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What’s more important than your people?

13th September 2022

If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.

John Cleese

There has been an assertion, commonly held for many hundreds of years, that great businesses are built by great leaders. This theory – whilst always somewhat unspoken in the feudal era – gained stronger roots during the industrial revolution; a period where vast business empires were seen to be built by titans of industry.

The reality – often hidden from people behind the veneer of praise for ‘titans of industry’ – is that businesses are not built by leaders, they are built by workers. In fact, I much prefer the saying and principle, ‘people breed people’.

It may seem counterintuitive, but your goal should not be to create the ‘most successful’ company in your industry, but instead the ‘most desirable to work at’. If you can achieve the latter, the former will follow. So how do I develop my company into the most desirable employer in the sector?

The answer lies in the way in which you develop your company culture, how you attract new talent – and surprisingly – in a recruitment process involving spaghetti and duct tape.

Truly exceptional businesses are built with the right workers, in the right position, working in the right environment where they can thrive. It’s a leader’s responsibility to ensure that his or her business is hiring the right people, and utilising them in the right way – this is a challenge, but one that pays off when approached in the right way.

I believe there are three key elements to consider in this process:

The Right People

When deliberating on how to fill a vacancy within a company, the leaders and recruiting managers must ensure that they are hiring the ‘right’ person.

Do they have the right experience for the role? Do they have the knowledge and skillset required within your firm? Is their personality the right fit?

The Right Position

Whilst an applicant can demonstrate all the knowledge and skillsets required to be a valued member of a business, a good leader must also consider whether they are uniquely qualified for the role in question.

To give an example, pretend for a moment that you are hiring for a data-analysis lead. An applicant may demonstrate exceptional knowledge of the industry, and a near-genius level of skill in crunching data – however, if they demonstrate an inability to manage other team members, they may be suitable for a position with the company, but not this specific management role.

The Right Environment

This point is entirely in the hands of the business leaders – for better or for worse.

Creating a positive workplace environment is a subject which I have discussed extensively in my other blogs and my book, Doing The Opposite, but to give a quick summary: it is vital that workers feel supported and that they have the necessary tools to produce an exceptional standard of work.

This can be done through a focus on wellness, through flexible and understanding business practices, and by providing a support structure which allows them to develop on successes and bounce back from failures. If you’re interested in learning more, check out some of the other topics on my blog.

It is also vitalthat prospective employees are enthusiastic about joining your business. To ensure a strong ‘people pipeline’, companies must seek to make their work enjoyable and engaging to their employees. A crucial part of this is ensuring that your prospective applicants are a strong fit for your culture.

If a business leader can ensure that each of these three key areas are addressed, they will be able to maximise the effectiveness of their workers, allowing them to build a truly exceptional business.

“But how Jeff?” I hear you say. “What advice can you give me on how I can facilitate this?”

The recruitment process varies from company to company, but the most common aspect is the interview. Unfortunately for many businesses, that is the beginning and the end of the process. At my company, Cloudfm, we do things a little differently. We commit an entire day to the interview process. And then we make towers out of spaghetti and duct tape.

Let me explain.

Our highest priority is ensuring that our potential recruits not only have the industry skills required, but the soft skills, mindset and personality required to mesh with our existing culture.

After much tinkering, our process now involves breaking applicants into groups, with a handful of current employees joining each team. The teams are required to perform abstract tasks that demonstrate their problem solving, and how well they mesh with our culture.

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