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Olympic Gold Medalist, Joe Jacobi Shares Talent Identification Strategies to Help You Build High-Performance Teams

Talent Strategies

When launching a new talent identification and recruitment initiative, you traditionally map out the core requirements that pinpoint the best-fit candidate for the role. Then, you commence the long slog of locating that square-peg person to fit into your square-hole opportunity.

It may be that you are so enthused about the newly drawn-up position that you begin sharing the job posting with the entirety of your network. And, with the wide net of social media, more and more applicants begin clamoring for the role.

However, according to Olympic Gold Medalist and Performance Coach, Joe Jacobi, more isn’t always better. In fact, he says, it can actually be a negative, stealing “valuable time, energy and resources away from a focused goal or mission.”

The Value of a Narrow Talent ID Approach

Instead, advises Jacobi, “Build a narrow (talent ID) system that will challenge your organization to look at performance and success aspects you never before considered.”

The thesis behind his recommendation is based on a number of insights, not the least of which is the candidate’s perspective.

“The candidate has a sense of whether they’re one of a bunch of people, or whether the company has been thoughtful about the recruitment process – whether the process makes them feel special. A benefit of going narrow, then, is the candidate can sense this,” explains Jacobi.

One of the ways to go narrow is to “Start with a clear job description,” according to the article, “How to Narrow Down Your Candidate Pool and Make the Right Hire,” by Dave Anderson. “Short, vague job postings leave too much up to interpretation and can easily lead the wrong candidate to believe they’re right for the job.”

Anderson goes on to explain that not only should you be specific about skills, experience and education, but you should also articulate long-term goals you expect the hire to achieve.

And this perspective fits neatly into Jacobi’s philosophy to “build a narrower recruiting system that requires a deeper dive into the key fundamentals that more likely predict success.”

Moreover, says Jacobi, “The narrow system can lead to a more effective ‘tap on the shoulder.’ As such, if a company tells a candidate, ‘We think you have what it takes to be successful here,’ the candidate may be more likely to believe this.”

Pro Tip: Lever creates impact descriptions in place of job descriptions, which gives talent an idea of what they will achieve in one, three, six and 12 months at a company. This also helps hire with diversity and inclusion outlining potential for the role and focusing on key milestones for long-term growth at the company. Essentially, painting a picture of the role over the course of a year allows for it to be narrow and also not lock in certain criteria or a laundry list of to-do’s that might scare off the best fit for the role.

Recruit Based on Supply and Demand

Separating yourself from the passion of the job and evaluating the realities of geographic location is another consideration. Jacobi, who along with his canoeing partner captured the gold medal in the whitewater slalom at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, now actively helps identify and coach athlete talent to participate in high-stakes canoeing competitions.

The reality when recruiting kayakers, says Jacobi, is that you need people in just a few places where it’s good to train. Oklahoma City, OK, which has become a hub for rowing and offers the proper surroundings, equipment and coaching, is one such location.

If you find a talented candidate in Dallas, TX, and another in Oklahoma City, OK, then you invite them both in, explains Jacobi. And, if they both perform well, then this is where a narrower talent identification parameter kicks in.

You are more likely to select the candidate from Oklahoma City, because of its close proximity to the training grounds; the Oklahoma candidate only has a 30-minute round trip to train. The Dallas candidate, on the other hand, must travel 7 hours round trip, and is usually limited to weekend-only training, among other barriers, including family members that may be worried about them, etc.

“On the surface, it seems kind of crazy that we’re going to give up Dallas for Oklahoma City, but you have to look beyond, for key characteristics of what is going to drive performance,” advises Jacobi.

When Lever initiated their expansion into Toronto, they also worked within certain hiring parameters and logistics, akin to what Jacobi recommends. Specifically, they faced the challenges of hiring within high-tech and applied strategic and focused insight.

By evaluating specific roles and hires needed to achieve their successful expansion, Lever further equipped to select the right place where hiring would be competitive. As well, they pinpointed where the supply of right-fit talent resided, all of which relied upon the market and other surrounding tech companies already existing in that geographic area.

