Who hired this dubious person working at the next desk? (and How can we Amplify Energy, Increase Productivity and Be Happy)

I have a theory.

Through the ramping up of an organisation there is a sweet spot on the time/number of employees where the choice of a potential collaborator or employee was less than optimal. Where the organization, embodied by a Hiring Manager, a Recruiter, an HR manager or All of the Above — in a hurry to fill a vacancy, to tackle a current urgent issue or justify a budget — miscast a person or even an entire team. This spot, this exact x,y crossing, identifies the Organisations Downfall, the Compromise on Product Quality, Employee Productivity and even the Organisation Survival.

This scenario has sparked a sense of recollection on all fellow entrepreneurs and recruitment responsible people that I had the opportunity to speak with — not only that, but most could pinpoint the exact person who was brought in and wasn’t the desired fit, for all the reasons described above.

What was integrally underestimated — and still is, constantly — is the setting of the Precedent, the Trend Materialisation and the Culture Disruption -> and, therefore, the direct compromise of the business competitive status.

With the current generalized lightning velocity we experience in all major industries, and the need to hire talent quickly,
How can we — as business responsible parties — get better at this whole Team Setup/Hiring process?

There’s an old saying that goes by “A bad apple spoils the barrel”.

I know you’re with me on this, because it’s a generally accepted truth. Still, most Start Ups I have had the experience of keeping up with and that got off to really great starts, over a relatively small period of time collapsed and burnt under the explanation of “We grew too fast”. Last week I witnessed the formal end of a small venture based on this “Growth Spurt”, whilst having “Sustainable Growth” as part of the documented “Strategy”. And while this phenomenon is fully transparent on small organisations, most of them a bad-hiring decision away from not being able to meet its objectives and — potentially — dying, I wonder how much this actually influences the large mammoths that modern, classical large organisations have become.

But what exactly is this “bad apple”? How can we identify it, assess it and proactively ensure that the right talent is identified to join our teams?

Here’s the easy part: Skills.

Skills are traditionally measurable — and at this day and age it is unthinkable to perform erroneous skill assessments. Not to say they do not happen — they do — but those happen much more often as the result of traditional Human Resources processes being growingly more disconnected from the reality of organisations and focused on the thinning of the herd through the automated filtering of buzzwords or the goal of adding entry-level Recruiters to growing organisations as a self-ensuring internal mechanism (and not on the practical evaluation of an individual profile or a skillset) than any other reason. (But this is, in itself, an entire new topic worth dissecting).

So what is at the core of it all?

On most occasions, and according to my experience: Culture.

And this is where the evaluation of a “Bad Apple” goes wrong.

More often than not, middle management is selected to ideally guide and lead components of an organisation through previous experience or perception of charisma, gravitas or whichever other term is used to express innate confidence. The fallacy is assuming that this one person, independently of the skills or intelligence, can evaluate the fit of a prospective Team Member without having the full concept of the team or corporate culture actually is.

I often suggest, when possible, to define culture as one of the first exercises of a new Organisation. It starts with the founders, and it should encompass similarly all entities that are directly linked to it — including investors or initial collaborators. But is your team or company a group of people who aim at performing ground breaking, world changes or having fun while doing it? Is it focused on cooperative, sustainable growth or on raw personal intelligence or individual creativity? Are we the type of team that speaks during work — and challenges each other throughout the entire day, or are we the team where developers wear headphones from dawn till dusk? Are we driven or relaxed? Innovative or cautious? (and to which level do we rotate each of these potentiometers?)

There’s no right or wrong answer — but this exercise materialises swiftly and cleanly into pragmatic day-to-day results.

When the notion of Team/Organisation culture is clear and defined (not on the paper — but on the day to day — the exercise of identifying who belongs, who amplifies the energy and drive of its peers and who doesn’t is transparently straightforward. Not only that, but there is a clear vision of the culture that we want for our next collaborators. We know whom we want working next to us, why we want them to work with us and the impact that they will have on theTeam Dynamics and, directly, on the Team Communication,Collaboration, Well-Being and Product Output.

This holistic approach to Team/Organisation culture is, very likely, the most important tool we have available to identify who the rotten apples are.

After all, they might not be who you thought.

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