Sunday, October 15, 2006

Picking winners for your winning team

From your earliest childhood memories, you can always recall wanting to be on the winning team. When you were standing in the crowd waiting to be picked for whichever side of the kickball game, you longed to be picked by that team with all the cool kids / best kickballers, etc... You dreaded being picked by the weaker side as strongly as you desired joining the good side.

On the other side of the equation, when you were the one doing the picking, you tried your best to pick the best players for your team - deciding your next pick based on who could kick the farthest, or run the fastest, or who was so wiry they never got tagged out.

It's funny how the best teams in business seem to do the same thing. The best managers among us don't just open up a staffing requisition and leave it in the hands of the HR weasels... oh no, the best managers take a very active role in finding the best players for their team - they hire folks they know can get the job done. They hire someone that either they or their other players know and can vouch for. In HR speak - this is an employee referral.

The concept of employee referrals is not new, but it is getting a lot more attention because the statistics about the relative costs and effectiveness of employee referrals make it appear to be a very attractive way to go. My company has taken a very proactive approach to employee referral. We have an employee referral program called "Star Search" and we've gotten over 20% of our new hires YTD through this program - that's a 6.something percent increase over prior years! We're pretty proud of that accomplishment and are driving for an ultimate number of 35% in 3 years because we believe all the statistics are right and so far, our employee referral hires are performing at least as well as most of the high cost agency hires.

Now while I firmly believe that the "kickball" analogy above is the way the world is - I found an interesting perspective in the blog of a Microsoft employee and while the HR Geek in me loves his devotion (however motivated), I have to worry that Don Dodge has taken this to a new high (or low depending on your view).

Now matter how far some take it, I believe that you will get better results with less cost and effort by hiring those great players that you and your team already know.

Sit down with your team and have a very open discussion about the kind of players you believe you need to help your team win. Brainstorm with your team to paint a mental picture of the type of player you want - then get your team out there in the world to talk to the colleagues, friends and even the competitors they think have the right stuff - even if you don't have a job to fill today you need to start identifying and building a better relationship with these folks.
Happy Hunting!

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