Adapt or Die: Part Three, Hiring for Innovation

In part one of the Adapt or Die blog series we discussed how companies that hung on to outdated technology, lost market share to more agile competitors. In part two we analysed the companies that have flourished in the face of the ever-changing technological landscape and evolving customer demands. Now in this final piece we will give you a few tips and tricks on how you can embrace innovation by adapting your hiring strategy to survive in a competitive environment. Burying your head will only ensure your company becomes irrelevant but if you actively put strategies in place, hire for innovation and embrace disruptive technologies you’re one step closer to growing your business.

Ticking the Boxes or Looking Towards the Future

So your developer has handed you his or her resignation, you have a new position opening or you need to inject some fresh blood into your office. Many companies will put out a job advert which is just all wrong. Firstly you’re looking for a person, not just a human tool. Have you merely used the same job specs or advert you have used before or even copied and pasted one you found on Google? That’s definitely not the best route to take because tech, IT and software are continually changing. The skills you thought your team needed before have probably changed. What’s more, listing all the skills your previous developer had may very well leave you chasing a mirage. Prioritise the five most important skills you need and be open to changing that list if you think you’ve found a good candidate who only ticks three of the boxes. Hire people who can think outside the box and find unique solutions to complex problems. Each candidate you meet is an individual and they need to be treated as such.

Leave it to the Experts

Whether you’re the manager, CEO or a human resources manager, it is important to accept the fact that you are hiring an expert to do a job that you are unable or don’t have the time to do. These are the people whose ideas and recommendations need to be heard, so it’s essential that they are empowered to make decisions because it is their job to keep their finger on the pulse. After all, why would you hire someone whose opinion you don’t trust? Too often big decisions are made by upper management who may have the least amount of knowledge to make the best decision. Innovation requires change, disruption and adaptability and if you aren’t open to that you are jeopardising the future growth of your company. Give your experts the space to shape the technology your business uses.

Structural Changes to Your Organisation

A lot of companies say that they operate within a more flat, peer to peer structure than the more traditional hierarchical structure but then when a candidate starts the job, the reality is a stark contrast to the story they were originally sold. Leadership roles are changing and for a few very good reasons. Businesses have evolved through recognising that each individual has something of value to contribute. It has been noted time and time again that developers are more likely to thrive working in a team because they are given the flexibility that they need to collaborate. For example; holacracy spreads the power that is traditionally reserved for executives across all of the employees. A traditional hierarchical structure places layers of management one on top of the next thus forming a strict and often tedious process by which decisions are made. The problem with a traditional hierarchical structure is that the process of making important decisions becomes slow and convoluted, ultimately impeding agility and innovation.

Careful Collaboration and Teamwork

Along with a less hierarchical organisational structure, comes the inclusion of each department and the collaboration thereof. Even though a multidisciplinary team may not find their groove straight away, it’s no secret that when people pool their skills and creativity towards the same aim, they are more likely to succeed and accomplish more than the sum of its individuals alone. This is largely because each member is given the chance to make the most of their unique skill set. In addition, this approach gives the people on the ground a holistic view of problems and places more emphasis on finding solutions. Without teamwork or collaboration, thinking may stagnate, jeopardising the organisation’s ability to find solutions and pursue new ideas. When considering the benefits of introducing a new developer to your organisation, consider their ability to work in a team and how this collaboration can help your company grow.

Use Whitespace Techniques to Adapt Your Business

If you think the goal post need not change you are greatly mistaken. In part two of the Adapt or Die series we discussed the unique whitespace approach Mark Zuckerberg took in order to innovate. Facebook has become a gigantic organisation because it has embraced disruption and maintained the agility needed to make corrections to its course based on intelligence gathered. This has ultimately led to it continually making improvements to its product and the performance thereof.

Within the whitespace strategy the old cliché adage of thinking out of the box remains but how often is this approach actually adopted in a managerial context? The entire object of whitespace management is to break down the barriers of clear strategies, authority, rules and budgets. This seemingly bizarre technique aids in the exchange and development of new ideas, potential client offerings and helps to prove or disprove new uses for technology. Of course, this strategy presents its self as a potential organisational nightmare but there are ways to implement it without wasting resources. Consider this approach when the time comes to hire a new line manager or team leader; if they have the skills to champion it, they may well prove to be extremely valuable to your business.

Cut Your Losses and Move on

The whitespace approach is a tricky one and it may leave your organisation in what seems like an aimless position. If you have hired the right manager or implemented the right processes it is possible to successfully direct these efforts into a more fruitful stream of revenue. That said, even a very good manager may turn up a few turds rather than diamonds. In this case it’s best to move on rather than fixating on that less than useful idea the juniors were brainstorming over the foosball table. Every company has to take risks at some point, especially if innovation is a priority. Look at Nintendo, they branched out and tried to run a taxi service! Spoiler alert – it failed. What we learn from these mistakes however is actually invaluable. Ultimately a bit of retrospection is the best tool you have at our disposal to help us run an agile and responsive business. Never discount that.

Upskill, Upskill, Upskill

You realise that you’ve stumbled across an incredible candidate who just doesn’t tick all the boxes and you’re actually struggling to find anyone who does. It’s time to consider finding someone with the energy to learn and provide them with the resources to upskill themselves. The value of an enquiring mind can easily outweigh that of a seasoned professional who has become complacent because they have a great skillset. Upskilling leaves room for more questions, inspiration, finding newer and better solutions and ultimately more innovation. With a bit of extra training under their belt, your new employee may come to possess a very unique skillset (giving you the edge over your competitors), enabling you to more easily keep up with the pace of new technology and grow new departments. More still; your employees will be happier, more productive and more likely stay within the organisation as opposed to moving on to greener pastures.

Managing People Whose Skills You Don’t Understand

In a fast-paced tech environment, a line manager will inevitably be put in the position where they have to hire a person to fill a position that didn’t exist a year ago. In such an instance you need to value the skills of your new employee and give them enough autonomy to successfully achieve their goals and innovate. It’s tricky when you don’t understand their terminology and nuances of their niche but you still need to be a leader. It’s best to not overexert your authority but rather create an environment in which your employee can thrive. One of the best ways to do this is by focussing on the outcomes your team needs to produce and understand the rationale behind the necessity of these outcomes. Lastly, understand when these outcomes become outmoded and need to shift because innovation requires agility and the ability to change course where necessary.

With so many potential paths to innovation there is little to no excuse for stagnation and inertia. The change resistant need to make way for the early adopters to carve out a new path in order to just survive. By hiring for change and innovation companies are better equipped to pre-empt change rather than merely react to it. Think beyond last year’s tech stack, promote technological advancement and you will attract the talent that will help you transform your business and get that edge over your competitors.

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