Building Innovative Companies from Innovative People

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by Jean-Pierre Sakey, President & CEO,
David Snyder, Business Development Counsel
Headway Corporate Resources
& Teresa Spangler

How to Hire Successfully

The most important decision leaders make is who to hire. How they work with the people they hire is also a critical factor in success. At Headway we focus much of our attention and a great deal of our efforts on the quality, caliber, and character of the hire. We believe that it's important to catalogue a person's life achievements, but we think it's far more important to examine a person's character and whether they have attributes that will enable them to be creative and innovative.

It is our belief that people can be successful and thrive in a variety of job settings if they are creative; innovation involves examining a problem and coming up with different solutions. Too many organizations devote a great deal of brainpower on solving problems using standard, textbook formulas. A company should have key employees who can look at problems creatively and from all angles, such as sales functions to accounting responsibilities to information technology processing. At Headway we believe that finding the right person for the right job involves more than just looking at a resume; it's about assessing personal character and attributes.

It's also important to take into account whether or not the candidate has a true interest in and respect for the products and services that a company is selling. The culture of a company must appeal strongly to the potential employee. The more a company clearly defines its culture, values, and vision (goals), the more accurately an individual can determine if they have a desire to work for that company. On the other side, potential employees should take a look at the company's current workforce: Do they seem happy? Are they working well in teams and being collaborative? Do they smile and present an inviting environment? Are they positive about the work they are doing? Do they openly discuss the challenges?

What Employers and Employees are Looking For

Most of our clients are in search of people who are not afraid to take risks.

Hiring the right person for the right position and allowing them to grow within the company is crucial to success. Most of our clients are in search of people who are not afraid to take risks. They want a positive risk taker, the person who understands how to work with and gain consensus among team members. These types of people inspire and motivate others to do their best; they make others want to contribute fully. Employers are searching for creative and innovative people willing to challenge the process in an effort to create new solutions and products or improve processes. As always, honesty and integrity are very important to clients. In addition, clients are looking to hire "we" people - those who want to be part of a team - rather than "me" people - those who seem solely focused on their own goals and advancement. You cannot have innovation without collaboration.

Employees want to feel they can use 100 percent of their abilities and talents. Most employees, regardless of the position they hold, wants to be more fully utilized, to continue learning, and to be more creative on the job and off. Many of the people we talk with want to give back to their communities or to a favorite charity. When a company is communityfocused and provides internal opportunities for charitable support and encourages employee participation (such as paid community volunteer days), typically employee morale is much higher.

Finding Individuals with Passion

It's important to look for individuals with passion for their work, but that may be easier said than done. Words such as passion and values have been used so often that they have lost some of their original meaning and impact. They convey nice ideas and concepts, but when you are looking for superstar performers you need to take a scientific approach to assessing what type of passions and values you need in your workforce.

Some of the most fascinating research in the area of workplace values was done by German psychologist Eduard Spranger who published a groundbreaking study in the 1920s titled Types of Men. In his work, Spranger suggested that a person's attitude, not personality type, created a feeling of success in the world. The attitudes, or values Spranger researched are now of great interest to organizational psychologists.

It's our belief that in the future career building and human performance will increasingly focus on the nature of passions as predictors of an individual's success in a chosen career. A person's personality is not a good predictor of success in any job; a person's passions are. At Headway we have a motto: "Brains are important, but heart makes the difference." Skill, knowledge, and personality are all important, but all of these attributes stem from the head. They enable you to determine whether a person can do the job but they don't give you an idea of how well they will do the job. The bottom line is that people will not pour themselves into a career and create a reputation for innovation if their hearts are not in the job.

How Values Affect Job Performance

A fascinating study on career performance was conducted by a company named Target Training International (TTI) of Scottsdale, Arizona that used values-based assessment tests derived from the six measurable values or passions Spranger researched. TTI also uses a very popular "DISC" instrument, which is a four-factor behavioral styles assessment tool. TTI applied the behavioral and values assessment tools to a group of topgrossing sales people in the United States and Germany. The results indicated that there was virtually no correlation between behavioral style and sales ability; however, a significant majority of individuals did share a common value identified as the "utilitarian value" by Spranger. This value describes people who are looking for the maximum reward in return for the time and energy they spend in the workplace. People with this value are natural born prospectors; they don't need a lot of training on when to fish or cut bait. These are the people driven to make as much money as they can, as fast as they can; it almost seems as if this is what they're hard-wired to do.

