Management for the masses: Hire the best

Indiana University Kelley School of Business  8.31.10Recruiting and hiring top-notch talent is one of the biggest challenges for any organization.  There are two schools of thought on this topic.  One maintains that the best hire is one that “fits” your organization – someone with skills and personality that match and enhance your current strategy and complement your existing workforce.  On the other hand, many managers believe the best hire is the person with the best qualifications, period.  Whether this person is a “fit” with the organization and its mission is a secondary consideration.  What’s important is just getting the best people in the door.

There’s a wealth of studies supporting both sides of this topic, but this week I’ve chosen to highlight one of my personal favorites.  Three researchers set out to explore the relationship between recruiting philosophy and organizational performance in the context of men’s NCAA basketball.  Their question: is a coach more successful when he recruits generally for the best talent available, or when he seeks players consistent with his coaching philosophy and preferred game strategy?

They surveyed Division I NCAA head coaches to identify their coaching styles and recruiting emphasis.  Over time, their success – measured in wins – was compared.

The result: Coaches who recruited talent consistent with their own strategy and philosophy performed better.  Coaches who recruited the best athletes generally and tried to build teams to accommodate players’ talents performed worse.

So based on this work, the advice to managers is this: hire those you can effectively lead.  Look for someone with talents that complement your own management style and philosophy, as well as the culture and strategic direction of your company.

Basketball coaches know: you don’t play your five best players…you play your best “five”.  The art of selection is in identifying and hiring people who bring out the best in you and your existing employees, making everyone with whom they work better.

Wright, P. M., Smart, D. L., & McMahan, G. C. (1995).  Matches between human resources and strategy among NCAA basketball teams.  Academy of Management Journal, 38, 1052-1074.

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