The War For Talent Is Over. This New War Will Replace It.

[Courtesy of forbes.com]

The War For Talent Is Over

William Vanderbloemen , CONTRIBUTOR

I cover topics about having a strong faith and building a business. The future doesn’t belong to the talented. It belongs to the cultured. Culture cannot be taught but competency can.

The War For Talent Is Over

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The last three hires I’ve made at Vanderbloemen, I have passed on super competent candidates in favor of less “talented” people.

I couldn’t be happier with my choices.

Why? I’m convinced that culture trumps competency every single time. So I’ve focused my hiring on people who fit our culture. I’ve trusted that competency (read, talent) can largely be learned. So far, the theory is proving to be true.

In our work as an executive search firm, we are constantly asked about the “war for talent.” I read articles that bear titles like: “There aren’t enough people to go around,” or “The Coming Talent Crisis.” As the baby boomers age, we face the largest wave of retirement in US history. Smart people are noticing that. They’re also aware that there aren’t many people available in the next generation, and it’s causing a panic.

At the age of 31, I became a young leader of a large church, and I noticed this pattern right away. Over 90% of all pastors in my type of church were over 40. So I went after young pastors for our staff. I hired three that were the most talented guys I’d ever interviewed. But I failed to focus on cultural fit and failed to pay attention to developing a healthy culture. No matter how much talent I hired, it never seemed to work out. I should have paid more attention to building good culture and hiring around it.

Now that my team has completed over 10,000 face to face interviews, I’ve been watching the talent horizon for a long time. I agree, there’s a shortage coming. But talent won’t be the trump card for winning as an employee or employer in the long run.

The future doesn’t belong to the talented. It belongs to the cultured.

Leaders who know their company culture and hire around it will see far more dividends than those who hire just for talent. Similarly, people looking for their “dream job” will find it when they look for a company that they fit culturally rather than simply a company that has a high growth rate or even a better compensation package.

Culture trumps competency every single time. Why?

Culture cannot be taught but competency can. With the dawn of the digital age, we now live inside the largest library ever. Nearly everything can be learned online. Look no further than the popularity home improvement shows, the rise of shows that spot unspotted talent in a crowd like The Voice, or the vast surge of online courses that can be taken to learn a new skill. I saw an ad for an online cooking course designed for “The Single Vegan Dad Trying To Feed Kids On a Tight Budget!” Ten years ago, nobody even knew what “DIY” meant. Now, it’s a part of our vocabulary (if you don’t know what it is, then figure it out yourself…).

So if you’re looking for a leg up on the job hunt, or if you’re trying to hire for the future, focus on these questions:

  1. Does the workplace have a well articulated company culture? Far too many companies have “cultural values” listed somewhere on paper, but they are pabulum. They use words and phrases like, “We value excellence.” Who doesn’t? Instead, look for values that stand out and uniquely name the DNA of the company. One example is the Netflix Culture Deck. Another example is our company values at Vanderbloemen that our team crowdsourced and cemented together about four years ago. Company values shouldn’t be stashed away in a file somewhere. You should be able to spot them in the daily rhythms of the company.
  2. Does the job (if you’re searching) or the employee (if you’re hiring) operate with the “same kind of crazy” as you? The more I study companies and people, the more I’m realizing that we are all some form of crazy (starting with me and my strange journey to running my company). Admitting that is the first step toward finding people and a workplace that thrives. When we interview people for our team, we start with giving them a list of reasons they really don’t want to come work here, and we use our cultural values to frame those questions. For instance, we require a very high, almost OCD, obsession with quick responses to clients and candidate. It’s our value of “ridiculous responsiveness.” We say to interviewees, “If you like predictable, routine, easy to schedule work, please save yourself and leave the interview now. We’re not that, and you’ll probably think we are crazy.” This gives both our team and the candidates we’re interviewing a litmus test during the vetting process that can help us assess cultural match early on.
  3. Is the core competency of the job something that can be easily learned? Some things can be taught quickly. Other things, say brain surgery and rocket science, do take intensive training that cannot be overlooked. But my guess is that most jobs have a higher quotient of “learnability” than most people initially realize. While it might take ninety days for a person to fully develop a skill set, I believe a cultural match cannot be taught, no matter how long the person has to learn it.

Culture isn’t just a buzzword. It’s the new currency for both hiring the right people and finding your dream job.

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