In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, author Claudio Fernandez-Aaroz described a high-potential employee as one who has the “ability to adapt to and grow into increasingly complex roles and environments.” Fernandez-Aaroz, who based the article on his book It’s Not the How or What but the Who, went on to note that “the question is not whether your company’s employees and leaders have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones.”

He is spot-on as he emphasizes the importance of hiring for the inevitability of change. You need a team comprised of adaptable and flexible minds that are capable of constant learning.

What to Look For

As you improve your hiring process to ensure that you’re getting the most adaptable talent:

  • Seek out candidates who demonstrate humility. The highest potential performers are those who are willing to invest in getting better at everything they do. Along with humility, look for curiosity, insight and determination in a candidate.
  • Look inside. The ideal candidate may be right under your nose. Traditional pay and performance reviews don’t typically reward employees for being adaptable. Think about how you can recognize adaptability within your company. Look at how it is currently being treated – and how to begin seeing it as a true indicator of success.
  • Screen for adaptability through role playing and by searching for people who seek out challenge and change. As described in another HBR post, “Instead of being really good at doing some particular thing, companies must be really good at learning to do new things.” And, so must their people, from entry-level through C-suite hires.

Even the candidate with the most experience and best skill set will likely not succeed if they lack the willingness or capacity to adapt to a new environment and stretch beyond their comfort zone in a productive way. Remember, skills can be honed on the job, but cultural fit and adaptability can neither be taught nor bought. Studies have indicated that almost half of an employee’s success in the first 18 months of being hired results from fitting well into the company environment.

As you strive for the best possible hires and talent management practices, consider partnering with the StaffMasters team. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.


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