Image Steve Jobs face

Hiring Great Teams

This is a guest post written by Keith Tatley – Founder of Manager Foundation. His opinions are his own.

The raison d’etre of management is two things:  get good staff and manage them effectively.

So how important is getting good staff? Vital! In fact former co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc. Steve Jobs considered hiring the best staff to be your most important job.

Steve Jobs was an amazing and unconventional leader in many respects. How did he become one of the best entrepreneurs and respected leaders of our time? Apart from using his creative brilliance to design products, he applied his perfectionism equally to designing his team.

He and his top executives never compromised with the talents and qualifications required of their employees. Steve Jobs believed that hiring was the most important thing he did. He managed all of the hiring for his team; never delegating it. He personally interviewed over 5,000 applicants during his career.

Perhaps it’s his extensive hiring experience that led him to conclude that, “Recruiting is hard.” And indeed it is. But it’s also something that you can get better at.

In his quest for the best, Steve Jobs has left us bits of wisdom about how to hire and retain the best talent. In his book, Leading Apple with Steve Jobs, author and former Apple senior vice president Jay Elliot details his former boss’ strategies for hiring what Jobs called “A-list players.”

I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1.Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream … A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.

Getting better at hiring means hiring better staff and improving the quality of good hires. And hiring the best gives you:

  • Increased employee performance and productivity;
  • Increased employee engagement and;
  • Increased employee retention.

To say that Steve Jobs achieved his goal of hiring the best people would be a gross understatement.

Walter Isaacson quotes Jobs as saying, “I’ve learned over the years that, when you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things. The original Mac team taught me that A-plus players like to work together, and they don’t like it if you tolerate B-grade work.”

Take a minute and look at the people around you. Are they A-players? Or are they B and C-players? A-players are motivated, engaged and creative. They are performance-driven and have high expectations for themselves and for others. B and C-players, on the other hand, often do just enough to get by and to be paid for it. The question now becomes – how do you find and hire A-players?

Improve your hiring skills

As a manager you might be thinking that hiring isn’t an important management skill. For most managers it’s certainly not something that you need to do frequently so why invest time refining a management skill that’s seldom utilised?

Steve Jobs has a simple answer, “I disagree totally. I think it’s the most important job.” People are an organisation’s most valuable asset. Hiring the best is crucial for improving employee performance and productivity, employee engagement and employee retention. That makes hiring the most important management skill.

Implement a robust recruitment process

The hiring process is difficult and very time-consuming. And it can lead to disappointment if it’s not managed right. As a manager with a busy schedule you may also be thinking that you just don’t have the time to invest in a lengthy recruitment process. Once again Steve Jobs puts things into perspective.

Assume you’re by yourself in a start-up and you want a partner. You’d take a lot of time finding the partner, right? He would be half of your company. Why should you take any less time finding a third of your company or a fourth of your company or a fifth of your company? When you’re in a start-up, the first ten people will determine whether the company succeeds or not. Each is 10% of the company. So why wouldn’t you take as much time as necessary to find all the A-players? If three were not so great, why would you want a company where 30% of your people are not so great? A small company depends on great people much more than a big company does.

What I like about this excerpt from Steve Jobs is that it shows you just how passionate he was about hiring the best people. And he took it seriously – it wasn’t something to be rushed.

But he also gives sound reasoning. I don’t think anyone could argue the fact that spending time hiring good people is the best investment of your time.

How will a recruitment process add value and make your hiring more effective?

Having a recruitment process in place adds structure to the hiring process:

  • It shows you the action steps for conducting your recruitment process from start to finish and ensures that you have all the tools and resources in place for each step of the process and;
  • It ensures that you don’t skip any vital steps in the recruitment process.

And how does a good recruitment process ensure that you hire A-grade players? How will it ensure increased employee performance and productivity, increased employee engagement and increased employee retention?

Besides the action steps for effective hiring, a good recruitment process is also about evaluating and testing candidates to make sure that you hire the best person for the job. And the key to evaluating candidates is choosing the best interview questions to ask.

But when I refer to “the best interview questions to ask”, I don’t mean using generic interview questions either. You know the ones I’m talking about – they sound a bit like, “Where do you see yourself in five years?

In contrast, the best interview questions give you a comprehensive insight into the person behind the résume. They reveal the candidate’s values; personality; strengths; weaknesses; knowledge; past behaviours; competencies and skills.

Like Steve Jobs, I consider hiring the single most important activity for a manager to get right. But I also know that it’s not easy finding a good process … especially if you’re starting from scratch.

Keith Tatley founded the Manager Foundation to “Make Work Work”. Manager Foundation specialises in employee productivity. If you want to increase employee performance or are a manager with a staff performance problem, find a solution at Manager Foundation.

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