get the right people on the bus


By Chris Andrews, Director and Head of Advisory

The concept

I love Jim Collin’s analogy around getting the right people on the bus and everything else will follow. Below is an extract from his well-known book, ‘Good to Great‘, based on a study of 1,435 companies examined across a 40-year period.  Here is an excerpt from an essay he wrote the year before, along the same lines:

When it comes to getting started, good-to-great leaders understand three simple truths. First, if you begin with “who,” you can more easily adapt to a fast-changing world. If people get on your bus because of where they think it’s going, you’ll be in trouble when you get 10 miles down the road and discover that you need to change direction because the world has changed. But if people board the bus principally because of all the other great people on the bus, you’ll be much faster and smarter in responding to changing conditions. Second, if you have the right people on your bus, you don’t need to worry about motivating them. The right people are self-motivated: Nothing beats being part of a team that is expected to produce great results. And third, if you have the wrong people on the bus, nothing else matters. You may be headed in the right direction, but you still won’t achieve greatness. Great vision with mediocre people still produces mediocre results.

(“Built to Flip”, from the March 2000 issue of Fast Company)

As a recruiter, we are always being asked to find the right people for a huge variety of buses heading in different directions at different speeds. Given that Stone’s mantra is People Change Performance, that probably comes as no surprise. Our clients are looking to implement changes that drive performance and for that you need the right people. I know of very few CEO’s who do not value having the right people as their key priority.

Who are the right people?

This is where we find the bus gets a bit wobbly with smaller high growth companies. It’s hard to know who to ask on to the bus without the correct approach to defining what qualities the right people should have. Fast-paced change environments are often driven by overworked leadership teams under high task pressures and a need to get bodies on board. The most precious aspect of the business, namely the culture, is in danger of dilution as hiring decisions are driven by speed, functional role experience (‘they used to run a major FMCG so our tiny company will be easy for them!’) and a distortion of culture fit towards ‘we have the same hobbies’, as averse to a strict adherence to pre-agreed competencies in the screening process.      

How to fix this early?

One mistake we made early in the ‘workforce planning’ module for SMEs was to make everything too complicated. Probably due to my own personality, I was building systems that were too time consuming and detailed for the nature of my client base. Our focus now is much simpler – what are the non-negotiable qualities needed to thrive in this business, and what are the ones which will let you thrive in this specific role? Do we all agree and how do we screen for them? This way we can hire a hugely diverse range of people and backgrounds while creating a stronger culture. Once we have an agreed process and a review structure, we can begin to bolt the other aspects of Stone’s approach to ensure the whole hiring supply chain (e.g. employer branding, recruitment delivery, recruitment marketing etc) all align with these simple goals).

The right people always improve performance. If you would like to know more about our approach, reach out to us today!