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The Right Ingredients

ONE WAY you can tell a truly good organisation from a mediocre one is by studying its people. A good organisation is sometimes a hotch-potch of minds and men - a coherent, although not always harmonious, jumble whose strength lay in diversity. A mediocre organisation is quite the opposite.

Their employees are mere clones of each other.

Why is that a bad thing? One would suppose that like minds work in greater unity towards a common goal.

True. But only partially.

Chances are that because they all think, act and feel like worker bees in a frenzy of activity, there is no one to complement their weaknesses and supplement their strengths.

Productivity may be high, but productivity is not the only yardstick by which success is measured.

For instance, if a company has a bowlful of hardcore marketing executives who are only interested in adding names to their client lists, who would carry out feasibility studies, compile customer feedback reports and carry out market surveys? It is precisely for this reason that companies should recruit a mix of professionals. Variety is the spice of life. For a growing company it should be the very essence of their hiring philosophy.

It is in fact the underlying principle of the division of labour.

Yet another advantage to having a mix of mindsets at work is that it reduces levels of stress. It is easier to divide job details and assignments based on individual aptitude.

This is not to say that hiring a diverse group of people can cure all evils and that all employees will be happy with their jobs all the time. On the contrary, it means that the management must adopt a patient approach to dealing with problems. Recruiting the right mix of employees is only a step towards a solution and not the solution itself.

Even so, how do you decide what is right and what is wrong when you recruit people?

There are a couple of things you must keep in mind:

Define your working style: Diverse they may be, but they must be able to fill the gaps in your organisation.

The idea here is not to fit a round peg in a square hole but to have round holes and square holes and find people who can fit in them. Regardless of the mix, there will be certain common traits you would want all the employees to have.

Your objective must be to allow for differences after your basic criteria have been met.

Understand your office culture: This is crucial because if your new hires don't fit in, it could create some amount of friction in your organisation. While some amount of it is inevitable when you are hiring people with different attitudes and mindsets, you must take care to see that they are able to work around their differences.

It may seem a leviathan task but with some patience and planning, it is an obstacle that can be easily overcome.

Conflict, after all, is healthy when it is properly handled.

Be clear about your expectations: And also, be clear about what your employees expect from you. Unless there are effective communication channels and unless you are able to talk to them on the same plane, problems are bound to occur. Make sure that your employees know exactly what is required of them. Ambiguity is rarely a virtue.

It may seem that getting the right mix of employees is a lot like a complicated math equation. For example, people who are deeply analytical are also usually somewhat introverted in their outlook; people in sales, on the other hand, have to be extroverts who have a good understanding of the vicissitudes of human nature - they cannot afford to remain in the background.

Then there are people who like routines and schedules - they may not be good at innovating or thinking up better ways to do things, but they will fit perfectly in a job that requires them to do the same type of tasks day after day. Mundane is not a word in their dictionary. So, the ideal, of course, is to get all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in place.

The only way to do it is to get them all to gel with each other - it may not happen all the time, but it should at least happen most of the time. Ultimately, it is perhaps not so much math but chemistry - whatever be the case you must still get your equations right.

PETER THATHURI

faqs@cnkonline.com

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