Posted by: goalpath | July 21, 2009

Who makes the best employee…the one with the most experience or the one with the best ideas?

Yes, for most people the logical answer would be to hire the person with the most experience. After all, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If a person has been successful in his or her field for the last 10-20 years, why wouldn’t they make the best hire and be a very productive member of your company? In the past, I would have voted for the experienced candidate without question.

That was then. Today, I am not so sure.  To paraphrase Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changing…particularly in today’s workplace”. Given the fact that the world of business and technology has been evolving at warp speed since the introduction of personal computing, high speed communications and the world wide web, how valuable will all those past experiences be to your organization? Can a person’s experience translate directly into great job performance in today’s wired world and fast paced business climate? Will that experience add significant value to the organization they are trying join?

Having worked in high tech since the early days of personal computers, I have seen technologies and companies come and go faster than anyone could have or would have predicted back in the early days of the technology revolution. In the early 1980’s, the dominant software companies were VisiCorp, Ashton Tate, and Micropro. I doubt many of you have ever heard of these companies. These companies went from zero to hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and just as quickly disappeared a few years later. Why, they weren’t able to adapt to changing face of technology quickly enough. By the same token, the skills required to work in most white collar jobs are changing just as rapidly..

I remember selling the first PC hard drive in Austin. I sold it to the governor’s office. After setting it up, I told the IT administrator that there was no way he would ever be able to generate enough data to fill up that 5 megabyte external hard drive. Yes, that was 27 years ago. Should I put that on my resume? My current notebook PC has a 150 gigabyte internal drive and it only has 37 gigabytes free. I also have a 500 gigabyte external drive I use for backup.

A long resume might look quite impressive to some bosses. Unless of course, you typed it up on your Olivetti Typewriter. How will all that experience provide a candidate with the tools and skill sets they will need to help lead businesses in the 21st Century? The tools and skill sets have both changed. World wide communications are now driven by the internet and cellular technologies. Meetings can be conducted from anywhere at any time and can accommodate attendees anywhere on the planet. Distribution systems, marketing, customer relationships, supply chains and brand awareness are all driven by the web.

The successful companies of the future will be built on ideas and new strategies to deal with rapidly evolving technologies. Can past experience demonstrate one’s ability to create new programs and leverage new technologies? In some cases, a connection to such abilities can be articulated on your resume. In most cases, it isn’t easy to illustrate those abilities. Resumes don’t reflect how well a person can think on their feet when a disruptive paradigm comes into play. It also won’t show how quickly they can generate new ideas or how well they can react under pressure.

Some companies are referring to their employees as human capital. After all, in some companies the most valuable assets in the company are their employees. If your employees are your most important assets, you should be wise in how you judge their potential performance and who you hire.

Other factors include how well the potential hire can adapt to the existing corporate culture and whether or not he or she is a good team player. Consequently, the interview process will always be the most critical component in sorting out the best employees. Some companies are much better at this than others. Far too often, the bureaucratic nature of the larger corporations, places much more emphasis on the resume and background check, than the management and peer interview process. That’s unfortunate for all concerned.

Regardless of which side of the desk you are positioned, hiring manager or potential hire, talk about creativity and idea production. If possible develop possible scenarios and have the candidates work up strategies and ideas for dealing with these potential calamities. Fresh viewpoints will be the key to successful business strategies in the fast changing world of today. A lot of those past experiences won’t translate into useful skills when navigating the today’s dynamic business climate, let alone in the future. Take the time to find out how well the potential hire can function in uncertain situations with imminent deadlines. Key hires are the key to business success. 

 What’s your take on this issue? I am sure you have experienced this conundrum in your work life. Comment on Linkedin and/or on my web site, http://www.BoomerOpinion.com. We are always looking for Baby Boomers with an opinion who don’t mind speaking out.

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