Hire smart, hire better

One of the most frequent complaints of the business community is its inability to find good people to manage their businesses. Delve deeper though and it’s often not a lack of suitable people out there, but an unwillingness to hire people who are deemed smarter and better.

It’s surprising how many powerful and successful business managers practise the “don’t hire someone who can steal your job” mantra as one of their top tips for success. That piece of advice doesn’t sound too ridiculous in a volatile business world, where job security is far from guaranteed. The instinct of self-preservation thus overrides common sense and the mission of hiring better to collectively do better as an organisation.

Business leaders must set the tone by hiring people capable of doing great things, in ways different and perhaps better than themselves. For any self-made businessman who has spent a better part of their life creating and crafting their organisation, letting go doesn’t come easy. But it’s important to recognise that better people would still let you hold the reins, but allow you to micromanage less. New ideas and differing viewpoints can be used for the betterment of your businesses, and the better the people you hire, the more certain you can be that the right values would prevail in your business decisions. The right people would only create opportunities for you to do even greater things.

The knock on effects of our ego-driven hiring culture is now becoming apparent in the quality of people ascending to top positions in the private sector. The bankruptcy of ideas and creativity can be directly linked to a hiring culture marred by an education system that prioritises book learning and excelling at examinations as the benchmark of “superiority”. The self-righteous expectation of jobs for education stems from this very system, which by design, excludes even those very intelligent and very capable youngsters who just don’t do well academically.

Take for example many of the unions within the local universities – they are driven more by individual insecurities, under the guise of the grand desire to achieve collective good. It’s that same insecurity that drives senior doctors to reject a proven protocol devised by a more junior physician, simply because he is lower down the pecking order.

The same applies to our politics – election after election, the polity is expected to choose from among the same old faces, the same inefficient and corrupt handful; smart, young, aspiring politicians privately moan the hierarchy that applies when nominations are made, leaving little room for fresh new faces to accede to the political realm.

The brain drain Sri Lanka experienced over the past several decades seemed to recover briefly in the immediate years post-war, but it has now resumed with vigour. The lack of opportunities, among other reasons, now drives the waves of educated, smart professionals to seek better luck overseas.

The hundreds of smart Sri Lankan youth doing amazing things around the world are often torn between their desire to return home to the country they love, and the knowledge that in Sri Lanka, there will be scant opportunity for the knowledge, skills, and experience they offer.

Qualification-driven hiring is partly to blame – experience and knowledge can be far more valuable in a business setting than a host of qualifications that don’t translate to ability. Smart people are those who are curious, unafraid, and willing to learn. Toxic work cultures where insecurities and suspicions rule the day are of no use to anyone.

Nothing gets done when everyone’s too focused on self-preservation. The same goes for those who pander to their superiors’ egos – “yes men” do nothing for the end-objectives of a company. Differing opinions and a multiplicity of personalities on the other hand can be a source of energy and excitement, and healthy competitiveness within organisations.

Human insecurity runs rife and ego can get in the way of the best intentions, but if it’s an incontrovertible truth that people make and break organisations, then so is the truth that only people who shine can make an organisation shine, and everyone must evolve – you included.

Having the right people working with you means you have a better support system that allows you to adapt better, and having the strength of smart, clever people behind you means you and your organisation can envision a tomorrow in which everyone thrives.