Hire on Attitude

When Hiring Stop Focusing On Technical Skills And Hire On Attitude

One of the top business concerns we heard at the EntreLeadership Summit in San Diego was about the difficulty in attracting the right people. Business leaders weren’t talking about a shortage of global technical skills either. They were lamenting a shortage of good people. Employees who would aid their business growth, not disrupt it.

At the summit, we also had the privilege of seeing Patrick Lencioni. He is a business expert in team management and the author of eleven best-seller books including 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. His advice to the mid-market business owner was to stop favouring technical skills over behavioural/attitude skills when hiring someone. The key takeaway: hire on attitude.

Why hire on attitude or behavioural attributes over technical skill?

Because you can teach someone a skill but you can’t change attitude.

Have you ever worked with or hired someone who was technically qualified, but their interpersonal skills were so bad that they disrupted everyone?

They may have the technical skills you need, but unless you can put them in isolation, eventually their behaviour is going to affect all areas of your business. It will not just be an HR issue trying to pacify and retain existing staff, your business productivity will also suffer. If you have too many ‘difficult’ people on staff, you will also spend all of your time managing people, instead of managing the business.

A good analogy for how poor ‘soft skills’ can affect a business is that of a sports team whose selectors chose a player because of their ball skills rather than their ability to connect with others. There are numerous stories of the ‘star player’ who caused their team to slide into pop culture oblivion due to their antics off the field. Or they disrupted the team culture so badly at practice, that teamwork suffered on field and the coach eventually made the call to replace them.

Arguably, one of the most successful sports team in the world, the All Blacks, work to a philosophy that good people make good players. The selection of new recruits isn’t just based on the skill they display with a ball, but also on their character and how they interact with other people. They invest heavily in resources and time in order to ensure that their players know how to handle the pressure that comes with competing on the world stage. They also provide players with all the support they need to ensure that team cultures and values are maintained on and off the field.

Employing people based on behavioural attributes isn’t just an HR issue, it is also a business growth issue.

You believe in your core business values and you should build a team around you that also believes in them. Some of the biggest companies in the world now all hire people based on their attitude. Google, Apple, Southwest Airlines and The Four seasons all value a person’s alignment to their core values over their technical skills. They argue that you can teach someone how to do something but you can’t teach them how to feel.

Hiring based on attitude creates alignment around core values and when the entire workforce feels the same way about those core values, then productivity, accountability, and culture improves. Productivity, accountability, and culture all help businesses to succeed and maintain sustainable growth.

Where do you find good people?

There is an old saying that says that birds of a feather flock together. Already have great people on your team? Then don’t be afraid to ask them for recommendations next time you have a job vacancy. Look at other companies who share your values. They may not necessarily be in the same field as you but their values align, so they may be a good place to headhunt your next employee.

When interviewing people, ask them about their values as well as their technical skills. Ask them open-ended questions that will give you an insight into what they consider important.

Matching employee’s values to your own is worth it in the long run as they will be more likely to stay with your company and put more effort into their work as well. They will want your company to succeed just as much as you do and that kind of dedication is worth its weight in gold.

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  • About the Author, Leigh Paulden

    Leigh Paulden


    Leigh Paulden is an author and internationally certified business growth consultant with over 30 years of experience across 30+ different industries. He works with mid-market business leaders looking to grow. He creates the clarity and certainty needed to make great decisions and achieve scalable and sustainable success.

    Find out more about Leigh or contact him to discuss taking your business growth to the next level.