June 02, 2012

Our Secret Ingredient is Our People - Part I

Our Secret Ingredient is Our People
Image Source: Internet

Yes, you read the title right! How many of you have this as the core mantra of your company or business? In a world where everything is viewed as a commodity whose value essentially keeps fluctuating, the people factor is the only thing that can reap constant (often increased) returns. What the heck am I talking about, you may wonder. But I think the picture from a Wendy's wayside billboard advertisement says it all!

Today, with advancement in technology and with just enough cash in hand, acquiring
a set of technology tools and a bunch of people to work is no big deal. For this discussion I'd like to focus on just  the people factor. How many of you believe that the single most important and influencing factor of your business is your people? Of anything that goes into making of a company or a
product or service, people happen to be the core enablers. Not getting the right set of people or not being able to retain the right set of people can be detrimental to your business or product or service in a short and a long term.

In this article series, I'll highlight some important things to remember when you acquire, retain and grow the best of people for your company. The intent behind this article is to get someone thinking in the right direction, as opposed to serving as a bible of all best practices. In this specific article, let's look a little deeper at people acquisition.

Acquiring people is one of the most critical pieces of this puzzle that many people (and hence companies) fail to give in their fullest. Most people think that the very notion of having a long, arduous and mentally-challenging recruitment process is the be-all-end-all of this recruitment game. What I see as an effective way of doing this recruitment jig is to add the other dimension of personality analysis. Some successful companies and individuals I know do this very well. Here are some ways people do this -
  1. Meeting the candidate in-person at the office along with the team he / she is going to be working with, to observe how he / she mingles with the group - This helps in knowing the person's inter-personal skills
  2. Have a lot of magazines and newspapers at the reception area and observe if the candidate really cares to pick one of them and ask for his / her observations in the discussion that follows - This helps in understanding the person's thirst for knowledge and curiosity levels
  3. Meet the person over lunch / dinner or perhaps over a drink (if it permits) and discuss about life and work - Helps in understanding the true character of the person
  4. Look for people from active interest groups for the position you are looking to fill - For example, I've known recruiters from companies looking for people from special interest groups like Running / Cycling groups, Rowing clubs, Hiking / Trekkers meets and even at Music fests!
  5. People who write blogs and those who have an active social presence can be the ones making your job a lot easier - Blogs speak a lot about the author's personality, and talking to the person after going through his / her blog can only get better!
  6. If you are hiring a geek, try putting him / her through a session of pair-programming or introduce him to a team in your office which is trying to fix a complex defect - It's not about solving the problem, but the approach he / she takes to solve it that matters in this case. 
Most importantly, try and keep your eyes and ears open and receptive to everything you hear or see about the person you are looking to hire. While to some this comes naturally, others need to practice the art of listening and observing. I've known some people and companies like GoogleThoughtWorks (specially for its usage of pair-programming for interviews), CollabNetINXS Technologies (and, a good number of startups) that have mastered this very well.

Hope this works for you. If you or your company has an interesting practice, do share it here - Would love to have all readers benefit from them! Till I see you with the next article about Retaining people, have a great time finding the best people for your company!

As always, Stay Tuned and Stay Inspired!
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