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The great talent debate: Finding the right people

Shane Battier of Houston Rockets, Kobe Bryant of Los Angeles Lakers, 2009.(Getty Images)

Shane Battier of Houston Rockets, Kobe Bryant of Los Angeles Lakers, 2009.(Getty Images)

One of the hardest tasks faced by managers is finding the right person for a job — someone competent, with a little something extra, with the skills, passion and just-right team mentality.

How do you suss out those unsung, behind-the-scenes heroes?  How do you find the best thinkers? Why is it so hard to find the right talent fit? These questions were some that LinkedIn Influencers addressed over the course of the week. Here is what some of them had to say.

Whitney Johnson, Co-founder Rose Park Advisors

In basketball and other team sports, the high-scoring players are often aided by lesser-known players whose assists make their scoring possible. The same is true in business, where there are unsung, talented people behind the scenes, explained Johnson in her post, If You’re Serious About Talent, Reward the Assist.

Johnson wrote, “In a 2009 NY Times article called “The No-Stats All-Star,” Michael Lewis described Shane Battier, who now plays for the Miami Heat, as follows: “Shane Battier is widely regarded inside the NBA as, at best, a replaceable cog in a machine driven by superstars. (When you google Battier you get lots of shots of the back of his head as he takes on the biggest dogs in the game like Kobe Bryant.) And yet every team he has ever played on has acquired some magical ability to win. Battier seems to help the team in all sorts of subtle, hard-to-measure ways, with a weird combination of obvious weaknesses and nearly invisible strengths.”

How does that translate into the workplace and hiring? “Overlook the no-stats all stars too many times, and they’ll look over you to leave, to help another team put points up on the board,” Johnson wrote.

“The next time you promote someone in your organisation, look for the assist. Which people made the swish of the ball in the basket possible? Who were the people who set aside their own ambitions to help their colleagues play a little, or even a lot, better?” she suggested. “Thank them. Acknowledge them — publicly. Compensate them.”

Katya Andresen, President, COO and incoming CEO at ePals

“Brilliant ideas are rarely born in isolation, and successful projects stem from a strong, collective team,” wrote Andresen in her post The 6 Types of Thinkers to Seek for Your Team. “In other words, to do great work, you must surround yourself with great people.”

Among the types she seeks:

The dreamer: This person never ceases imagining what's not, what's next and what's possible. They think big and hopefully, stretching the bounds of what is considered achievable. They never stop asking, ‘what if?’ and supply your team with an electric and optimistic creative energy,” she wrote.

The debater: Debaters question your assumptions, call out your leap-of-faith logic and point out the flaws in the plan. They see problems long before others, and they keep everyone grounded and prepared,” Andresen wrote. “Their questioning nature forces you to strengthen the rigor of your arguments.”

The doer: The doer is the wonderfully resourceful team member who gets stuff done, no matter what. Doers roll up their sleeves and find the solution. They are great colleagues to those who devise the grand strategy because they get it delivered on time, all the time,” she wrote.

Alistair Cox, Chief executive at Hays PLC

With unemployment high in many parts of the world, why are companies saying they can’t find the talent they need? “It may seem counterintuitive,” wrote Cox in his post Tackling the Great Talent Mismatch, but “while there are signs of economic recovery in many places, there’s an ever-greater gulf between the needs of employers and the skills of those looking for work.”

Cox pointed to a “combination of government labour policy and educational systems that are the key determinants of whether the skills available are suitable for what business needs… Over-regulation is not protecting workers, it’s actually making employers reluctant to take on new employees.”

Are there solutions? Cox suggested that there are moves to make that will help build a flexible skills pipeline. Among them: “Better-designed employment legislation would give companies greater control and agility to respond to labour market changes,” he wrote.

“Education is also fundamental. Too few economies… boast strong working links between business, education providers and young people,” Cox wrote. “Institutions should look to the real world of work and develop closer collaboration with companies to identify where skills are in demand, then help students to acquire the qualifications needed to become the workforce of the future.”

Other Influencer Topics

How far should you go to keep a star performer from taking a job offered by a competitor, asked former General Electric chief executive Jack Welch in his post Star Wars: When to Let a Top Performer Walk. The answer, he wrote, is “you shouldn’t go as far as you’re probably considering”.

“Putting the company first is the best way for an individual to be personally successful” these days, wrote Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO at Rakuten Inc, in his post Are You Really A Team Player. It might sound counter-intuitive, but Mikitani argued that “when your team begins to work well, your own abilities begin to truly shine.”