Developing Solvers, Not COGs for the Wheel of Complacency

The 21st century business spends less time doing transformation work (processing raw materials) than it does synthesizing information – true in developed countries and increasingly the case in developing economies.“Hiring profiles will change—indeed, in some tacit-intensive industries, such as software and hospitals, they already have. Managers in these organizations have redefined their job descriptions and criteria in order to hire people who can solve problems, work under ambiguous reporting relationships, and network. But the pool of experienced tacit workers is finite, and demand is increasing; companies already feel the pinch. In reaction, they may cast a wider global net for tacit talent. One thing is clear: for tacit interactions, selecting and motivating talent are core processes that drive effective outcomes.”Remember that employees (human capital) is an appreciable asset. Unlike a car that can be run hard and will eventually hit the second-hand lot, strong recruiting, development and promotional practices can take a relatively new resource and mature them into a powerful problem solver with unique knowledge of your business’ quirks and demands.

But training today’s tacit workers isn’t quite as clean as production labor. The work can’t be learned in a day, and unlike Henry Ford’s assembly line, there will be variability that requires judgement on the part of your staff. Here are a few ideas to help your team stay in the Solver zone and not see their work as just a cog in the corporate wheel.

Encourage challenging questions. The time won’t always be right for these tangential discussions, but be sure to come back to them. Inventive thinkers aren’t always the best at staying on task, and may need more time to lock new ideas away in their minds. Help them get there, and reap the reward.Recognize that fresh recruits may not maximize your team. When you are hiring, think about the long-term fit for the company, not just your team. It is quite likely that your fresh hire is gunning for something else within the firm or may drift toward a better fit when they get oriented. It is far better to be the fountainhead of thoughtleaders within your company than a horder of intellectual horsepower, and strong relations throughout the business only help you work across functional boundaries – an age old challenge.Keep good procedural documentation. You are what you measure, and nothing says task measurement like procedural documentation. Consider making this a performance requirement for the first quarter when you get a new team member in a new role. Their fresh perspective needs to be maximized, and documenting what they do to keep the business humming makes it much easier when they are ready to move on to bigger and better things. You’ll also love it when they are on vacation and you have to backfill them.

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