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2011-01-13

Do not Always Hire the Best

Do not get shocked by this! We have been told that we should try to hire the best. And here I am advocating you otherwise!

Now do not frown thinking why am I saying this? Because the answer is simple- Talent, refusing to stay put in SME will fly off to greener pasture on a slight opportunity. Moreover, if you have only the BEST, you are essentially issuing an open invitation to the world to poach on your staff. So, why hire the best and lose them to the competition just as they have begun to contribute meaningfully to the organization?

Now, if you are wondering how to solve this catch-22? Take a leaf from me and divide the talent requirements into two parts for an optimal solution-The first one will consist of key functional and critical roles where you need to go all out to hire and retain the BEST. This is because without the best you cannot make the best product, best process, best technology, best delivery etc.  Once these key roles are staffed with the best, the rest should actually be somewhat below the best, since they do not fulfill critical functions in the company.

This differentiation in viewpoint and strategy is worth the attempt, because the ones who are somewhat below the best may take a little longer to do so, but could end up delivering nearly the same quality as the best would have in those positions.

This staffing strategy ensures everyone wins. The few BEST win as you can pay them higher salaries which you could not have if the entire company had been staffed with BESTs. The BESTs feel valued and develop loyalty for the organization. The less-than-best win because they are able to learn from the BESTs. And ‘You’ as CEO win because the less-than-best are less likely to leave you for another company, and you save monies on salaries you pay across the organization.

I applied this strategy with success in one company where I worked in a product development role and in another role where these products were customized for each client. For the critical development role, we hired the BEST. However, for customization, rather than taking the best (such as B.Tech. graduates whom we were inducting earlier), we started to recruit MCAs who were happy to deliver the same results with lower pay packages than the B.Techs would have been willing to work for.

This approach paid such rich dividends that we are now planning to stop taking even MCAs, instead hiring B.Sc. graduates and training them to deliver the required results!!

However, to make this concept a success, first make your processes and business models so automated, and make your training and skill enhancement programs so structured that you can do with less qualified and less experienced people. Appropriate investment in tools, technology, and processes will help you achieve relatively more with relatively less talented people. We have all heard so much about how automation in production and processes help in either replacing people, and/or getting the same quality of output with less experienced staff. That’s money saved and people retained.

If you think about it, the entire Indian IT and ITES industry is all about American and European companies outsourcing work to Indians with lower qualifications and experience vis-a-vis their counterparts in the home country. All they are doing is adhering to the policy of NOT ALWAYS USING THE BEST and they save time and money to distribute among the limited best they do have!

* You will need to automate processes and train the less-than-best so that they can perform adequately. Then only you can manage to not always hire the best.


* You need to correctly identify and differentiate between critical and less critical roles before you can apply this learning.

Remember, the BEST get higher salaries than they would at other organizations because they can take a larger slice of the wage bill.

Alternatively, the less-than-best are excited about learning opportunities from training and working with the BEST, and are motivated to stay longer with the organization. 

This chapter has been taken from the book, ‘And the Award for the Best SME goes to…’ authored by the writer

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