We believe it's important to use these types of research and assessment tools in recruiting. There are specific and measurable character traits and attitudes that predict success and earnings for top sales performers. Character-based models cut across all industries, not just sales; at Headway, character-based recruiting has become one of our most important business assets. Our model is unique in the recruiting marketplace.

When you look for the traits that will predict how much energy people will give to a job - the type of energy that leads to innovation - you need to look at the passions and character traits required for successfully completing that job. At Headway we devote an immense amount of time to researching the passions and character traits necessary for jobs that require a high level of innovation and ingenuity. We also have a highly sophisticated process for finding the right people to fill those jobs once the passion has been identified.

We use many tools, techniques, and assessments to help us identify people with a passion for solving problems; usually we can tell what kind work environments or challenges will spark their passions and unique abilities. What is unique to Headway is that we separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. We carefully screen out people who are more likely to take more than they give. Innovative people are more likely to give more than they take. Individuals characterized by self-interest and laziness react negatively when asked to do something beyond the call of duty. They tend to respond by thinking or saying "That's too much to ask" or "I'm too busy" or "What's in it for me?" But there are also those people who possess what we call the "magic." They leap at the chance to show you what they are made of and to tap into their passions. They want to go beyond the call of duty; they take pride in proving themselves. And their drive to demonstrate their abilities and talents is more important than their self-interest. From this magical mix comes innovative thinking and innovative behavior in the workplace.

Interviewing and Screening

Whenever you're looking to fill positions you look at many, many resumes - sometimes hundreds and hundreds for one opening. Screening resumes is key; there's a story to be told in every resume. The impersonal part of evaluating a resume involves looking at the sequence of responsibilities over that person's career and what they try to tell you about their personal life. You also use a variety of assessment tools that help you put together a character-based assessment.

Corporations are moving rapidly to two types of workforce: a small, embedded team of managers, & a workforce that's far more flexible.

The interview, of course, is very important. We try to train all of our recruiters so that they are highly skilled in the art of interviewing. If an interview is an hour long, about half of that interview should include time spent trying to understand the person. At Headway we rarely ask candidates to tell us what they have accomplished in their lives. Rather, we focus on trying to understand the candidates and how they view themselves and their personal strengths. We also try to get a sense of what they perceive to be their greatest failures, both personally and professionally. During the last half of the interview, we like candidates to take us through their accomplishments and some of their most important business issues. When you put all of those pieces of information together you can better assess a person's character and his or her potential for becoming a successful employee.

Most of the strategies that we use to screen candidates have been developed internally. We use a combination of objective and subjective tools. At Headway we believe strongly in ongoing, specialized training; we have a powerful intranet strategy that allows for communication with all of our workers on an ongoing basis so that we're all working from the same page. If we've been successful at finding qualified, capable, and innovative individuals, then they will perform well within the organization in which we place them. Most people are hired to solve problems, not just to fill a role. Obviously the best measure of a successful human capital business such as ours is a low failure rate.

The Changing Workforce

If you think in terms of technology and productivity, the American workforce has become incredibly productive. For example, robotics in factories can complete many tasks that used to be the responsibility of assembly workers. Complicated software programs can now do much of the work previously assigned to actuaries and insurance people. Technology has had an incredible effect on the productivity of people; as a result, jobs change. What an accountant does today differs significantly from what an accountant did ten or even five years ago. As a result of technology and the changes it has brought, specific skill sets are needed if someone is to be a successful in a growing organization. Today's employees need the ability to learn, to adapt, to innovate, to create, and to problem solve. Many organizations and corporations recognize that one of the most important issues they will need to address during the next five years is employee training. They understand that technology is going to continue to affect how people work.

The innovative, creative problem solvers will succeed as time - and technology - march on. Individuals with those skills will have the capacity to work in a business environment of ongoing, rapid change and technological innovation.

The Mark of Success

Corporations are moving rapidly to two types of workforce: a small, embedded team of managers, and a workforce that's far more flexible. A workforce that's project-oriented and flexible means that a person could work sixty hours one week and ten hours the next, or work six months one year and twelve months the next. As companies vie for the most talented, flexible people, individuals will find themselves working much differently during the next ten years.

In some cases, the competition for talent will force companies to offer more flexibility. And at the same time, workers will simply have to learn to adapt to more flexible working environments and hours. It will be unrealistic to expect that they will be working every day from nine to five, and adhering to the kind rigid, predictable schedules they may have gotten used to. The changing work environments will force individuals and companies alike to view the process, pace and flow of work differently. There will be much more of an emphasis on achieving results, and much less of an emphasis on just showing up for a certain number of hours to fill up a chair, to speak.

