HR and Recruiting

These 7 talent mistakes are destroying your bottom line

Written by Kate Lopaze

Recruiting and managing talent has become one of the hottest topics in this hiring market, both for boots on the ground recruiters and the executives who are tasked with strategizing and organizing. If you find you’re getting frustrated by the challenges and stresses of talent management, you’re certainly not alone—but it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s look at some of the pitfalls you may be experiencing, and how they’re sabotaging your best efforts.

1. Limiting diversity to the hiring process

Once you’ve found and hired a diverse team, that checks off the diversity success box, right? Not quite. Finding diverse talent is a great first step, but you need to keep up that momentum among employees, and not just new recruits. It’s important to keep considering how to manage diversity on an ongoing basis, well after the team is in place. Are team leads equipped to manage a diverse team? Are diverse team members supported, culturally, or are they expected to blend in with the homogenous corporate identity?

Another key mistake in this area is thinking too narrowly about diversity, and not considering diversity beyond the obvious gender and ethnic differences. There’s also cognitive diversity, which essentially means embracing different thinkers, people who have leadership styles that may seem unorthodox to your company, or personality types that haven’t typically had broad representation at your company before. It’s about diversifying thought and perspective to maximize success, not just about diversifying the demographics.

2. Prioritizing change for change’s sake

Everyone wants to be innovative. But are you pushing innovation initiatives at the expense of things that are already working and clicking well? Think of it like those New Year’s Day resolutions. In December, the status quo is happy and merry and full of sugary goodness. January 1, reality hits, and suddenly there are draconian goals about fitness and diet as an immediate reaction. Try to see change management as a lifestyle change, not a crash diet. Make sure you’re taking stock of what’s working with your talent management, and change things up when it feels right—not because you feel like you should be shuffling things around just to keep up with the times.

3. Letting disagreement derail projects

Having everyone sign off on every project is…unlikely. The whole point of having diversity in perspective is making sure that all angles of a project are considered. But when it comes time for the leaders to commit, they need to ensure that naysayers are willing to commit to the project—even if they disagree with the methods. It’s not about making sure everyone comes around to a particular position, but rather that they’re willing to go along with the leader’s final assessment and plan.

And if there are serious fundamental disagreements, those have to be managed as well. Part of this can be done during the recruiting and hiring process, with interview questions designed around determining whether someone is a “my way or the highway” type of team member, or someone who is comfortable expressing differences, but also being willing to commit to a larger vision.

4. Assuming that recruiting priorities and larger company strategy are the same thing

This one can get tricky. Ostensibly, you’re hiring people who will serve the company’s needs and strategies. But hiring is focused on the company’s immediate needs—putting someone in place who can manage the day-to-day right away. That might not always square with where you want the company to go in the next year, three years, ten years. Overcoming this potential gap means focusing on growth goals on both the employee and company levels.

This means creating a culture where goals are not only encouraged, but tracked and managed against the larger company strategy. It means working with people at all levels—executive, managerial, and employee—to create achievable, specific goals that align with the company’s strategic goals. This requires openness about the company’s goals, and a two-way feedback program so that employees aren’t setting their own goals in a vacuum. Studies have shown that employees who feel informed about and engaged in company goals are more satisfied and productive in their jobs.

5. Allowing a disconnect between talent and culture

If your company’s culture is very specific or static, you risk having training and recruiting efforts that aren’t aligned with the realities of working at the company. If employees are trained on processes that are in place just because they always have been in the past, then you’re essentially training them for the past. Talent is then conditioned toward aligning themselves with the status quo—not necessarily toward the kind of flexible thinking that could move things forward.

This doesn’t mean you have to rewrite your company culture every time someone new comes along but think of the culture as a work in progress, with an emphasis on agility, change, and innovation in the service of the larger company goals. Make sure that your talent is being managed with an eye toward context, and make sure they understand the reasons why they’re being asked to do their jobs a certain way.

6. Not focusing on short-term talent development

With so much recruiting and management effort focused on employees’ long-term goals, it can be easy to lose sight of the short-term goals that a) help them develop, and b) serve the company in the meantime. Instead of thinking only of the “five-year plan,” help employees see the “five-month plan,” and the steps they can take in the meantime.

Giving employees opportunities to engage in your organization and join committees, make presentations, or lead projects can help short-term development and ensure that employees don’t feel stagnant in their roles—and start looking to take their talents elsewhere.

7. Not relying on a core group of “company evangelists”

When it comes down to handing down strategy or goals, don’t forget that your company has an infrastructure in place for supporting and communicating that vision throughout the company. Sometimes called the “top 100,” this group is typically the CEO, his or her direct reports, and the level of direct reports below that. These employees are familiar with both the company strategy and also what it means in the day-to-day for their teams, so lean on them to make sure that information is communicated and supported throughout the company network. Making sure that you have the support and engagement of this core group will help spread the word to all levels of the company, making it feel less like a royal edict and more like a collective project.

None of these mistakes are fatal for a company, but making them can absolutely slow your progress toward your corporate goals. You want your talent management to be as efficient and painless as possible, so knowing and avoiding these common mistakes will definitely benefit you in both the short and the long run.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.