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5 Things and Talent

Five Important Things For All New Talent

blog Sep 11, 2013

Stop me if you've heard this one…

I’m no longer surprised by the number of companies that end up with the wrong people working for them, and for a ridiculously long time at that, before it is remedied. What else would you expect if your behavior is to wait until the last minute to start looking for new talent to add to the team or replace a team member, and then you never perform any real evaluation of performance or actual company fit? The most common excuse is, “But we need someone now.” And the story always ends the same - that person is not the right person, and they must then be replaced at no small cost to the company and with incalculable effort by the team.

Important tip: Stop doing that!


The care and feeding of your new talent

Here are the five things you must do with every new talent regardless of their roles, responsibilities, or salary. In fact, the more you pay them and the more important their roles and responsibilities, the closer you had better pay attention to the results and outcome of every step laid out here. If you follow these steps properly and religiously, I guarantee you will find plenty of opportunities to act on your thoughts that this is not the right person. And when you have those thoughts, be sure to act on them. By following these rules, you create a scenario where this new talent cannot just settle into a nice low-producing position of mediocrity in your company.

One: Vet them properly

As Jim Collins states in his book Good To Great, “Get the right people on the bus.” Now, I assume you did a proper review of the prospective employee’s references, education, and references, but that only gives you a starting point and a scale by which to measure your newly acquired talent. You do have to realistically compare their expected skill and ability relative to the new position and adjust accordingly. But you must take note overall whether they just flat out do not have the skills they indicated they did, including and especially if they answer with overused statements such as “I learn new things fast,” and “I adopt new skills quickly.” Remember, every truly great talent is going to be a salesman. The vetting process, by the way, is why you should have a 90-day evaluation period.

Two: Compensate them appropriately

If you have the right person and they have the right skills and potential, pay them what they are worth. I do believe in younger people first taking jobs for what they can learn and then later taking jobs for what they can earn. But that doesn't mean beating up an intern to work for free, or trying to bargain a Tier 3 engineer for a Tier 2 salary. Neither of these two will have much loyalty for very long, if they are worth having to start with.

Three: Proper and complete Onboarding of new talent

Do not skip one single step in this process for love or for money! The one step you skip may one day be the step that costs you your business. Unfortunately, I know of scenarios where skipping a few of those pesky forms leads to engineers leaving and taking several top clients with them. And if you do not have a proper onboarding process, get one before you hire another person. Build it in the middle of the night if you have to.

Four: Have a training plan that leads you both to success

The term I use is to set them up for success. Here is where you outline their path to the right spot in your company, doing the most valuable work they can for you, which attracted them to your company in the first place. This training is above and beyond the initial training on the ticketing system, for example. This and other basic tools used by the company are covered in the onboarding. I’m referring to the top level core competency training that allows you to have a second engineer versed in the new Cisco routers or latest VMWare solutions, etc. The training plan must be specific and long-term. It should provide a feeling of purpose and engagement.

Five: Continuous incremental improvement

Regular quarterly reviews for all employees are a must in the knowledge worker world we live in today. You cannot wait six months or a year to evaluate and correct the course of highly talented and heavily relied upon people. Again, you must have a process for showing them you have a dedication to building on and utilizing their strengths while leveraging their talent for creating the highest quality product your company can provide. The review or evaluation process does not have to be tied to financial compensation and raises. It can be about mastery on their part and praise on your part. It’s my opinion that it would be ridiculous for people coming into the technology workforce today not to expect that if you are not moving forward in your skillset and knowledge, you are in fact falling behind fast.

Bottom Line

Don’t forget how we got started - we hired fast and don’t even bother to fire slow as we don’t fire at all. You must resolve to act on your gut feelings, knowledge, and intuition as soon as you realize you do not have the right person. Let them go now. Your company will suffer more with the wrong person than without them. And if you need to adjust other habits about your process that seem to always lead you to the same situation, call a business coach, throw out a lifeline.

Realistic expectations and setting people up for success is an important part of caring for your company and your people. It’s your people process and caring for your people that will help see you through some amazingly bad times. Take care of your people, because they are an important investment in your company’s future.

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