
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: Actually, the reason why people can say it and it still keeps happening over and over again is because, who has time for a learning curve?
Scott Harper: That’s true.
Pam Harper: Especially if you are a middle-market company, you’re an entrepreneurial company … you’re rising. Having those technical skills in place is critical. How do you make the decisions? How do you execute the decisions that you make if you don’t do that?
Scott Harper: Well, that’s right. Now here, the thing is that the top talent is top talent because they have not only technical skills, but those soft skills … the leadership, the critical thinking, the out-of-the-box thinking − that are harder to find.
Pam Harper: Much harder to find. The thing that was also interesting that came out of this report is that this is going to be a problem, or challenge I should say, ongoing. New positions, because of the changing world, are going to require new skills. As the company’s size changes, the company grows, they need more people. We see that a lot in clients.
Scott Harper: Of course.
Pam Harper: As a company grows, they need more managers and leaders. I remember talking to one company recently, that was saying, “It’s hard to find the leaders that we need. We can find the people to do the basic front-line work, but having the people in place to lead … that’s a different challenge.” Changing customer and client expectations, development of new products and services … These are all things that are tough.
Scott Harper: So where do you find them?
Pam Harper: Well, according to the study, and we’ll have this in resources, training and hiring internally is still, after all these years, the most effective solution they say. Almost half, 48%, of the respondents said that this was an effective recruiting strategy, but there was a big “but.” The big “but” was that it’s still hard for people to feel that it’s a good return on investment to do this.
Scott Harper: Right, and it’s hard to find the top talent.
Pam Harper: So the cycle goes on. We need the hard to find top talent, and we can’t find them, and we don’t have time, so we hire for the technical skills, and then we fire for the lack-
Scott Harper: This is a real paradox … So how do you do it?
Pam Harper: Okay, what are we going to do? We’ve got to change the game.
Scott Harper: Okay.
Pam Harper: Of course, there are lots of creative things we can do on the outside. That’s a whole other episode, which Jane has discussed with us. But let’s talk about an unexpected source … a different way of looking at things. We got some inspiration − you and I − from Pokémon Go.
Scott Harper: Oh, that’s right. This really hit us last week, just a week or so after Pokémon Go had been released, and was becoming a big media sensation.
Pam Harper: Remember, we were in the park and people were tripping over each other.
Scott Harper: We had just gone to dinner, and we were walking through our town park − and yeah, there were legions of people wandering around. Some of them were practically bumping into each other. They were all ages. There were parents with children, and groups-
Pam Harper: And they’re trying to find these imaginary characters that are in real places.
Scott Harper: Real world, and sometimes just under the nose.
Pam Harper: So speaking of finding top talent, could it be that there are real world people…
Scott Harper: Yeah, right under our noses that we aren’t seeing. That’s what we were talking about as we drove home, and that’s the genesis for this episode. So, we’re going to talk in the next segment about some of the principals of Pokémon Go and applying them to this conundrum of finding top talent that may be hiding in plain site − right under our noses that we aren’t finding yet, and bringing it to the top.
Pam Harper: So now we’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, Scott and I are going to talk about some of the principles of Pokémon Go that can help us find top talent faster. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio, with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to dramatically increase momentum for game-changing results. We’re on the web at BusinessAdvance.com.
Pam Harper: If you’re finding this episode interesting and useful, well we have more. Check out our Episode 50 on C-Suite hiring trends in 2016, to expand your perspectives and take away immediately useful ideas. Go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, Episode 78, and scroll down under resources.
Scott Harper: And while you’re there, sign up for our weekly alert of upcoming episodes, so you’ll always be up to date.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking today about finding top talent faster inside our organizations using principles of Pokémon Go. So, let’s have some fun with this.
Scott Harper: Okay, well the crux of Pokémon Go is that you have to… go. Okay, this is an app on a mobile device now, with a camera. You’re going out in the real world and looking for these little animated creatures that you can see through iPhone or your…
Pam Harper: Now, top talent is not always animated.
Scott Harper: Well yeah, and they’re certainly not creatures. But, they are out there. You take your mobile device − your smartphone − and you go out and walk around. You have to walk around, and you have to encounter the environment. You go to places where these creatures may be more common than in other places.
