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Industry Experience

October 11, 2017

Employee TrainingCatch 22?

Have you noticed that many job postings lay out a list of skills and also require, say, five years of industry experience? Ever wonder how the heck a college graduate manages to get hired? Do you assume they worked their way through school? Or perhaps you look for a valuable and long internship program that provided relevant experience? So what about the returning Veteran. How are they supposed to get their “industry experience”?

I rarely see postings that say something along the lines of, “We are looking for people who believe in our values and culture. We will train or retrain as necessary.” Not sure I’ve ever seen that listing. I hope it exists somewhere.

Pay it Forward

Let’s face it — insisting on industry experience is being lazy and cheap. You just don’t want to take the time and/or pay the expense to properly train someone for your way of doing things. Or, you want to minimize the training task. However, when you hire someone with experience, you may well hire someone with the other guy’s values and/or bad habits. How do you know their experience is a “good” experience?

We also know (from Daniel Pink) that one of the main things most knowledge workers desire is Mastery — becoming more proficient in their chosen area of expertise. So you will actually be a more attractive employer if you suggest you will continue or improve employee training.

What we have a horrible record of accomplishing is changing people’s values. So I agree with the saying that we should, “Hire for attitude and train for aptitude.” Strive to have your organization become known in the industry as one which develops top-notch knowledge workers.

Engaged Employees

I believe that if we hire first and foremost on a person’s values — are their values closely aligned with the organization’s values? — and commit to doing the technical competency training where needed, we will have fully engaged employees. That’s no small feat! According to Gallup, fewer than 30% of our employees are engaged. The rest are putting in time or actively working against our company values, vision, mission and goals. As far as I can see, that means we have a crisis of leadership in this country.

The assumptions that go along with the above statement are: 1. You have truly defined your organization’s values AND live them every day. And 2. You make sure that your compensation package is competitive in the market or slightly above. That takes finances off the table.

Leadership Development

Elsewhere on the blog I have noted that the CEO really has only one major, strategic task, and that is — actively managing the organization’s culture. Oh yes, I know. There are a myriad of tactical things you have to do. And they will be your undoing if you do not first make sure you have a solid, visible and lived set of values. And frankly, if you do that, you will have no choice but to also develop outstanding leaders along the way.

If your people are highly sought after by internal managers, competitors and other industry leaders, then you have done your job. And if it’s time for them to gain new experience under some other leader or branch out into a new industry, then you can take that opportunity to bring in fresh ideas from outside your own industry.

I hope I see fewer and fewer job postings asking for “years of industry experience.” That is the path to mediocrity. Instead, I hope to see more hiring for attitude (values and character) and a new commitment to training for aptitude. As we transition into an Artificial Intelligence driven world, it will be vital to have no preconceived notions or massive filters that deep experience often gives us.

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