Creating a Great Place to Work: Recruiting for Agility

The following comes from guest blogger Jennifer Vena, senior consultant, Horizons Workforce Consulting®. Ms. Vena has more than 20 years of experience conducting dependent care needs assessments, developing strategic work/life initiatives, and advising on Horizons Workforce Consulting's research projects. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from UCLA.

Agility was the buzzword that I kept hearing at the Great Place to Work conference that I attended recently in my hometown of Los Angeles. As a mother of three children ages 8 to 17, agility is a word I am all too familiar with.  I can morph from asking my high school senior probing questions to aid in his looming decision about which college acceptance to select to using goldfish crackers to help my third grader learn his times tables with ease.  However, even with the vast changes in technology and the more complicated college admissions process, my children's lives thus far have followed a predictable trajectory: Bright Horizons® child care, elementary school, middle school, high school, college.

What is Creating the Need for Agility at Work?

Today's work environment is complex, and the future of work is largely unknown. New products and services, new industries, doing business in new countries; what the future will look like even two to three years from now is up for grabs. The companies that will thrive in this environment are the ones with flexible, adaptable leaders and employees who can innovate, embrace change, and conquer the previously unknown. To quote Star Trek, leaders and employees need to be equipped "to boldly go where no one has gone before."

Constant, Rapid Change in the Workplace

Many of the GPTW keynote speakers highlighted the amount of change we are all creating and experiencing. Whether companies are dreaming up new technology or fast and furiously trying to cure cancer, the workplace is in a constant state of flux. Companies are merging across the globe and need to learn different cultures, adapt, and collaborate. Organizations are no longer able to develop five-year business plans. The focus is on 18-month plans because that is as far as anyone can feasibly predict. The bottom line is that organizations need people who can be agile. While they need employees who can execute their current known job responsibilities, what is even more important is having the capacity to be innovative, creative, and flexible to take on the future needs of the organization, whatever those may be.

Recruiting and Hiring for the Future

In order to find agile people, organizations need to recruit not for the specific job responsibilities or title, but for a larger picture skill set that will enable the person to adapt as those responsibilities change over time.

Along these lines, Bright Horizons hires for attitude and trains for skill to make sure we get the right culture fit. Moving forward, employers may want to incorporate interview questions that focus on an applicant's future potential to adapt, create, and innovate. Professor Gary Mangiofico at Pepperdine University gave two great examples of interview questions to get at innovation and creativity in the hiring process: "Who are you when you are at your best?" and "What are you the possibility of?" The millennial generation appears to embody this broader skill set to a large degree.  A college student who co-presented with her UC Berkeley professor, Dan Mulhern, described millennials as fearless, innovative, tech savvy, and socially aware with a startup mentality and diverse thinking.

Retaining Your Workforce of the Future

First, leaders need to build meaningful relationships with employees.  It is hard to leave meaningful relationships, even for more money.  As a 24-year tenured Bright Horizons employee, I have experienced this first hand.  Participating in cross-functional leadership development programs and having managers who truly care about me as a whole person has cemented me to the Bright Horizons family.

Second, transparent communication is a must.  By telling employees the truth, communicating frequently, answering their questions, and indicating where the organization is heading, leaders can build employees' capacity for change and demonstrate their commitment to the future, not just for the organization, but for individual employees as well.

Third, make sure the work is meaningful.  Dr. Gary Mangiofico stated that the meaningfulness of work is the new loyalty factor. Employees are looking for meaning in their work and if it is not there, they will look elsewhere.

At Bright Horizons, we are mission-driven and our employees find great meaning in the care we all have a hand in providing to people at every life stage:  children, high school students, elders, and employees continuing their education.