Now let’s talk about applying that principal of getting up, going, and interacting to this conundrum of how do we find the top talent, or people who can be groomed for top talent in the unexpected places?
Pam Harper: Okay, well I think the first thing to emphasize is that looking inside your own organization is something that has been around forever and ever and ever.
Scott Harper: Well sure.
Pam Harper: What we’re talking about is a little bit different, because we’re not talking about necessarily the linear progression. One of the things that we found, for instance, over the years, is that oftentimes the right people are in the wrong positions.
There is an assumption that if somebody is not performing well, it’s very hard because we frame people as having certain talents or not, as maybe not having any more value to the company. If they’re not performing as well as they could in one role, we don’t think of them for anything else. It was always a struggle for me to persuade people to say, “Why don’t you give this person a chance in another way?” It’s natural to say, “Well, they don’t have any value.”
Scott Harper: But they may have a talent that is not coming to full fruition where they are, that could really, really blossom somewhere else.
Pam Harper: I remember a particular story that might illustrate this. You and I were working together on this particular project, where it was a company that was rapidly growing, and they had a manufacturing facility where the person who was in the top role of the manufacturing was not doing as well at the time as he could have been doing. There was some concern about what to do with him as the company continued to grow.
Scott Harper: Right, and they were going to close that facility, so there was talk about, “Well, we’ll just have him as one of the people that we lay off.” Yet, as we spoke with the person who had brought us in for that particular project, in back and forth with us and him, and some of his other executives, it was, “You know, if we take this guy … he’s really skilled at these things that aren’t really part of his job right now. One of the reasons he’s not performing really well is because he’s distracted by what he really loves to do, and it isn’t part of his current job. We can put him in a new place as we move, where those talents would really be useful, and we don’t have someone for that.” In fact, they did that.
Pam Harper: It really worked out well for them. In fact, it was part of the reason that they were able to accelerate the rate of their innovation and product launch by at least 6 months.
Scott Harper: There’s another type of unexpected person to tap for new positions, which is even more of a challenge. Those are people who may not be under-performing, but who are performing really well, and in fact may be in a really hard to fill spot.
Pam Harper: The “needle in the haystack,” I call it.
Scott Harper: The needle in the haystack person, and they’re doing great. “We don’t want to move them because we need what they do.”
Pam Harper: It goes back to what we were saying in the first segment with the learning curve. Who wants to shake up stability?
Scott Harper: Sure, but if you have this person, these people, who have the great technical skills and also have some of those harder to find soft skills … the non-linear thinking, the leadership, the ability to coordinate and interact with people. You know, they could be potentially very useful in a different spot or a higher spot.
Pam Harper: That’s right.
Scott Harper: How do you manage this, “I don’t want to have a gap. I don’t want to have this void of talent that is also hard to fill?”
Pam Harper: Well, we’re going to talk about that in the third segment. For right now, the important thing to take from this point is that people that might not be natural candidates to be in other positions, actually can be a wonderful source of top talent for new positions that are constantly going to be coming up.
Scott Harper: That’s right.
Pam Harper: We need to think more expansively about how we staff our organizations.
Scott Harper: What this requires of course, is that you cultivate the ability to separate people from jobs. All too often it’s easy to confuse rules with individuals.
Pam Harper: “It’s Joe’s job. He’s the only one who can do that one.” That’s a way of thinking, that even in the most enlightened companies, I still hear it. It’s hard when somebody has been around for a long time − to separate that the person has more to offer than just what they have in that job. They’re going to have to be able to be more flexible in order for the company to grow.
Scott Harper: That brings us to our third point, which is that in Pokémon Go, in addition to finding the little Pokémon creatures, sometimes you encounter eggs. The egg is a Pokémon, and sometimes a very rare and powerful Pokémon − that has to be incubated, nurtured, and hatched − and then developed up.
Pam Harper: Does that happen a lot?
Scott Harper: I have run into an egg or two. I haven’t hatched them yet. You have to actually walk with them, a really physical matter of distance to hatch them.
This really goes into this idea of, you may have somebody in a role, they have skills that could really elevate them in a different role, but they may have to be incubated a little bit.
Pam Harper: So top talent needs to be developed. This is a very tricky thing, because of course we naturally want to know that we’re going to get a return on investment if we develop somebody and spend that time nurturing them, that we’re going to get payoff so to speak.
