Downright Strange – You’re Hired

Article published in NZ Herald, January 2015

With Leigh Paulden, SSBG Director, 14 January 2015

If your company is creating something valuable and distinctive, then your workforce can’t be normal

To differentiate your business you need a strange culture and strange people, says one of New Zealand’s leading business consultants. And finding these strange people is the role of your marketing team.

Across New Zealand, the number one issue facing businesses, especially those wishing to grow, is having the right people in the right job, says Gazelles consultant Leigh Paulden.

Paulden is one of only three Gazelles International certified business consultants in the country and he works with companies serious about growth.

Research suggests you need at least 20 applicants for a job to enable you to hire an A player to your team. To get this magic minimum number, use your marketing team to attract them in the same way you would attract top-grade customers.

“To attract great people, the A players who are most likely working somewhere else, you need to have a strong culture and strategy. And I would recommend you hire people that are downright strange.”

Paulden explains that we all have a tendency to hire the people who are most like ourselves, therefore you end up with a company of look-alikes.

“Across any company you need a well rounded team, but the individuals within it need to be specialists in the particular area they work in. If you get someone who is talented in one particular thing (and it’s the thing you need) then that’s your person. If they are quite bad at other things, so be it. After all would you hire your local mechanic to build the mechanical elements that would send a spaceship into orbit?”

Paulden cites the Rockefeller Habits book Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t by Gazelles founder Verne Harnish. Since being published mid-2014, the book has rocketed to the Amazon best sellers list for business strategy books.

“If your competitive advantage depends on your people creating something valuable and distinctive, then your workforce can’t be normal,” Harnish says in the book.

So, what does an A player look like and what do you need to do to attract them … and why involve the marketing team?

“The perfect candidate is not going to fall into your lap, so get clever, utilise your marketing team and start to grow interest in your company and the job, by thinking outside the square.”

Paulden says guerrilla marketing is the key here. As your A player is most likely working elsewhere, you need to fish where the fish are.

As an example, Australian software company Atlassian hired 15 buses to tour European cities known to have a high talent pool of developers. Each bus was sign-written with “Europe: we are here to steal your geeks”. The tour attracted a lot of media attention, which in turn attracted a good number of highly qualified hires for the company.

“Guerrilla marketing is within the reach of every company, regardless of its size. You just have to find an original idea and an approach that fits with your culture. Think outside the box and really put some thought into where potential A players might currently be – then get their attention,” Paulden adds.

Forget the job description

International figures show that a bad hire costs 15 times the annual salary that would have been paid to that person. So getting it right is vital. So, when hiring for a key position, create a Job Scorecard – not a job description. The scorecard is a list of specific and measurable outcomes the person you hire has to achieve in the first one to three years. A job description tends to list what a job entails, the scorecard talks about specific outcomes that directly relate to each candidate’s capacity to deliver the specified results.

The next most vital hiring tool, says Paulden, is the list of candidate competencies that align with your company’s culture and strategy. This is the next biggest challenge for all business the world over – New Zealand included. All good leaders know that it’s more important to hire for fit rather than specific skills, as long as the person has the capacity to learn and grow into the position.

“It’s also important to hire people that can deliver on your company’s brand promises and the major activities that underpin your strategy.”

Paulden adds that by using a combination of these elements, combined with in-depth interviewing, it is more likely you will hire the exact strange person you have been searching for.

Leigh Paulden

Leigh Paulden

"I bring my clients executive education that has been internationally tested and proven to drive business performance. I understand the factors that influence growth and business practice and create the clarity and certainty you need to make great decisions for success."

Leigh Paulden is an internationally certified business consultant working alongside New Zealand businesses serious about growth.

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