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Recruiting for better business outcomes.

Blog: The Knowledge Economy

Business trends often tend to follow the patterns of cultural change. In the latter part of the 20th century, businesses developed an interest in fostering employee wellbeing, by installing such facilities as gymnasiums for staff use.

This focus on staff physical health led to the promotion of greater workplace satisfaction, increased morale and loyalty by organising events, where the employees met for a variety of team-building exercises. Many of these events involved exercises where individuals relied on mutual trust, in order to complete set tasks. Whilst many who experienced these forced bonding events, may scoff mockingly at the seemingly cringeworthy and frequently humiliating tasks endured, the purpose of uniting individuals to work as an effective, coordinated group, should not be underestimated.

The cultural shift has altered significantly, with current emphasis clearly focussing on the individual, displacing that of the team. There has been much discussion, particularly since the ever-present expansion of social media technology, of a burgeoning epidemic of narcissism. The evidence may reveal itself when individuals exaggerate or falsify CVs in order to secure positions beyond their capabilities and experience. The ethical challenges facing individuals in a culture where such unethical behaviours are often normalised, is a real and genuine concern for businesses. Focussing on the individual in preference to the team may lead to misdirection and disintegration of governance and ultimately the misdirection of the businesses vision and goals.

The recruiting practice of some businesses may be to hire the most qualified and experienced individuals available. On the surface, this seems like a sensible strategy. Unfortunately a highly knowledgeable and capable individual who employs egotistical strategies to succeed, may actively seek to undermine others, creating unwanted and damaging workplace conflict.

The ‘star’ recruit, instead of being an asset, may be a liability by attempting to stifle the endeavours of others, overwhelming them with their perceived expertise or by blocking or devaluing the ideas of fellow colleagues and claiming ownership of another’s achievements or intellectual property. The hallmarks of such narcissism can similarly result in a ruthless greed for increased responsibility, and typically, denial and/or blame with regards to accountability. In an increasingly competitive workplace environment, it does not take long before a business, with multiple conflicting egos, may lead to a disfunctional business suffering low employee morale and consequent high staff turnovers, becoming politically toxic, if not corrupt.

Imperatives of establishing a knowledge repository and robust Enterprise Architecture should be undertaken providing a common ground from which all employees operate. With strict adherence to the governance processes employed through the Enterprise Architecture, the balanced business seeks to recruit capable individuals, with a view that they will be and must operate as part of a team, the business is more likely to enjoy a greater level of success.

As one of the worlds greatest annual sporting events, The 2014 Tour de France is, at the time of writing, 12 days into the annual 21 day professional cycling endurance race. Sir Dave Brailsford, Team Sky’s principal, has stated his preference for “a star team rather than a team of stars” – a motto any business with aspirations to the success of Team Sky (itself a business), should seek to adopt. Viewing highlights of the teams in the TdF clearly demonstrates the benefits of supporting fellow members can bring to the team. The level of team loyalty, acknowledgement of assistance, self-sacrifice and determination to realise their goals is nothing short of inspirational.

Within successful business teams, each individual is supported by the other members, with ideas being generated and augmented with the input of many. No single individual in the truly collaborative team environment will perform as well as the team as a whole. A fully functional team environment shows the truth of the phrase ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts’ or what the Germans define as a Gestalt.

In the long term, businesses will be far better placed by ensuring an effective group dynamic is maintained when recruiting. A rigorous approach to hiring, with both key selection criteria; appropriate scenarios asked during interviews and potentially even psychological profiling together with thorough reference checks, should be utilised to prioritise team commitment. By all means hire the star recruit – but hire one that fits into the team environment. The star recruit, when also a team-player, benefits everyone. Candidates who listen, consult and respect opinions of others and can work collaboratively, boost morale and may be regarded as better value for the business.

Establishing a star team rather that a team of stars will more than likely generate a positive business culture and ultimately result in better business outcomes.

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