¡Viva la revolución! Business transformation as we knew it is no more. Welcome to the age of hyper-transformation. After the disruption of recent years and the overhaul of the digital capabilities of businesses everywhere, the bar has been raised when it comes to the pace of change.
What started with companies rapidly adapting to their customers, suppliers, and staff moving fully online – the average company accelerated their digitisation by the equivalent of seven years in 2020 alone – has continued with businesses accelerating the digitisation of all parts of their organisation. The International Data Corp predicts that global spending on digital transformation will hit $2.3 trillion by 2023.
As ever, people remain the one constant amidst the chaos. New solutions and new technologies will always need people to implement and manage them.
However, approaches to people – hiring them, specifically – need to move with the times too. People and culture departments have failed to evolve their hiring practices at the same pace. This is a dangerous mistake.
Comfortable with chaos
In this new age, agile ways of working and digitised processes have taken a hammer to traditional ideas of compartmentalised roles and departments within companies. In the space this has created, fast-moving companies need people who know how to manage change and who have multi-disciplinary experience – as opposed to a deep experience of one narrow function or skill-set.
These people are happiest when networking across teams and pushing beyond the confines of one particular role. It means they’re used to advocating, pitching and hustling – not resting until they achieve their goals. This might be supported by a broad knowledge range collected while studying wildly different subjects at school or moving between different types of jobs in different, seemingly unrelated, industries.
These people will drive hyper-transformation success because they have first-hand experience of – and the ability to deal with – the constant change that’s become our new normal. All of it is worth more than pure, deep – and narrow – sector expertise.
What needs to change?
The issue I find is that these polymathic, communicative, and endlessly curious people are, through the lens of sector expertise applied in traditional hiring processes, viewed as restless, or even easily bored.
They’re likely to be overlooked by algorithms and HR professionals alike. The latter is a more pressing concern (for now). Recruiters persist with the same old-school ‘like-for-like’ approach – keen to round up people doing the same, or very similar, roles in the same, or very similar, companies. They head straight for the same talent pools based on credentials and background, recycle old job ads, and shortlist based on a pre-defined experience criterion.
This isn’t a direct criticism of them. As Marleen Kappert, Head of People Experience at Dutch deferred payments provider Tinka, explained to me, these people are as up against it as anyone:
“Traditional ways of working in recruitment/HR reveal the hiring manager’s insecurities. Managers want a candidate with a certain educational background and experience so that they can put check marks alongside the job description and feel assured that they have selected the best candidate and done their own job properly.
“But these checkmarks only bring a false sense of security. They’re limited to finding who looks good on paper. In times of hyper-transformation, you need people who are able to lead the change. This capability is hard to fit into a generic box.”
I make these observations because we have the chance to make improvements. Business advisory firm BDO reported last month the fastest employment growth in the UK labour market since February 2020, while Gartner revealed in March that over 70% of IT workers are looking to change jobs this year.
With the job market showing signs of improvement, there’s an opportunity here to start afresh with hiring processes and shape them in a way that will get the right talent in the right places in this new era.
Companies have to start by accepting that hyper-transformation is shaking up not just the technologies and tools we deploy, but everything about work – including how (and who) we hire. Nothing is set in stone anymore, and so companies need to be more engaged in their hiring processes according to Marleen:
“To select the best candidate for the job: in the first place hire for personality and cultural fit, not for academic achievements and experience alone. Every business is a people business, so I firmly believe in opening up a conversation. Technology and assessments should only be implemented to exclude bias and bring insights for personal development, not to make the hiring process more efficient.”
Businesses must get on board. In the short term, an unsuitable hire is an expensive mistake, with the U.S Department of Labor suggesting companies can lose as much as $240,000 per mis-hired person. Even more costly though will be a failure to keep up in this new era of hyper-transformation.
As business leaders, we know that every new hire is a drag on culture. So start retraining your talent people, evolve your hiring processes, and reach out to those restless candidates today. It’s impossible to put a price on getting this right.