Corporate Eye

Speaking from Experience! Now, About Transformability…

In Hiring for Fast-growing Departments or Companies (an interesting article on ere.net), consultants Tony Kubica and Sara LaForest contend the two key issues for successful hiring in rapid-growth conditions are alignment and transformability.  In their words:

Alignment addresses the passion and skills the person brings to the organization, and their fit within the organization. Transformability is hiring the person not for the job as it exists today, but as it will exist tomorrow. Addressing the alignment issue without considering the transformability issue will likely result in hiring the wrong person.

I’ll guess that the concept of assessing alignment is already familiar.  More than just matching the skills to the job—it’s finding someone who’s a good fit for the culture and has an enthusiasm for the goals and challenges of the position.

Not that it’s always easy to achieve alignment in hiring (or to maintain it across the organization), but the concept is familiar HR terrain.  Transformability, on the other hand, may be terra incognita.  In evaluating this quality, you are basically asking “Can this candidate evolve with the job?”

Kubica and LaForest make the point that in hiring for a fast-growing entity, recruiters should be “looking for candidates who fit the future, not just the current, job requirements.”  But I would go a step further:

Today, some companies may be fast-growing, but many are fast-shrinking.  And most are engaged in some kind of change.  With the entire ground of business undergoing shifts, from small tremors to major quakes, transformability may be a vital key for hiring in the majority of organizations.

My own experience connects up here because I’ve worked as a contractor/freelancer/consultant for most of my career.  Flexibility and tolerance for ambiguity (!) are qualities I’ve cultivated, and they have always been viewed as an advantage by the organizations I’ve worked for.  But I’ve noticed that those same organizations, when hiring full-time employees, look for a tight fit with the specific job requirements—and often end up with a workforce that doesn’t respond to change very well.

In transformational projects, change management is always a huge challenge.  Not just on the practical level, but on the cultural level.  So maybe, since the times they are a-changin’ faster and faster, transformability (“the ability to be transformed”) ought to be in the forefront of consideration for all hiring at all companies.

But.  Based on what I’m seeing in the market right now, the trend may actually be in the opposite direction.  With budgets tight, only the most necessary positions are being filled, and there’s a view that every hire has to be a slam dunk.  That means extra emphasis on “fit,” and less consideration for the kinds of strategic qualities that could seem like a luxury.

Thought experiment:  What if every job had two descriptions?  A “now” version, and a “maybe” version.  Now the job is selling widgets, but maybe it will soon be marketing the art of widgetry.  The best candidate might be the one who can imagine making that transition.

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at www.cynthiagiles.com, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.
 
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