01 Sep Functional Talent beats Industry Experience
‘Industry Experience’ is industrial debris for companies in a high growth phase – or desire to grow at all.
“Industry-thinking is Industrial Debris”
There’s no mistaking that every business is affected by a tightening talent pool and need for specialized skills. Add this to transformational pressures, coupled with digital disruption, and the perpetuity of change is accelerating across every sector. Whether it is healthcare, manufacturing, software, services, education, learning/training, aerospace, transportation, hospitality, public policy and many others, the challenge is daunting. The effect is different in each case, yet the impact is undeniable.
That is, undeniable unless you are an HR specialist or a business executive in the specific industry. In that case, you may believe nothing has or will change. Your specific, narrow view of a subset niche is the most important, specialized skill you can have as an industry professional. This is the prevalent mindset that is hindering growth and creating a barrier for hiring the best talent.
I get it. Your experience has to have value beyond the simple timeframe that you performed your work. Surely the, “I have 22 years of industry experience” is a statement of authority rather than a cry for acceptance. The idea that someone else who has been extremely successful performing in a different industry can simply replicate their success without your industrial edge is ridiculous. Well, I believe that is wrong.
To train a person to be an exceptional sales person, a brilliant data modeler, financial analyst, accountant, leader or other high-valued skill is exceedingly more difficult than training on the nuances of your industry. Denial of this truth is simply going to keep your company swimming in the shallow waters of mediocrity – albeit a comfy place.
If you want to grow, talent wins. The best talent is not available if you carry the industrial-debris mindset. Most companies do! Take the healthcare business. It is a complex and ever-changing landscape. Industry speak is a unique dialect and experience in the processes, challenges, decision drivers, policy changes and outside disruptive factors are real. You’re challenged to adapt frequently. Because you are adapting, changing, envisioning or reacting, it is actually easier to bring a great talent up to speed on the nuances of your industry than it is to develop someone into an exceptional, functional talent.
“Industry is easier to learn than high-value, functional skills”
Challenged? Let me illustrate with another example; Recruiters, I mean really good recruiters, are specialized talent. There are great ones and average ones – very little in between. A great one can pick up the skill requirements, lingo, nuances, story validation and personal attributes of a successful candidate in very short order, like 60-90 days. Once that is landed, their ‘genuine talent’ will kick in and that recruiter will rise to the top as always. So if you think that industrial equipment manufacturing or educational software or health insurance is so special that you are better served by lower-performing, functional talent, that have a long tenure of industrial debris, you’re going to lose.
Here is the other mean twist to industrial debris:
“Long term industry specialization leads to resistant and close-minded thinking”
Certainly, an aerospace engineer is an exception and there are other clearly absolute exceptions. I wouldn’t have a dermatologist attempt a knee surgery. But in the spirit of great, functional talent in the business sense, an accountant could be exceptional for the engineering firm, the dermatologist and the orthopedic surgeon. A top performing sales person could sell engines or medical supplies. There is a greater difference between services and products businesses than there is between the healthcare and financial industries. For the high-performing sales professional, the recruiter, the solution architect, accountant, customer service or IT pro, their core skill is of greater value than industry experience. You are the specialist in your industry, teach that rather than attempting to build professional skills.
Talent wins. If you want to get ahead of the competition, win races, grow your business and prepare for the hiring challenges of a competitive workforce, you must change your thinking – to functionally sound thinking – not industrial debris.