We’ve all seen it in the cinema or on TV. That moment when the beleaguered starship engineer, asked to achieve things his machines were never designed for, declares that he’s going to ‘reverse the polarity!’ None of us, not even the writers who put the words into that character’s mouth, know what this means in technical terms, but we all understand what it represents. It’s about taking the tools he already has and turning them around, using them in new and challenging ways to achieve something even more incredible.
So if we want to achieve greater things than we ever have before how can we turn our corporate engines around and reverse the polarity of recruitment?
Listen to the new guys
A lot can be achieved just by looking at what we have from a different perspective.
We tend to view new recruits as a burden in the short term, but as Liz Wiseman has pointed out, this needn’t be the case. The fact that they don’t understand the normal workings of your organization can actually be an asset. They won’t be bound by expectations, and so will come up with innovative solutions. Because they aren’t used to your habitual timescales they will deliver work as fast as they can, not to the deadline, however distant. They will never say ‘that’s not how we do things around here’, and they will look at your work through the filter of their existing skills and experience, bringing in fresh knowledge and analysis.
So instead of trying to hammer new recruits into a familiar shape as soon as possible, or fobbing their unexpected opinions off as naïve, try listening to them and using them as a source of energy and innovation.
Is it really a weakness?
Many of the qualities we view as weaknesses can actually be strengths. Jim Haudan has recommended working on your vulnerability to make yourself more open to new ideas and emotional connections with those around you. But this is only one way in which you can transform your relationship with your own personality and with the supposed weaknesses of job applicants.
Managerial culture is strongly shaped by the values of a white, middle-class, male, puritan mind-set, with all the assumptions that brings about what is a strength or a weakness of personality. But often the characteristics rejected by these values can be useful if applied in the right way.
Maybe someone is naturally quiet, and they’ve spent time trying to learn to be more assertive. Maybe you can make the most of their quiet nature, recruiting them to absorb the ideas of others and become someone they talk to. Maybe an applicant is fidgety and finds it hard to fit with routines. That energy could make them perfect to drive projects or prevent your department’s routines from growing stale.
Look again at the supposed weaknesses of potential recruits, and consider how they might benefit you.
Seeing futures, not the future
Predictive analytics is all the rage at the moment, but as John Boudreau has pointed out it has its limits. We habitually use analytics to try to predict and prepare for a single future, recruiting to that end, even though that is only the most likely future. Instead look at the most likely set of futures and recruit for several of them. This will give you the flexibility to face a range of outcomes, not binding you to a single future that may never come.
Reversing the polarity of recruitment isn’t about technical understanding; it’s about a shift in perspective. It’s a shift that will allow you to be more innovative and flexible than ever before.