Stop Growing Pineapples in Alaska: 3 Steps to Align Hiring with Your Mission

Government agencies and the Federal leaders who lead and work within those agencies have a fundamental underlying responsibility to be good stewards of the public trust and taxpayer dollars.  And for many – if not most – agencies, their largest budget item is to compensate the employees who work within those organizations. Those employees are mission critical assets.  Without them the mission doesn’t get done.  BUT, how many Federal leaders see their job as the Chief Recruiter; ensuring those precious resources are spent on mission critical assets that will sustain and forward the organization? Agencies certainly have Human Capitol Offices, Human Resource professionals, and other types of personnel support who are key partners.  This said, as a Federal leader, the buck stops with you. Shouldn’t it be your single biggest priority to make sure you have the right resources to get the job done? Many times we find that much of the gap between people who seem qualified and people that fit well comes down to the culture and mission of the organization.

The best organizations have a really good sense of what their mission requires?  Not only what your formal mission statement says but also what the unofficial mission is that fundamentally shapes the organizational culture. If someone isn’t a cultural fit they will never thrive.  It’s like trying to grow a pineapple in Alaska. Sounds like a pretty stupid idea, right?  Hiring smart people who aren’t a culture fit is a pretty stupid thing to do as well.

So, what can you do?  Don’t wait until AFTER you’ve hired someone to think about how to set him or her up for success. Here are a few steps you can take to get ahead of the game:

  1. Mission in 10 words or less.  Without using any words from your organization’s formal mission statement, write down what it is your agency really does, in plain language that an eighth grader could understand.
  2. A peek behind the curtain.  Identify and write down the top three most challenging things about working in your agency.  Another way to look at this is to actually specify the top three things people most often complain about.   If you name it, you can claim it.  Be as specific as possible and don’t hold back (but be constructive).
  3. Who can thrive here?  Given what you really do and given the real challenges people can and do face in your agency, what does it take to be successful and thrive?

After you take these steps, work with your HR and other partners, to make sure these elements are incorporated into your recruiting and onboarding strategy. Getting the right people for your mission and culture is the best possible retention strategy.   Acquire the right assets and then leverage those assets to get the right stuff done in the right way.  Don’t waste precious time or resources trying to grow pineapples in Alaska.