To survive in this topsy-turvy economy, successful leaders will include the role of Scout on their list of competencies. Most often the role of scout rings of “American Idol” or some other entertainment show where talented people are discovered and recruited. What I mean by talent scout is the role of the person who finds paths through unexplored territory in search of someone or something.
The unexplored territory will be the eventual upturn in the economy. Your staff –especially the better-than-average ones – might be enticed to determine their worth in the market place. You will be left with vacant positions to fill. While they are in search of references you could be in search of people who will be eager to come work with you.
How do you do that without scaring people into thinking you’re hiring to replace someone who has yet to be let go? Here are some tips for making it easier to add the role of scout to your leadership abilities, regardless of the economic situation :
1) Assume that all your staff could and would jump to another job, another company, or quit to walk the Appalachian Trail. Holding this belief, not just about your most valued people, leads you to take the approach that you don’t own them, but that you need to support them in their careers. This approach also leads you into knowledge sharing mode so that when someone does leave, their accumulated knowledge isn’t completely lost.
2) Talk with your staff about what satisfies them and what they want to do or learn in the near future. You can’t guarantee it for them, but then they aren’t guaranteed to stay either. This has both of you thinking about the future, not just past performance, and noticing opportunities you may be missing now.
3) If your organization surveys its employees, request that it include a question regarding whether people will be looking for a job elsewhere in the next 6-12 months, or take your own informal, anonymous survey.
4) Explain that part of your job as leader is to scout for talented people, not wait for positions to be open before thinking about how to fill them. People want to work with others who are talented, and you want to be able to hire quickly and confidently should a position become available. You want to send your staff the message that they are talented (otherwise why are they working there and/or how well are you leading them?) and that you expect continued high performance.
5) Attend networking events and start talking to people who want to have the kind of jobs for which you could be hiring. You’ll learn what kinds of people are interested in the job/company; you’ll learn how well you communicate and something about your “instincts”; and you’ll start building a network of people who might be interested should a position become available. In addition, you might find someone for whom a position could be created so that you don’t have to pass up a particularly good candidate. And you never know when you might meet someone who has a job for you.
That’s my observation, please feel free to declare yours in the comment space.