In my role at Hudson, I have a lot of conversations with senior leaders in businesses across Asia about the critical capabilities they need to hire to help their businesses adapt and change in a fast-moving world. No one wants to be the next Kodak.
What we keep coming back to is that businesses need people who are adaptable and flexible in their mindset and in their approach to work.
Why businesses want to hire for adaptability
Ten years ago, you could build a career on a single specialised skill set, but these days, the entire business model the skill set is based on could have gone out the window.
Businesses want employees who can upskill, adapt, innovate and see new opportunities – especially in the tools that they use and the platforms that they use to communicate.
Employees with resilience and a bit of courage. These are the kinds of people that senior business leaders are looking for as the next generation as part of their succession planning.
So it’s not surprising that the number one soft skill sought after by employers was ‘Managing and Driving Change’ according to the latest Hudson Report H2 2016 survey of employers across Asia Pacific. In China in particular, ‘Learning agility’ also rated strongly.
But do employers really hire for adaptability?
When I speak to HR managers and hiring managers, they enjoy the discussion about hiring for adaptability, and when it comes to entry level roles, they’re happy to experiment by hiring for a broad range of capabilities.
But when it comes to filling senior roles or roles with critical impact on the P&L, most of the time the HR managers and hiring managers focus too much on technical skills and experience as the first “gate”, and only then do they look at someone's attitude and mindset – and that could be a purely subjective assessment, if they do it at all.
If you take this approach, the chances of finding someone with both excellent technical skills and an adaptable mindset have been reduced because you've filtered out a lot of potentially good people during the hiring process.
If your job ad or brief to a recruitment consultant contains a too long list of 'must have' technical skills and experience, only the candidates who can tick all those boxes will make it through to the interview process. You might even put off good candidates who don’t meet all the requirements and therefore don’t even apply in the first place.
This means that you'll miss out on candidates who perhaps had most (but not all) of the required skills and experience and a strong mindset towards change and innovation - the types of people who could lead your organisation into the future.
By this stage in the process, even if you do assess for an adaptable approach to work, it will only be 'Who is the most adaptable from this shortlist?' rather than finding the candidates with the most adaptable mindset and potentially the best ideas.
Another problem with focusing on skills and experience first is that the requirements for the role might change and those skills and experience may become less relevant.
Four steps to hiring people with an adaptable mindset
I believe it takes a multi-faceted approach to ensure that you end up with the best candidates with an adaptable mindset.
- Think more broadly about the job role
Rather than looking at a job in a silo, think about how the role is likely to change, and how it fits within the capability of the team. Are you, in fact, looking for someone who is going to fundamentally change the role?
Thinking more broadly about the role might help you think differently about the capabilities of the top candidates you are looking for.
- Be more open-minded about the criteria for the role
When you write the job ad or brief the recruitment consultant, could you be more flexible in the criteria that you’re looking for? What skills or expertise are 'must haves' and what are 'nice to haves'?
It might appear to be taking a risk, but it could be a big payoff for your team in the end if you hire someone who can adapt and innovate, rather than someone who has the right skill set but prefers to be stuck in their ways.
- Use psychometric assessments to check for adaptability
Incorporating psychometric assessment as part of the selection process will help you objectively judge a candidate's approach to change, rather than making a subjective assessment based only on their interviews and resume, or less reliably, on references.
At Hudson, we use an assessment called the Business Attitude Questionnaire (BAQ), which can identify a person’s personality preferences that indicate an adaptable approach to work, including how much they are change-oriented and open-minded.
- Take an organisation-wide approach to workforce planning
When assessments are done on a broader scale across your organisation, you can apply talent analytics to map out the capabilities that you have now and prepare strategies for the capabilities that you need in the future.
When this approach filters down into individual roles, it can support HR managers and hiring managers to hire with adaptability in mind, rather than feeling like they are taking a risk by being more flexible in their must-have checklist of skills and expertise.
When the above steps are combined, you’ll have a better chance of hiring people that meet your needs both today and in the future.