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“Get the right people on the bus.” Thanks to Jim Collins and his book “Good to Great”, this is a pretty popular phrase these days. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I attended a meeting or function dealing with business strategy when this phrase wasn’t used. Furthermore, it’s the single-most discussed issue in these types of meetings, whether it was purposefully designed or not. I recently heard a version in the movies. Have you seen “Miracle”? It’s the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that beat the dominating Soviet team to advance to the gold-medal game (which, of course, they won). While evaluating and selecting his players, coach Herb Brooks (played by Kurt Russell) said, “I’m not looking for the best players. I’m looking for the right players.”
But, how do you know if someone is “right” or “wrong”? Is there a limited amount of right people in the world? Can you train or transform a wrong person into a right person?
It sounds so easy, but talent management is really the hardest part of running a team or a business. In order to illustrate the meaning behind this phrase, allow me to take some liberty and explain it this way:
Right People = Right Position + Right Time + Right Things + Right Way
In other words, you know you have the right people when they are in the right positions at the right time doing the right things in the right way. The first three components (position, time and things) can be grouped under “right results.”
Being in the “right position” implies the person has the appropriate skills and knowledge necessary to correctly perform the duties of the position (i.e., you don’t have a mechanic doing electrical engineering work).
The “right time” implies that the person is in the right position at the right point in his or her career (i.e., you’re not asking an apprentice to perform the functions more suited for someone more experienced).
Doing the “right things” implies that the person understands how to apply his or her skills in the most productive and efficient manner (i.e., you don’t have an electrical engineer spending all of his or her time automating a system when the work time should really be spent eliminating power failures).
Exhibit 1. Right Way vs. Right Results
Finally, the “right way” implies that the person is producing at the highest level possible in a manner consistent with the core values, beliefs and principles of the organization while achieving self-fulfillment (i.e., you don’t have a sales executive making empty promises to close a deal or you don’t have someone who hates routine working on an assembly line).
This brings us to the importance of properly understanding how to identify and select the right people. I’m sure you’ve heard the acronym KSAs. It stands for Knowledge, Skills and Ability. It’s a commonly used term when creating job descriptions. You regularly see it used by government agencies. Whether this term is used or not, most employers think this way when developing job descriptions, and it usually dictates the decision process. This brings us to the root of why I believe employers have difficulty identifying the right people. They usually do a great job of assessing KSAs. They usually do a poor job of assessing behaviors. It’s not intentional. Technical skills are just easier to measure. But as Coach Brooks implied, the best skilled player doesn’t necessarily equate to the right player.
Exhibit 1 illustrates a general guide for making hiring decisions.
So, how are you assessing and selecting your talent, be it external or internal hires? Are you evaluating the right things within an overall talent management strategy or are you just looking for the most skilled person?