09/27/2016 05:10 EDT | Updated 09/27/2016 05:10 EDT

Are You Hiring Square Pegs To Fill Round Holes?

Excited business people with arms raised at window covered in adhesive notes
Martin Barraud via Getty Images
Excited business people with arms raised at window covered in adhesive notes

It used to be that once your resume was scanned to meet the threshold of expertise and experience to do the job, you would move through the interview process to determine fit. Recruiters, both external and internal are compensated to find the candidate that is the best fit for the organizational culture, the team that they'll be joining and even the hiring manager's leadership style.

The success of a new employee in the first six months on the job is often a function of how well they fit, not on whether they can get the job done.

But what happens when an organization hiring strategy shifts to support cultural change?

Cultural change cannot be triggered by issuing a snappy edict from the top or posting well articulated values on the walls of your office -- even when your staff is engaged in crafting them. There are those who will get on board quickly, those who will resist and those who will wait to see if this is a passing phase. You want lots of those who will take the new direction and run with it, even becoming advocates for the change. These are the change agents.

Sometimes you don't have enough of them inside the organization. Sometimes you have too many resisters. Then begins the hard work of leaders to "turn over" the talent compliment to ensure that they have the right profile of staff to support the change. It's tough. Job seekers may not readily see the direction you're going in and not even consider your organization in their option set. If you manage to get them in the door to describe "how things will be different", you're asking them to take a leap of faith. In both cases, both the employer and new hire are embarking on a precarious path.

"No more ties. We're a technology company now."

Real quote by an executive. Account management and sales people are coached to dress like their clients when going to meetings. I managed the Amazon account and must admit, had a hard time with the thought of going to meetings in a hoodie. Silicon valley has redefined the meaning of "dress for success." Bankers in Brooks Brothers are trying to figure out how to look young, hip and innovative for fear that they become digital roadkill.

It takes more than change in dress code to make people believe that things will be different. It's about recognizing what the organization currently values, what people believe is to right and wrong, as well as the behaviours that have been ratified over time.

"We want you to hire people that are different from you. No offence."

This leader has been around for a while. Institutional knowledge is great but the way things are been done just isn't cutting it anymore. So how about introducing some misfits to help shake up? Leadership style can be deliberately honed over many years or shaped by significant career experiences. It can be difficult to change, not impossible but difficult. Astute leaders hire to compliment their strengths. One must be pretty secure and confident to do so (or have a trusted HR business partner by their side). For those who are encouraged to change their team compliment, be prepared for some discomfort.

"Our current policy doesn't allow us to do that. But let me see what we can do."

Not sure if you can remember back to your first job. There must have been a distinct moment when you asked a question and upon hearing the answer, you thought, "well that's really dumb." You didn't dare say it aloud. It's policy. Apparently, millennials are saying it aloud and the corporate types are listening. In an effort to attract and retain these sought after resources, organizations are re-thinking policies that don't align with what millennials. In some cases, organizations are ring-fencing this talent in their own divisions so they aren't impacted, or perhaps poised, by the existing business norms.

Here's the top three things that hiring managers may want to think about when hiring a square peg for a round role:

1. Don't think for a minute that existing members of the team don't know what the new kids on the block are there for, so be open about your hiring strategy.

2. Support the new hires by sharing what they are likely going to be hearing and seeing that's inconsistent with what you told them -- what you're looking to change.

3. Reinforce the behaviours that support the direction you're taking across the entire team -- careful not to single out the new hires.

No doubt, a deliberate change in hiring strategy can be one of the catalysts for shifting culture. Disrupting organizational norms can be both good and bad. Perhaps painful in the short-term, long-term success lies in how managers integrate these "game changers" into the organization. Before doing so, ask yourself, "Are we playing the same game we did yesterday and have the rules really changed?"

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