A number of reasons impact the lack of innovation in hiring: conservative budgets, post-GFC pressures and sometimes, a lack of strong leadership.

Risk-averse organisations are hesitant to hire what they don’t know, relying on the ‘tried and tested’ model for attracting, recruiting, training and retaining talent, unwilling to invest in candidates with new ideas, experiences and relationships.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, why are organisations hiring more of the same, demanding different outcomes?

Managers routinely tell me they can’t afford to hire talent that doesn’t have the exact experience their role requires. They’re concerned skills won’t be transferable, they won’t understand the language and nuances of the industry and ultimately it may take time to get them up to speed.

This retreat to the traditional approach and lack of innovation in finding and recruiting talent is hindering innovation in business. If organisations truly want to promote meaningful innovation in their business, develop new products and get the very best out of their team, it has to start at the beginning – and that’s with the right, and sometimes different, people.

The true cost of talent

Quite often, top-tier candidates are defined as having strong relationships, proven skills, noted industry experience and the potential to drive innovation in the business. They can assess a business objectively, understand the requirements of their role and identify ways to add value immediately.

We all know talent like this doesn’t come cheap. While some businesses will pay a premium for candidates who tick all the boxes, time and financial limitations mean this is not always an option. Yet many organisations remain resistant to thinking outside the box when it comes to recruitment.

It’s not just about the money. The arrangement needs to be win-win for both parties. If these people are so successful, there needs to be a reason for them to leave their organisation and come to you. You need to either be offering them greater challenges, opportunities, better money or a combination of the above.

Taking a punt on potential

When the future potential of a candidate isn’t completely clear, it can be quite a mental leap for organisations to take a punt on what someone may deliver.

Hiring candidates with proven experience presents a reliable, low risk option – after all, nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. However, this approach leaves little room for nurturing future stars that will likely shape the future of the business.

Investing in a candidate’s future potential is still viewed by many organisations as a potential risk. The biggest barrier to creativity in any business is demanding a business case before investing in innovation. Focus on payback, ROI and market research means that organisations create no opportunity for ‘trial and error’ – the very basis of innovation as a general concept.

The only way innovation in business can continue to thrive is if the business has an appetite for risk, and that means an element of failure and of success. If businesses see failure as an unacceptable cost, it will always be a prohibitive factor. Toddlers don’t see falling down as failure, they’re just learning to walk. So why do we look at one failure as reflective of the greater journey when, really, it’s a step to success and innovation?

Clearly I’m an advocate for taking a punt on future potential. Candidates from complementary industries and experiences can bring new skills and insights to the table. Talent with ‘something to prove’ will go above and beyond what you can ever pay for, and I know this from experience. If they’re keen to make their mark on the industry and build their reputation, they’re more likely to drive innovation and grow your business. People with the right fit, desire and intellect will always succeed. People with skills and intellect but lack of motivation will fail.

A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach

Poorly managed talent acquisition can be very transactional in its approach instead of focusing on the outcome that is the best fit for the individual and organisation.

Financial pressures mean organisations are looking for ways to minimise costs. HR professionals, limited by budgets and time are faced with the pressure of filling job descriptions, without having the time and intuition required to identify potential talent.

Focusing on the time it takes to fill the role and the cost of hire only, can severely impact innovation, putting pressure on securing employees, regardless of whether or not they are the right fit. Organisations are limited by the pressure performance metrics present. Weighting the success of recruitment purely around financial metrics negates the fact that we are talking about people.

This ‘one-size-fits-all’ recruitment approach, applying the same set of criteria to every individual, is a dangerous process that ultimately harms the company with a short-term solution.

If people are the best asset of any organisation, it seems bizarre to me that companies will short cut the process hoping to save a few dollars. People are the most critical asset any business has and yet organisations try to minimise the process by having the lower cost per hire drive the process.

Technology has given us the opportunity to streamline processes around recruiting new talent. However, any successful recruitment process needs to be customised. Scanning CVs for keywords or having a set range of criteria in which to shortlist candidates can be very effective a lot of the time but it also cuts out any possibility for identifying talent who can fill knowledge gaps within the business, deliver a fresh perspective, have contacts from a complementary industry and who can bring in new business and skills developed under different management styles.

Technology and ‘formulas’ can’t replace insight, questioning and face-to-face assessment. Approximately 95% of the CVs we see will require adjustments before we present a candidate to a potential employer. That means that 95% of the CVs that go directly to potential employers aren’t going to outline a potential star in the pile of CVs that come across your desk.

An all-or-nothing approach is not balanced and doesn’t deliver the best results. It needs a balance. Sometimes, a successful recruitment process is a combination of techniques: referrals, promoting internal talent, sourcing talent from complementary industries and shoulder tapping successful candidates in other roles.

Investing in a quality approach from the get go means you’ll get the right people who are there for the right reasons and who will likely stay. We all have budgets to manage, but we shouldn’t be cutting costs on the most important element of business, our people.

Testing shouldn’t limit diversity

Recruitment tools like DISC profiling and psychometric testing are designed to uncover candidates with potential to help organisations grow and fill knowledge gaps within the business.

Profiling is a very valuable tool but only in the right hands. Testing needs to be used as a management tool, not as an excuse to not hire people. Often the results of profiling are used to weed out underperformers rather than identify opportunities for professional development.

To be most effective, testing needs to be benchmarked across the whole organisation with results analysed against the needs and requirements of the business and talent mix.

Recruitment is so much more than hiring. It’s about going out and targeting the right market, finding the right skill set, sourcing individuals who have the right motivators and are the best cultural fit. It’s our job to ask the right questions to get the answers that indicate whether a candidate has what it takes to fit into the organisation and really deliver.

Organisations need to shift their thinking from rewarding a transaction (hire) to investing in the future IP of the company. Isn’t that truly invaluable?

A successful organisation needs a diverse mix of people who think differently and ask questions. Sometimes the greatest strength is in peoples’ weaknesses.

Innovation pockets

It’s not all bad news.

Smaller enterprises are used to doing more with less. Flatter structures, open collaboration styles and teams mean information sharing and hiring decisions can be made quickly. For those used to working with limited resources, it’s amazing how creativity and innovation is encouraged at every level.

We’re seeing innovation pockets in many companies driven by managers who are willing to take a risk – despite orders from higher up. These are individuals who organisations should be championing to foster new approaches in doing business and recruiting talent.

Hiring and rewarding what you know will never breed new ways of thinking. If you are considering bringing in a new hire, ensure their skills, experience and potential reflect the changing needs of the business – not the ones you already have.


Key take-aways

Prohibitive factors in the recruitment process:

  • Fear of risk and failure,
  • managerial and financial pressures,
  • time poor managers with less time to train,
  • a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and
  • testing results that excludes diverse candidates.


Christine Khor
BY Christine Khor ON 24 October 2013
Christine Khor is the managing director of Chorus Executive, specialists in talent management and recruitment services for sales, marketing and communications.