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Be a talent scout and build your Dream Team

In any organization a leader’s lasting value is measured by succession. That means the strength of your team is directly proportional to the quality of people you select, develop and groom daily.

Finding and retaining talented people speaks volumes about your competence as an operator and gives you a distinct advantage over your competitors. After all, nothing is more time-consuming and energy-draining than having to constantly recruit, retrain and replace the wrong hires. Every other leadership skill is meaningless if you don’t first put a premium on having the right talent in your management and crew.

Here are some basics tips for mastering the art of the talent scout.

Build your Dream Team on paper first. What kind of talent do you need for your personal “Dream Team” or “A-Team”? Ask yourself the following questions: What would they know? How would they act? What would they teach each other? Why would they make your job easier? How would they treat customers? How would they make more money for your company? What and where are the talent and knowledge gaps on your current team?

Once this list is detailed in writing, you will know what to look for in the hiring process as well as how to coach new and existing employees. You’re looking not for different skills but for better skills. Remember, different is not always better, but better is always different.

Select for cultural fit. Hiring someone who doesn’t fit your company’s culture and then trying to train that person to adapt is like teaching a pig to sing. It never works out, and ends up just annoying the pig.

Look instead for people who already live and breathe your standards and have the requisite leadership skills that your team needs. Once you spot people who exhibit those qualities—whether they are outside or inside the company—hire them.

Experience is important, but cultural fit is critical. Training can always be used to enhance expertise, but training cannot be used to teach values.

Discover why stars stay. Talk to the people who have already “bought” your product—your current team members. Find out why your managers or hourly team members like working for your company. Is it the culture, growth, people, pay? Make a list of those positive attributes and next time you have an opening, look for candidates who have similar affinities.

By the way, if your current team values those elements, be sure that you’re reinforcing and enhancing those things for them every day.

Work your social networks to build talent pools. When’s the best time to plant a tree if you want shade? Five years ago. When’s the best time to plant a tree if you want shade five years from now? Today.

Smart operators know that the best possible future talent for their organization is currently working somewhere else. So they constantly build, maintain, and expand relationships among their social and business networks.

They instinctively scour and search for talent among friends, family, churches, synagogues, schools, customers, vendors, local businesses, retail stores, current team members, chambers of commerce and even competitors. They invest time each week to expand and maintain their social networks.

They also ask distributors and vendors to keep their ears and eyes open for leaders at other operations who may have become dissatisfied with their current jobs and are looking for greener pastures.

Developing a strong social network is important not just for finding top talent, but also for marketing and growing your business.

Remember, your social network is like a muscle. The more you work on it, the bigger and stronger it will become.

Here’s a hot tip: drop in on local job fairs. Note what’s working to attract fresh talent to these companies. Read periodicals like Inc. and Forbes and Fast Company and Wired. Steal their best ideas related to recruiting and retention. Share the insights with your managers and make recruiting and retention a discussion topic at every manager meeting.

Teach managers and hourly crew to actively seek and recruit talent. To fill the talent pipeline with more “A” players at every level requires an enlightened staff that is talent scouting for you every day in every tier.

Which of your high-performers have the biggest social networks? Engage them to help the talent search. High performers always know other high performers.

Prune high-maintenance associates. There are two kinds of people who never succeed: One who cannot do what he is told and one who cannot do anything unless he is told to. Don’t hire or continue to employ such people.

Seek and identify tier talent. Which server, cashier or cook do the other servers, cashiers or cooks turn to when they have questions or problems? Which employees are held in high esteem because of consistent caring behavior toward the guest or fellow employees? Which employees have the greatest success selling appetizers, desserts, beverages? What behavior of theirs can be taught or repeated? Always formally recognize and develop your informal leaders. Recognize performers as well as the performance.

Excel at retention, not just recruiting. Most companies have a hiring strategy. The best have a retention strategy too.

Finding and recruiting talented people is important, but the care and nurturing of talented people you already employ is just as critical. Why spend all that time and effort selecting the right person and then lose them due to supervisory oversight or neglect?

The best operators know that brains, like hearts, go where they are appreciated, so they put a premium on “re-recruiting” their high performers everyday.

Talent scouts don’t just reside in Hollywood. If you’re smart, they’re also managing your restaurants every day.

As a friend of mine says: “There’s only one thing rarer than ability. It’s the ability to recognize ability.”

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