Recruit Based on Current Flexible Work Trends

And, while we’re on the topic of narrowing your talent ID systems for success as well as understanding supply and demand, it is important to consider the increasing demand for work flexibility. Identifying talent with this in mind is important for successful results.

According to Mark Menke in Why Flexible Work Is No Longer Just a Generous Perk, “Flexible work options are exactly what many professionals of today are looking for. According to research from Werk, 50% of employees would consider taking a new job if it offered more flexibility.”

Menke goes on to explain that flexible work is one of the “top four ideas shaping the future of HR and hiring,” and “there’s been a 78% increase in job posts on LinkedIn that mention work flexibility.”

Not only can offering flexible work help you in an employees’ market where competing for top talent is increasingly rigorous, but it also can bolster your diversity and inclusion efforts, while spurring productivity. All of these ideas are explored in more depth in Menke’s article.

Doing the Legwork to Find Quality Candidates

Other considerations involve researching and analyzing the people who have proven their performance capabilities; i.e., in the rowing recruitment community, this would include people with long limbs, sustainable oxygen pace to increase the time they can work, or a capacity for bursts, etc., explains Jacobi.

Researching this way helps to narrow the candidate pool by reducing the reach.

According to Jacobi, “Having a large reach may end up pulling in the lowest common denominator. If you don’t do the work, it will default to ‘how many eyeballs’ have reached our work” versus quality of candidate we attracted.

Once you embrace doing the legwork on the front-end of the recruitment process, including dissecting parameters for candidate requirements, then you will want to commit to the process for a while, to see what it yields. Doing so, you can achieve some really great results.

Pro Tip: Lever’s ever-evolving, customizable tools enable hiring managers and employees to do the front-end legwork. In this way, you can proactively identify, source, nurture and hire talent that fit the fundamental skills as well geographical and other requirements you determine.

Putting Your Company Vision and Team Fundamentals First

In the article, “How the NBA’s Top Teams Recruit Top Coaches – and What You Can Learn From Them,” Bruce Anderson showcases how “many NBA teams have embraced an approach of hiring for skills over experience … .”

The San Antonio Spurs is one of the teams highlighted in the article, and Jacobi offers his insights on their talent identification and recruitment strategy. He deduces why they’ve been so successful, despite being in a smaller market without much media or marketing support.

“One area that stands out with San Antonio is the number of international players on the team, says Jacobi.

“I suspect this happens related to something that Kobe Bryant talked about during his playing career. Bryant’s father played professionally in Italy, so Bryant learned the game over there. He always said that Europe and other destinations focused on fundamentals and systematic approaches to sport.”

As such, the Spurs’ ability to bust the mega star myth likely happened because they increasingly recruit from an international pool, people reliant more on fundamentals first, surmises Jacobi.

“Each team has to figure out what they are willing to do to win,” emphasizes Jacobi. “I think this is a big takeaway from recruiting and talent identification in general.”

Pro Tip: You don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity and not look at the holistic picture. Lever’s Talent Intelligence allows employers to report up on metrics in a timely manner, and our new Talent Cloud Connect integrates with WorkDay and other HRIS systems to give a full funnel employee lifecycle vision to refine your hiring strategy.

Soft Skills as a Talent Identification Priority

Finally, narrowing the talent identification and recruiting system to focus in on candidate soft skills is imperative.

And, at the top of Jacobi’s soft skills list requirements is respect. He says, “I’m not interested in leading a team that will be successful if they are not going to be respectful; if respect is not at the top of the recruiting food chain, it’s a non-starter. Start with good people first.”

Talent identification in high performance sport is helpful as other organizations and businesses consider ways to up their recruitment game. You may be surprised how implementing a few new ideas may improve candidate quality, hiring and retention results.

For example: Implement smart solutions that help collaboration and transparent feedback throughout the interview process. Ensure behavioral interview questions are a part of the process. Save time by creating notes to reference on any sourced candidate within your talent database.

As Jacobi concludes, it is a choice between “choosing from everyone versus building systems that choose from fewer and more qualified. It’s the counterintuitive test of ‘less but better.’”

To learn more about the power of Lever’s robust systems to identify and build focused and enduring relationships with qualified prospective candidates, schedule a call with one of our recruiting experts.