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Do you Build or Buy the ideal employee?

October 28th, 2009 1 comment

I come from a software development background and this is an age old discussion.  When should we buy technology or product and when should we build it ourselves.  As engineers, we tend to believe that we can build it better than anyone else.  As a result of this mindset,we tend lean towards building it ourselves and then rationalizing the decision.  Therefore I use a number of evaluation criteria to help overcome this bias and to ensure that we make decisions that are beneficial to the company.  Some of the evaluation criteria that we use are: time to build, predictable costs of buying, risk of building, specific / customized requirements, discovery of unknown issue(s) during building, scope creep, and of course time to market.

Now, let’s go back to management and look at a similar decision that we have to make on how to staff our teams.  Do we bring in talent from outside (buy) or do we grow (build) someone that we know into the position?

some of the benefits of growing a known person into the position

  • known entity – we know how they will fit in with the team and have existing relationships inside the company that they can leverage
  • risk – Because they are a known entity, they are a known risk
  • employee motivation – when the company is prepared to invest in people, it definitely helps boost the team morale which helps motivate people to grow
  • integrated into culture – the person is already integrated into company culture and therefore there will be able to operate within the culture
  • team player – because they are known, you know if they are a team player or not

some of the cons of growing a known person the position

  • growth time – it takes time for a person to grow and acquire the skills needed
  • training – not only is there the financial investment with training but there is also the question that the training investment will be able to be converted into results
  • errors – mistakes are part of the learning experience
  • risk – it is possible that the person will not be able to perform at the higher level
  • company focused growth – as the person grows into the position, their growth can easily be customized or focused to meet the company / team needs
  • personal investment – for the employee to grow, they will need to invest in themselves and often they underestimate the investment needed or are not willing to make the sacrifices needed to learn and grow

some of the benefits of bringing in new talent

  • fresh perspective – new people bring their perspectives and experiences that can greatly contribute to the team diversity
  • exact skills needed – because require skills are available immediately, the results are delivered with a shorter wait
  • acclimatization only – because the new outside talent already has the skills needed, all that remains is for them to acclimatize

some of the cons of bringing in new talent

  • unknown entity – we will still need to discover what the person’s weak point are
  • integration into the team / company – how will the person mesh with the company culture / team climate
  • resume inflation – does the person really have the skills that they claimed to have?

So, after looking at these Pro & Cons, is it better to build or buy your ideal employee?

Although, I have a preference to build.  It really depends on the business need.  Do we have the time  to invest in our people and still achieve the business results?

In the end, the decision really boils down to the person.  Here are some of the additional items that I take into consideration.

  • drive / self motivation – Is the person a self starter?  Do they turn into a victim when the going gets tough or do they persevere through challenges?  This is so much easier to evaluate with a known entity.
  • team work – are they a team player?  Again definitely easier with a known entity.
  • work ethic – I am one of those that does not believe that it can be learned?
  • feedback – How do they respond to feedback?
  • mental horsepower – simply put, gotta have the mental capability and be able to use it to solve the business challenges on hand
Categories: Management, People Tags:

October 26th, 2009 No comments

you can’t just sit there and wait

for people to give you that golden dream;

you’ve get out there and make it happen for yourself

– Diana Ross –

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