During my early years as a recruiter, I worked largely with entrepreneurial companies desperately seeking people who could help the company grow. What I learned along the way is that no one personality, philosophy, or pedigree is an obvious choice for all growing startups. The right hire hinges on a company's stage in the corporate life cycle.
Imagine that all employees fall into one (or two) of these four work types: Thinker, Builder, Improver, or Producer. Determining a candidate's work type adds another dimension to the assessment process. It's not easy, but getting it right increases the likelihood that your next hire will be successful.
This assessment process is summarized below and fully documented in my book, The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired.
The Four Basic Work Types
1. Thinkers are critical when the majority of the work involves creating, conceiving, designing, planning, strategizing, thinking outside the box -; or figuring out what the box looks like.
Usual suspects: Entrepreneurs, inventors, designers, and R&D types are typical positions. These people typically dominate the early stages of a company, new venture or project. Their work covers new products, new businesses, and different ways of doing anything.
Downside: Thinkers often get in the way once the company or projects begin to grow rapidly.
2. Builders (or Rebuilders) are necessary when the bulk of the work involves launching something new and big, turning around a floundering company or project, or managing rapid growth or change of any type. Once growth begins for an early-stage startup, just about every job needs to emphasize the Builder component.
Usual suspects: These people thrive in rapidly changing situations, they can deal well with ambiguity, make decisions with incomplete information, and can create reasonable order out of chaos.
Downside: They can impede progress when business conditions demand a shift from one with loose controls to the need for more systems and structure.
3. Improvers upgrade, improve, or re-engineer processes. They develop and manage teams, add scalability and structure to inefficient systems, or take over projects that need more direction and control.
Usual suspects: Improvers are essential for bridging the gap between rapid and sustainable growth. They’re also the people chosen to break bottlenecks and implement needed change in more bureaucratic companies.
Downside: When hired too soon, they can stall a startup’s growth by adding rules and regulations long before they’re necessary.
4. Producers deliver meticulous attention to detail, outstanding customer service, and flawless execution of a repeatable process. This type of work is the lifeblood of any successful organization.
Usual Suspects: This work type represents the foundation of any career as people learn skills. Some people eventually move on and become Improvers, Builders, and Thinkers.
Downside: While every company needs Producers, when they’re misplaced or overtake an organization, they impede progress and prevent change.
Work Type Balance is the Key to Building Teams
Most people are a blend of all four work types with one or two usually dominant. As companies grow and change over time, it’s important to get the collective balance right. Unfortunately this work type balance is rarely considered as new people are hired and others reassigned. Building and growing a successful company is hard work and every hiring decision is critical. Using work types as part of the selection process can make the task a little easier.