When Bill Maher asked Bill Bradley why the New York Knicks keep losing, the Senator said that it’s because they look for players with skill instead of character. I think this is what many organizations do when they hire employees. They look for people who already appear to have the experience and competencies needed for a specific job rather than people who have the attitude and temperament to fit into the culture of the business. If companies are going to make it successfully through this economy, they must have employees who have a positive attitude and can learn from and adapt to continuous change and uncertainty. This is no time for the weak-of-heart. Weathering this recession will require a commitment and resiliency beyond what is required in a growth environment.
Employees who have character can learn whatever they need to learn to help the business be successful. Keith McFarland in the article he wrote for BusinessWeek titled “The Right People vs. Getting the People Right", argues that it is the business leader’s job to help people develop into successful team members. He writes:
I think way too much has been made of this "right people" idea, and today some leaders use it as an excuse for their companies' poor performance. After all, as I like to ask the leader who blames his company's travails on the lack of right people, how did those wrong people get there in the first place? The typical reluctant response? "Well, I hired them."
Every employee should have a development plan and it is the company’s responsibility to invest in that plan to move the employee to the level of skill needed to help the business grow out of the current slump. But don’t let people flounder while not giving them every opportunity to succeed. Especially now, companies can’t afford to be cavalier about their most important resource.