Writing “Competing on Talent”

WHO KNOWS what form the forward momentum of life will take in the time ahead or what use it will make of our anguished searching. The most that any of us can seem to do is to fashion something – an object or ourselves – and drop it into the confusion, make an offering of it, so to speak, to the life force. ERNEST BECKER, The Denial of Death

About two years ago, I set out to write the story of that elusive quest to uncover how to hire and how to hire well and imagine a better future for organizations in their hiring ways. Today, the first copies of the book arrived – neatly boxed and orderly. I laughed to myself because the process to get to this perfectly packed box was far from orderly. Assembling, dissembling and reassembling the manuscript, it was a lot like carpentry, hammering and sawing and sanding. In fact, that was half the fun, and it’s why I wanted to write about it in the midst of experiencing it.

AAMAAwDGAAoAAQAAAAAAABD2AAAAJDgxMDYwZmNmLTE1NTktNDY5Mi05ZWRkLTJhMDI1NTE4YzA3ZQThe challenging work of bringing something meaningful into the world through one’s own efforts is exactly what generates authenticity, meaning, and fulfillment, for which many of us yearn. The most compelling argument to write this book was to reach out to my colleagues. We in recruiting (and I consider myself part of the fraternity) really do have a higher calling. We are a force for good in business and economy, and when we do our jobs well we really make the world a better place. We give people better jobs, better careers, and better organizations to join. The stakes for understanding this could not be higher today because we are just not battling for what it means to be recruiters. We are battling for what it means to be a Force for Good.

As the cheerleaders, stewards, and ombudsmen for people and work around the world, we are expected to attract, engage, and hire the best talent for our organizations business needs, understand the subtle nuances of reaching out to a talent that whispers, and finds inspirations that are hidden in plain sight. And that means we have to be extremely diligent, innovative, and bold in our hiring practices. This also means how embracing our fallibility not only lessens our likelihood of erring, but also helps us think more creatively, assess talent more thoughtfully, and construct freer and fairer hiring regimes. As Kathryn Schulz, in her brilliant philosophical meditation Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error writes that “Far from being a moral flaw, fallibility is inextricable from some of the most humane and honorable qualities: empathy, optimism, imagination, conviction, and courage…” These are qualities that help us as a society move forward in creating a new opportunity for all.

“Competing on Talent” is not a how-to manual or a primer. It is a set of reflections, ideas, and principles on why hiring decisions are foundational to almost all great organization performance, why does hiring go wrong so often, and why the art & science must come together to keep hiring on the high road. After all hiring well is a strategy and it may, in fact, be an organization’s most important one. The book explores the journey of an organization as it sets out to articulate its talent agenda in response to the opportunities and challenges offered by a fast-changing business environment. It is also a set of questions for anybody willing to crack open the lock-box of talent – for themselves as leaders, for their organizations and society at large.

In a sentiment reminiscent of James Baldwin’s observation that “when you are writing, you are trying to find out something which you don’t know. The whole language of writing is to find out what you don’t want to know…but something forces you to anyway,” my own creative process was mediated by the slow, focused work of translating elusive perceptions about the why of hiring into language, one tentative word at a time – a pathway which took surprising turns. Every aspect provoked new questions until finally, I found myself mapping out terrain hitherto invisible to me. In short, it’s been an incredible learning opportunity to work on this book. My hope is this text will elevate awareness and discourse on the subject and will be useful to organizations in keeping the dialogue, between the art and science of hiring, coherent and maximally meaningful.

“Competing on Talent” is now available for sale internationally and can be purchased by clicking here.

Pradeep Sahay, LinkedIn Pulse 30.01.2018

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