Why you should find the right role for the right person — not the other way around


Outfit founder and chief executive officer Bruce Stronge. Source: Supplied.

I am terrible at articulating job titles and am guilty of presenting potential new staff with poorly-defined role descriptions.

I am not alone in this either. Far too often, businesses try to shoehorn staff into positions that don’t fit, place them on career paths that don’t lead to their end goal and task them with jobs that fall outside their areas of specialisation.

What this results in is poor staff retention, a culture that struggles to innovate and paradigm-shift, and frustrated employees. Employees want to know their skills have been genuinely recognised and they can contribute effectively and powerfully to achieve the company vision. 

Having witnessed the consequences of bad hires and high turnovers, I began to approach hiring in a new way.

My company was formed in 2015, and I’ve rarely gone to market to find staff. Of course, there are some specialist roles I specifically recruit for, but for the most part, I’ve adopted an organic, open-minded approach to growing my team.  I have a network of industry insiders, key contacts and recruitment specialists who know me and my company and will recommend potential staff to me accordingly. I may not have an identified role to fill but then I’ll get a call from a contact that starts with: ‘Bruce, I’ve got an amazing person I think you should meet.’

For me, it’s all about the person: what are they good at, what is their speciality, do we need their particular skills now and can we create a role specifically for them? I firmly believe in finding the right role for the right person, not the other way around. By playing the person, not the position, businesses can boost their productivity and drive innovation and growth.

Recruitment is just one brick in the road to company success so here are my tips for ensuring a team stays motivated, passionate and inspired to realise a company’s vision.

1. Stay flexible and fluid

I employ 26 staff and contractors and I know that in even six months’ time, those people who are still with us will not have the same job title or responsibilities as they do now. Don’t box yourself in with rigid position descriptions that allow no freedom to innovate or pursue an area of interest or skill. A business’ needs are constantly evolving so it stands to reason the roles and responsibilities of staff should have the freedom to do so too.

2. Realistic retention rates

Staff retention rates are shortening across the board, especially across the technology and startup industries. The skill sets of these staff are in such high demand an organisation needs to be doing something really special to keep people for more than three years.

Rather than pretending staff are going to stay with your company for the rest of their lives, accept they’re probably not going to be there in five years’ time and almost certainly not in 10 years’ time. Instead, encourage them to share their career goals, including what their next career move might be, and plan for this together. Help staff understand what the business needs from them in the time they are employed, acknowledge the career journey they want to take and then empower them to achieve that.

Training staff and placing them in roles where their interests and skills lie, rather than shoehorning them into the role you think they want to evolve into, is the best way to get the best work from staff, in the time you have them.

3. Self-managing

When you look at the DNA of successful small businesses — be it a suburban retail operation or a startup with a global footprint — you’ll see the importance placed on organising teams and implementing frameworks so staff can self-manage and play to their strengths.

Success doesn’t come from micro-managing — it comes from hiring good people and letting them get on with their speciality. Assembling the right team and sharing with them desired business outcomes, then freeing them to use their unique approaches and specialist skills to achieve that outcome autonomously, puts a company on the fast-track to success.

In short, share your goals with the team, don’t simply dictate the path they must take to reach those goals.

4. Inspire innovation

Innovation needs to come from the top down and business leaders and owners need to lead by example. Gains can be made when businesses let good people apply their unique know-how and follow their passions to investigate and innovate. Encourage staff to experiment and trial new and better ways to do things, even if this occasionally ends in failure.

5. Transparency breed loyalty

Often, business owners feel daunted at the time, staff and budget they need to invest in innovation. Openly and honestly sharing a company’s vision and business goals with staff can inspire them to apply their unique skills and specialities to innovate on your behalf.

Discuss your plans and visions, thoughts and ideas, even business costs and revenue details with your team. In turn, encourage staff to share their own passions, interests and personal goals and task them with developing ways to best utilise their skills and specialities.

Even if now is not the optimum time to experiment or take a risk, make innovation and evolution a priority and share ideas with your team so they realise its importance and are perhaps inspired to develop their own ideas and solutions.

NOW READ: Predicting success: How to ensure the people you hire are able to deliver

NOW READ: “Play to your strengths”: Why Airwallex’s Lucy Liu rejects labels in startupland


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