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: The fact is that there are ways to get around this. The first is to understand that there are a lot of ways to get ROI. It isn’t necessarily doing exactly what they do, right now, better. But that they have more flexibility to be able to expand in a pinch for somebody else. Or that they are going to be candidates, prime candidates, for some things that are going to be coming up within the year. The world is changing so fast, no doubt, there’s going to be something.
Part of being able to create the momentum, ignite and sustain momentum, as we’re growing, is to be able to have people that are in readiness mode. That they’re constantly able to do this. Developing people, and we’ll talk a little bit more about that in the third segment, is essential to be ready to take full advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.
Scott Harper: So they’re in their current role, and at the same time, they’re in a parallel track that is already providing value to the company.
Pam Harper: Exactly.
Scott Harper: Even before their move.
Pam Harper: Something that I’m a big believer in and do quite a bit. Now there was another aspect of Pokémon Go-
Scott Harper: Well that’s right, and one of those things is that in addition to wandering around as I have, with your smartphone by yourself, there’s also a team aspect.
Pam Harper: Yes, we saw these people going around in 3, 4, 5, groups.
Scott Harper: This allows them to take over training facilities and gain more experience and up the levels of their Pokémon creatures. The point is, here, the whole idea of finding people in unexpected places, looking for those folks, getting up and going it’s really elevated by groups because we, as leaders, don’t always have the time to go physically to everybody around.
Apply the principle of crowd-sourcing to actually looking inside your own organization for potential new top talent. If people, as an entire company, are primed to look to themselves and to the people around them for, “These are things we want to develop, these are positions or skills that we want to elevate.” Then, folks that you haven’t had a chance to go out and encounter can look around and see those opportunities, and come back and say, “Hey, here is an opportunity.” And of course that requires, as we’ve spoken about many times before, a safe environment to have those conversations.
Pam Harper: Right, and it also really points out that talent development, talent sourcing, is not just human resources’ job, it’s everyone’s job.
Scott Harper: That’s right.
Pam Harper: It’s at every level of the organization, and we all have to work together to be to find and develop the best talent to go after these new opportunities that are going to be coming up. We’re going to talk more about that in the third segment.
Right now we’re going to take another quick break, and Scott and I will continue our conversation about 3 things you can do, starting now, to find top talent in your own backyard. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio, with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, on the web at BusinessAdvance.com.
Pam Harper: Does your company have what it takes to meet your current commitments, and move fast enough to respond to new opportunities? Take the first step to confirm your perspective by requesting our free resource, “Five Questions to Ask When you Need to Move Even Faster.”
Scott Harper: Our questionnaire will help you find out where to begin to focus your energy and resources, so that what should be happening really is happening in your company, faster and more effectively.
Pam Harper: We’ve developed these questions based on our work with clients in over 30 industries. We’ve helped them scale faster, make innovation happen faster, and more quickly respond to new opportunities. This has generated millions of dollars in top and bottom line growth. Now, you can have this resource on a complimentary basis just for sharing your valid contact information with us.
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Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last 2 segments, Scott and I have been talking about finding top talent faster, using principles from Pokémon Go. We came up with some interesting ways of applying this concept in the second segment. Now let’s get down to the immediately actionable ideas.
Scott Harper: Okay, so what are some practical things people can do to apply this idea? It’s a little out of the box.
Pam Harper: Okay, so we were talking about finding top talent in unexpected places. One thing that I found is particularly useful is to get to know people at functions. I have seen way too many people just sit by themselves, or with the same-old, same-old people. Which really makes no sense. I mean it’s comfortable, but it’s not useful.
Scott Harper: Now, by function you mean…
Pam Harper: Business functions, like parties, meetings, conferences … You know, so often I see people do this. They stick with the people they already know. Even with the people you already know, sometimes you don’t know enough.
Scott Harper: Okay.
Pam Harper: I remember leading a group through an exercise, and I had each of them turn to somebody else sitting next to them, and exchange 2 pieces of information. Things that they knew that the other person didn’t know about them, maybe nobody else knew about them. In one case, it was somebody who was playing a mandolin, and he wanted to be a professional mandolin player someday. He wanted to use his talents in being out in front of people, because he also loved to be out in front of people. People didn’t know that about him.
