Three employee traits to hire for innovation

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Finding people who can adjust, learn and adapt is the way to stay ahead of the game

Employees must embrace technology, collaborate with others and work effectively with agility. Yet employers often hire people for specific skills, and if they are focusing on what employees can do instead of who they are they’re missing a trick.

Having the right skills doesn’t mean staff are ready for the next change and the change after that. Hard skills have only a five-year half-life because of the rapid rate at which technology is transforming work environments. It means hiring based on current skills and qualifications provides only temporary results.

Hiring people with the right traits and behaviours is better for longevity and predicting future success. Skills can be learned, but behaviours are much harder to change as they’re part of a candidate’s personality. Once someone is found with the right traits those will be useful throughout their time at the organisation, helping create the skills required longer term.

There are three key traits that future-ready employees will have:

1) Learnability

People with learnability know that their skills will need frequent updating to adjust to whatever is around the corner. They’ll be motivated to manage their careers and self improve. Without this trait it’s also difficult for individuals to see their weaknesses and they aren’t likely to be open to developing skills where necessary.

2) Agility

Today’s work environment is more chaotic than past hierarchical structures and more complex with ever-changing technology. Job mobility, retraining and agile working are increasingly common and an individual’s ability to constantly adapt will be key. Adaptability means a person can stay employable and adjust to new challenges.

3) Curiosity

Individuals need to have a mindset that accepts and embraces technology as an opportunity, not a threat. Digital technology and AI automation should be seen as a positive development that can help employees work more productively. It’s about being comfortable with getting out of a comfort zone, turning current ideas into new ones.

Other common traits that are also useful for a digitally-driven organisation include ambition, mental endurance, a coaching mindset and business acumen.

Not all of these traits and behaviours would have made someone successful in the past, but no matter what the role is today they’ll help employees to be the best with challenges and continual change.

However it’s not easy to pinpoint these factors in potential candidates during the recruitment process. Many are viewed as hard to-capture intangibles, leading hiring managers to rely on gut feelings or intuition.

Employers may have the right talent in house, and it’s easier to identify what factors are needed in a workplace through assessment tools that identify traits, behaviours, skills and motives of current employees whether they’re in managerial roles, project managers, shop floor workers or machine operators. This provides employers with a snapshot, identifying places where gaps need to be filled.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s artificial intelligence that can help. Assessments that incorporate AI can be precise in helping identify and select candidates who are likely to be successful.

What AI does is learn to evaluate candidates based on psychometric models linked to job analysis. Where humans may focus on specific behaviours and skills when they rate candidate responses, AI can focus on broader competencies and behaviours to get the big picture.

There’s no denying that having the right traits in a workforce and potential candidates is essential for every organisation, so finding people who can adjust, learn and adapt is the way to stay ahead of the game.

John McLaughlin is commercial director at Aon's Assessment Solutions

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