A Greater Sense of Community Among Job Seekers

We've learned from the success of the Internet, and the popularity of job boards such as, HotJobs, and CareerBuilder, that people have no problem posting resumes on the Internet. At Headway we want to build very deep Internet-based communities in certain selective geographies and marketplaces. The Headway Internet-based community will be a place where job seekers can exchange information, learn about particular trades, participate in Web-based training programs, and match up with employers looking for particular skill sets. Our offerings in this area will be much more sophisticated than the current job board communities, which are essentially chat rooms. Our communities will be more like the distance learning sites of major universities-the content and tools available will be built by subject matter experts, and the discussion of solutions and tactics for job seekers will also involve input from our own subject matter experts. It will be a forum for true knowledge acquisition, career development and personal growth.

Our vision is to develop Internet-based communities around skill sets and knowledge sets. We want to change the paradigm of how people are hired and, more importantly, change how people market themselves to perspective employers. Our focus is twofold: creating successful businesses and creating successful people. The two are intertwined.

Some companies are all about making money and nothing more; others have a high social passion, meaning that they care about their communities and about leaving the world better than they found it. In the latter type of company, employees with a high social passion tend to feel successful, not because of the money they are making, but because of the difference they are making in the world. If the employee's values don't line up with the company's values, the results for the employer, the employee, and the company could be disastrous.

People are generally successful when they feel successful. As the old saying goes: Nothing breeds success like success. It's important for every human capital business such as ours to focus on researching and mapping the specific passions and character traits that are tied to success in various careers. Because, as always, success means different things to different people-and to companies as well.

But as we have tried to make clear in this chapter, there are certain hallmarks of successful innovative thinking that apply to all individuals and all companies. Headway is dedicated to the fundamental principles of innovative thinking which may be summed up as follows:

In all cases, individuals and companies must learn how to identify, define and clearly spell out exactly what it is that they care most deeply about, what they want to protect, what they are proud of, and what they want to be known for in the history books. Then, those same individuals must have the courage, commitment and dedication to doing what they know is right, no matter how hard that is to do.

When you take people who will do everything in their power to do the right thing in this world--as their passion, conscience and talent guide them-and put them together with companies that are just committed their own sense of purpose, and the match is perfect, then you can lend a hand in creating a better history for all us.

And that, in essence, is what Headway Corporate Resources is committed to-lending a hand in the creation of a better history for every company and individual who walks through our door in search of solutions.

About the Authors

Jean-Pierre Sakey has more than twenty years of diverse business leadership with a background in investment banking, private equity transactions and commercial industry. Prior to joining Headway, Mr. Sakey was president of eResourcing Americas, a division of TMP Worldwide, the parent company of He was also heavily involved in's business strategy and development. Prior to selling his company, SPEC Group, to TMP, Mr. Sakey served as chairman and CEO of SPEC Group Holdings, a leading provider of technology outsourcing solutions focused primarily in the energy sector. He led the management buyout of SPEC in 1994 and grew the business over tenfold prior to the TMP sale.

David P. Snyder, CEO of Snyder Inc, is Business Development Counsel for Headway Corporate Resources and works directly with the CEO and senior management to create enhanced recruiting and selection tools, services, and business strategies for Headway's rapidly expanding markets nationwide. His contributions to Headway's new business lines have included the development of a unique system for selecting top-earning sales professionals based on character traits that are known to be most closely associated with sales performance. Mr. Snyder is also the author of the critically acclaimed American Management Association book How to Mind Read Your Customers, which was listed first in best books of the year by Sales and Marketing Management Magazine in the year of its publication (2001) and which has now been translated internationally. His book, which is respected by many business authorities as one of the finest books on consultative selling ever written, shows a strong relationship between sales success, character, and the knowledge of buyer psychology. On other fronts, Mr. Snyder is helping Headway to develop a comprehensive system for analyzing the character traits, skills, aptitudes, and additional factors that predict success and team compatibility in a wide range of other professions that require advanced critical thinking, leadership and project management strengths. In his consulting work, he has helped many clients to increase productivity through training in his project management methods. Also, he holds a graduate degree in psychology from Harvard, where he was a coinvestigator in important published research that showed a relationship between brain wave patterns and personality styles.