Scott Harper: So it made him a good spokesman for the company.
Pam Harper: That’s right. So when we were debriefing, that was one of the things that came up. There are all kinds of other things that can happen. Hobbies that people have … they don’t often share with people at work. I mean, there are people who do, of course, but not enough of us. We don’t see it as relevant, we don’t have time…
Scott Harper: Right. Even extra-curricular activities, like someone who organizes events for their civic group could be a really good candidate using those skills … organizational skills and interactive skills, for say managing an alliance project, because these are becoming more and more common. It’s hard to find really good alliance people.
Pam Harper: That’s right. We have to think more creatively about what these hobbies actually mean, in terms of some of the new talent that we have right under our nose.
Scott Harper: Okay, so that leads into a second point.
Pam Harper: That’s right. We have to say flexible in terms of finding top talent, and you already were mentioning creating the safe environment for conversations about expanding an employees impact. First thing is, what is a safe environment? What do we mean? In my mind, it means that people feel like, if they talk about their dreams and their visions … just as I was mentioning in the last example, that we don’t go, “Okay, this person’s going to leave really soon. Time to find a replacement.” It doesn’t always mean that.
Scott Harper: Well sure.
Pam Harper: In fact, that person that I was referring to, stayed with the company for probably a good 2 or 3 years more because he didn’t have what it took at that moment financially to go off on his own. He was able to add extra value to the company while he was there.
Scott Harper: So the company really got a good return on that person.
Pam Harper: That’s right, he got a good return on investment. That’s the safe environment and creating these conversations and asking questions in new ways. The other part of that is that flexibility … thinking of positions in your company in terms of roles and accountabilities that can be configured in a variety of ways. I think of it like a kaleidoscope, where when you twist the end you can see different pieces of glass configure and reconfigure in new ways. With the same pieces you get an entirely different figure. It creates a different impression.
Scott Harper: The important part of doing that is having a very clear idea in the mind about the strategic goals and objectives of the company − the strategic framework, so that you can recognize a pattern and say, “Ah, that’s a good one for here.”
Pam Harper: That’s right. Having that strategic anchor is what gives you the ability to make meaning out of what comes out of this exercise.
Scott Harper: So, as with Pokémon, you go by a place and it vibrates, and “Oh, that’s a Poke Stop.” If you have an idea of what the whole context is, you can recognize, “Oh, wait. I’m getting a vibration here. This person could be a real asset that we hadn’t been thinking about before.”
Pam Harper: Exactly, and the third point is to collaborate to develop that top talent. One thing that actually works very well is working together in groups to jointly compile a list of the critical accountabilities and success factors for a role.
Scott Harper: Oh, okay.
Pam Harper: The more that we all can see this, so that this is the collaborative factor-
Scott Harper: Going back to the crowd-sourcing idea.
Pam Harper: That’s right. The more the people all understand the same criteria, then we can all recognize. We can get that vibration together.
In addition to that, we can also come up jointly, collaboratively, with ways to cross-train people, and to develop them through mentoring and/or coaching. This point goes all the way back to the first segment, when we were talking about, we can’t take the time to have that learning curve. When you create opportunities that are real and necessary, that coincide with learning opportunities, then you’ve got that person who is developed and ready to immediately go in to a new role.
Scott Harper: At the same time that they are creating value in their current function, and so you don’t have those gaps.
Pam Harper: You get that return on investment that you really need.
Scott Harper: Right; excellent. So Pam, any final thoughts on this out-of-box, game-changing conversation?
Pam Harper: Well, just as with Pokémon Go, you may find out that top talent is hiding right under your nose. We need to be open to challenging our basic assumptions about how work needs to be configured, and that the best talent is actually inside our own organization. Doing this on a continuous basis can reignite energy and momentum on our company’s growth journey. It’s definitely an endeavor worth taking on.
Scott Harper: That’s terrific Pam. Thanks so much, and thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio, with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To get show notes and resource links for this week’s episode, including a link to Episode 50 with Jane Howze, go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, and select Episode 78.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: -wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to discuss with your team:
Scott Harper: So what one thing can we do to increase our odds of finding top talent that may be hidden in plain site, right in our own company?