Sometimes you need to hire a specialist already trained in a single narrow task. But for most of us, we’d do far better hiring someone who has proven from past experience to be a “jack of all trades” able to fill many positions, do many tasks, learn and perform in many situations.
You’d be going against the grain of advice by many who state that trained, experienced new hires will benefit the organization, raise the level of enterprise expertise, and fit in and contribute immediately.
On the other hand, many breakthroughs in business and science have come from the intellectually curious, the critical thinker who can ask questions that may be unexpected but lead to new solutions. And many business leaders have expressed their opinions that their best hires have been the ones that are most-able to expand the enterprise’s ways of thinking and performing—using creativity rather than rote memory and specific academic education as the driver of innovation.
This leads to a discussion of new hire cost and of sources for new employees. In the academic world, three new hires on the tenure track can be made for each two retiring with tenure. That same ratio is close to reality in business. In each case, the enterprise is able to reassess its needs in relation to its strategic goals, as the natural order is refreshed over time as people leave a business for any reason.
As to sources of new, young employees: there are two very different types of educations. Research universities often send their students through a rigorous program of education tilted toward specific specialties, with domain knowledge emphasized over critical thinking and creativity. Liberal arts colleges, on the other hand, usually allow specializing in broad career tracks while emphasizing the elements of critical thinking, creativity and leadership skills.
For your needs, which young graduate would you select? The title of this insight tips my hand, as I lean toward hiring those with those extra traits, and training them in the specific skills of their discipline. The benefit: a boost in corporate creativity and new blood at the bottom perhaps capable of future executive leadership.