What employers can do about the trend toward specialization
This is not really going to be a post about what employers "can do about" specialization as they are probably most benefited from this trend. At the same time, it's fair to say that as human resources practices change, employers are going to need to make some adjustments in the way they hire in order to attract and maintain a strong workforce.
Seek a specialist
Seeking someone with specialized knowledge in a particular area brings a more driven and focused perspective to a new position. While team players and general competence is key, hiring those with a particular knowledge of an area can help build a stronger position from which you can make larger strides in a certain sector.
For example, hiring a PR who can do both general PR and healthcare PR will allow you to focus on the healthcare vertical of your agency.
Hire someone who everyone is happy with
In a BusinessWeek article, Steve Jobs says he's had candidates be approved by nine co-workers only to be rebuffed by the 10th.
This may seem overly democratic, but Jobs says that it pays off to only hire someone who will work well with the entire team, not just a select few. Eliminating that friction, especially among smaller working groups, can be key to a productive and creative atmosphere where things are moving forward, not back.
Invest time and energy into the search
Here too, Jobs offers the insight of a genius leader, saying,
"Assume you're by yourself in a startup and you want a partner. You'd take a lot of time finding the partner, right? He would be half of your company. Why should you take any less time finding a third of your company or a fourth of your company or a fifth of your company? When you're in a startup, the first ten people will determine whether the company succeeds or not. Each is 10 percent of the company. So why wouldn't you take as much time as necessary to find all the A players? If three were not so great, why would you want a company where 30 percent of your people are not so great? A small company depends on great people much more than a big company does."
As many PR agencies are small companies, or have divisions that operate as agile units, this is key. Taking the time to find candidates shouldn't be an afterthought or a "when I get around to it" item on your list of things to do.
Relying on automatic systems isn't necessary going to provide these results. Instead, Internet tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs and online news sites can be excellent tools in pointing the way to professionals both experienced in the industry and offering a creative viewpoint that provide the kind of human capital needed to propel companies into the future during any economic environment.
So, in the end, we're left with a few simple principles:
1. Know what you want.
2. Look for what you want and avoid compromising the ideals of small teams.
3. Making finding a new member of team an investment, not an afterthought.