We all know this quote so well. We appreciate its wisdom and we get its meaning, but why don’t we put it to use when we hire new staff? Especially in the Marketing and creative fields, where it particularly applies due to the need for fresh new ideas and innovative thinking.
Look at any job board around (like Seek.com.au)- every single ad today says the same thing over and over again: “Retail position wanted. Must have 5 years’ retail experience.” Or “Medical Marketing manager. Must have at least eight years’ experience in medical marketing.” In other words, we only want our current staff again, or that of our direct competitors. How close minded is that? What are we thinking?
Look at the world around your business!
We’re living in a highly evolving, highly connected and highly digital world. Long long gone are the days where we stuck to the same career for more than five years! So why are we still acting like this on the hiring side? We need to wake up!
If you are hiring the same people time and time again from the same tiny pool with the same expertise and identical education, then why are we wondering in a few years’ time why things aren’t changing? To paraphrase Einstein, it’s utter madness!
Remember that little thing called transferable skills?
Why has this been forgotten in recent years? Along with on-the-job training, too?
In my career personally, have moved from FMCG, to pharmaceuticals, to creative agency, to medical, and then into Real Estate, and it’s the reason why now, I am able to be an effective Marketing and Copywriting consultant for clients from a whole range of industries- because I have seen quite a lot of different market conditions and industry types throughout my years, and can pull from this eclectic mix to offer innovative solutions.
Mind you, I was still doing Marketing in every single position, but I was not always from the same industry background. And that’s how I believe it should be! Marketing is a transferable skill, like many others in the business world. What I did in one was easily adaptable in the other, and it became quickly apparent as both my employer and myself saw the advantages of hiring outside of their narrow segments. Due to the open mindedness of the hiring process, I transformed many of my previous employers’ Marketing strategies within the space of a year, and that was because I brought fresh ideas from other backgrounds.
In all honest truth, the success I found in each and every role was due to three things:
(1) My Marketing degree (theoretical knowledge)
(2) My personality
(3) My past experience
The rest, I was easily able to get up to speed with in the first two to three months of being in the role. But I’m sure I’m not alone! Nor is it exclusive to Marketing! I knew a company who hired a psychologist as a Sales Manager, and she was the best thing to ever happen to that organisation.
So, what’s going through our minds when hiring?
The issue now is, I’m seeing the confidence in ‘learning on the job’ and ‘transferable skills’ decline. We are all too scared to try something different, and as a result, we just take the easy option of looking for someone to slot right back in and continue on the same treadmill. I believe that this is just poor management in today’s competitive world.
I mean, Operations and Logistical specialists are now being pigeon holed into specific industry types, despite it being a very transferable skill set? Why? What he or she does at an Apple warehouse will be very similar at a medical devices organisation, similar at Australia Post, and again at a luxury perfume company. So why is management so hell bent on picking those who are a copy/paste of the previous person in the role? The person from outside your industry (and thus your comfort zone) could possibly bring some cost saving efficiency ideas from Apple or McDonald’s into your hamper delivery business that you or any of your current gifting industry staff would never have ever thought of.
Perhaps it’s due to an abundance of choice?
There are a lot of qualified and skilled workers out there looking for positions, so the thought of being able to make a selection on only your specific field may be all too tempting. However, I believe that this is completely counter-productive. By restricting your selection to the same people with the same experience and the same education as the person who just left your business means your organisation is getting the same industry-tried-and-tested ideas over and over. Then we wonder why innovation is so hard to find!
It’s time to search beyond your horizons
Who knows? It’s a strange thought to think that the best solution to your business’ innovation problem may be walking around in the head of the person you least expect (or would even consider).
Perhaps try hiring that Marketer from that high-end lingerie company to fill your Marketing manager role, and then ask them what worked in their previous business and how it can be transformed and adapted into something new for your hardware business. Don’t laugh! You will be surprised how many organisations have benefited from putting a different spin on a foreign idea and made it work, leaving the competitors behind. The Harvard Business Review did an article on this kind of topic, called “Sometimes the best ideas come from outside your industry” in 2014, where they conducted research into testing this theory (you can read about it here: http://hbr.org/2014/11/sometimes-the-best-ideas-come-from-outside-your-industry ).
Who is the best person for the role?
In the end, the decision should come down to who is the best person for the role itself. The person who has the right work ethic and values that complement your organisation. I believe that it shouldn’t be solely based on the fact that, even though they have the right qualifications and that you know most of the job can easily be picked up on the job, that they aren’t directly from your industry.
Sadly, I have to put in a disclaimer here as a warning. Obviously, this blog is my own personal opinion, and I strongly advise that you contemplate over its message carefully and only act upon your own discretion when you consider your own specific circumstances. In the end, it is your decision and responsibility alone on how best to act in your situation. This blog post is purely opinionative only, and should be taken as such.