Value Talent over Experience when You Can

So maybe the truth is out: Microsoft is after Yahoo!’s talent in its hostile bid. In some respects, it makes sense, since no one else seems to think there are any other benefits to such a merger (ironically, Google “Microsoft, Yahoo” and you will find numerous results, particularly in blogs).

Talent, combined with a good business model, is what drives a company to success.

Assuming talent is the real reason, neither company’s business model can support that kind of wealth. I don’t mean the monetary cost of maintaining those individuals. Microsoft has the revenue. I meant the ability to let them do what they do best. Their models need a bigger shift to a lab environment.

Stepping away from the merger scenario, let’s look at how most companies recruit and develop staff.

Typically, the process starts with someone in the organization declaring that they have a position to fill. That position comes with a detailed description, including specific experience required, such as 5 years of professional writing experience and an expert knowledge of Microsoft Office. The HR person or hiring manager starts advertising the position, weeding out everyone who doesn’t have the requisite experience.

Let me note here that for specific roles within any organization, relevant experience is a necessity. For example, you should avoid bringing in someone to be your chief financial officer if he has no idea what a balance sheet is or a statement of cash flows. And I wouldn’t want to receive medical treatment from someone with no clinical background.

So, when it comes time to evaluate candidates, the hiring manager is looking for the person that best plugs into what they have identified as the need. Someone gets hired and does the job as expected based on the description, with the organization floating along as it has. The vacancy is now filled.

Take a different view. Suppose someone in the organization sees that there is an opening and decides to fill it with the best possible person, without regard for specific experience of knowledge. The ad for the position changes from a laundry list of required experience and skill sets to something as simple as:

Seeking an individual capable of effectively and efficiently communicating a message in a variety of ways to a number of different people.

You could go even looser, advertising for talented people and having them perform certain tasks or put together a project.

In the traditional method, the organization ties its own hands through its position restrictions. Often it is because the hiring manager has someone in his sights either to get into the job or to keep them away.

With the talent-based method, the organization brings people without pigeon-holing them into a dictated role. Some of the most successful organizations that do this hire first then figure out what to do with the person later. They give themselves greater freedom to grow, innovate and recruit even more talent.

Let Microsoft pay that hefty price for talent. In some respects, I hope they do. But under one condition. That they let their newly-added talent do what they do best. Which will require a fundamental shift in how they operate.

You can do in your business, too. A lot easier than, say, Microsoft. The question is whether you are ready for the change.

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