What’s a better investment — one amazing worker or dozens of simply adequate ones? Eric Hellweg, editor of HBR.org; George Anders, author of “The Rare Find”; Laurie Ruettimann, HR and careers blogger; Michael Schrage, research fellow at the MIT Center for Digital Business; and Roy Bahat, president of IGN Entertainment, tackled that question at their session earlier this week at South by Southwest.
Among the key points of their discussion:
- Tailor your definition of “greatness.” Begin with what you’re trying to measure first, which will be something individual to each organization. “People who can do great at Apple would be terrible at Microsoft,” Schrage noted. Bahat warned that attempts to quantify greatness could even backfire. “Some kinds of measurement diminish that search for transcendence,” he said. Finally, don’t overlook the fact that many great employees work in less “sexy” fields such as finance, marketing — “even HR,” Ruettimann quipped.
- Hire for the person, train for the skills. Many employers hire to solve a specific urgent problem, rather than a broader fit for the company. As a recruiting strategy, this is a serious error, Schrage argued. Anders noted that soft skills often make the difference in what makes someone a great fit, and that truly transformational hires should have roles built around them — even if they don’t meet all the literal requirements for a specific job. “Look for fast learners,” he said.
- Greatness isn’t something you just find — you have to cultivate it. Great managers are critical to retaining top talent, as well as coaxing great performances out of workers previously perceived as average.
For more insights, check out Harvard Business Review’s curated compilation of the tweets related to the session.
How do you define a “great employee?” What are your tips for recruiting and retaining them?