If you've been struggling to fill open job requisitions, you know how difficult it is right now to find highly skilled and experienced candidates. Your company is just one of hundreds, possibly thousands, seeking the same perfect talent--and there just isn't a lot of perfection available today. Which is why some savvy businesses have decided that the quest for perfection might be their biggest mistake. Is it yours, too? Should you forget looking for those ideal A+ candidates, widen your search to the B list, and create your own perfect hire?
Perfection has a price
I think it's an idea worth pursuing. To begin with, common sense says you'll have a much easier time finding average candidates with good potential than you will finding those elusive and perfect purple squirrels. Furthermore, empty positions cost a lot over time. Say you're trying to find an A+ sales rep because she will sell more per month than a B-level employee. But if it takes you six months to find and hire that A+ rep--and you could have had a B player in just one month--you've lost all the sales revenue that B player could have generated in that time. Opportunity costs should be a priority of business leaders.
And, of course, there's the basic math. If you're spending 18 months to fill a requisition with a perfect hire, but your average employee tenure is 18 months, you're never going to finish filling jobs. Every time you bring someone on board, another person leaves--and you'll never grow.
Coach them up
Obviously, there are risks to delaying hires in search of hard-to-find perfection. But if you agree to lower the bar and bring on B players, what happens next? Are you stuck with a mediocre workforce?
Absolutely not. Remember that winning teams aren't entirely made up of all-stars. Think of the NBA. There's not a single franchise that, in an era of salary caps, can afford to have five all-stars on a team. Smart coaches have just a couple of all-stars, and they surround them with a good supporting cast. Then, over time, they coach those supporters into invaluable teammates.
So what can you do to successfully coach up your B players?
1. Start with a culture that embraces learning. Your business needs to be a place where it's okay for people with less experience to come into the company and learn over time. You can't expect B players to flourish if they're made to feel inadequate.
2. Have an effective training plan in place. You need to define your expectations for successful performance in a job, and then design a curriculum to teach people how to meet those expectations. You also need to have mentors for your workers, people who have excelled at doing each job and at teaching people how to do the job.
3. Measure progress. You'll need some kind of metrics, plus the ability to provide and accept feedback, so you know if your B employees are on track for improvement.
4. Cut the underperformers. As you hire a higher volume of B players at a higher velocity, you've got to fire underperformers just as quickly. Not only will this help you avoid the expensive opportunity costs of empty positions, but you'll cultivate a performance culture that motivates employees to give it their all.
If you're still not convinced that creating your own perfect hire is the way to go, consider this: Time-to-hire for in-demand tech jobs in Silicon Valley has decreased by 66 percent since 2011. Numerous companies are saying they're just not willing to risk the potential damage of waiting for perfection to come to them. Instead, they're bringing the B players on board, fostering that performance culture, and building their own winning teams.
Sure, there are certain jobs where you need the best candidates--and in a slow economy, it might even make sense to wait for your A+ all-stars. But in this competitive market, waiting is dangerous. Winners know how to make their move.