Ready to Roll: Expanding your team.

It’s 2014. If you have the chance to expand your team, what skill sets should you add? I address this question in Ready to Roll, a feature I wrote for CASE CURRENTS. In case you missed them, part one and part two also appeared on this blog.

Expanding the team
What one or two positions should you add, if possible, to your communications and marketing team? If it were up to me, I would find a professional writer and a person who knows how to identify metrics and measure results.

Writing is vital to almost every communications and marketing activity. Content that engages, inspires, and romances your audiences is at the core of every communications channel and platform. Whether they’re written for a 140-character tweet, a 90-second video script, or a 1,500-word article, words are the tools you use to describe your institution and its brand, communicate its value, and speak authentically to its audiences.

At the same time, measurement is important to demonstrating the value of your work and the success of the institution’s brand. We need to get deadly serious about focusing only on the work that aligns with our communications and marketing goals and achieves the necessary results.

Your team’s goals come from an overarching strategy; your metrics are defined by what your team needs to accomplish. Determining upfront the measures of success for each project or initiative your team undertakes is essential. For a video, that measurement might be the number of views or the amount of time viewers spend watching the video. For an email marketing campaign, indicators such as open rates and click-thrus will help determine your message’s reach and identify where to make adjustments.

The challenge for most communications and marketing leaders is not being overwhelmed by the seemingly endless number of possibilities, ideas, issues, and projects they need to address or want to pursue. Keeping up is always difficult—and it always will be in a rapidly evolving culture of communication. Leaders must stay focused on the options and opportunities they have to further develop and execute their strategy, while making sure their teams are consistently telling the institution’s brand story to key audiences. The people who have the potential to adjust and enhance their skill sets today and be ready for what’s on the horizon five years from now are the ones most likely to succeed in bringing value to your team.

Let’s use 2014 to concentrate on goals, messages, and audiences rather than platforms and tools. By year’s end, I hope to see many more centralized, multidisciplinary communications and marketing teams successfully engaging and leaving long-lasting impressions on their target audiences.

Hiring for potential
When I offer someone a job, it’s mostly because I think that person has potential. If you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who has the experience and the skills that match the job and the potential for whatever comes next. But when I have to choose between skills and potential, I’ll choose potential every time.

Throughout my career, which includes working in human resources, professional development, and organizational management, I have regularly hired people who did not have the prescribed educational experience or specific skills referenced in a job description. Why? Because what you really need is a team of smart, curious, talented, energized, passionate, and committed individuals. You can teach people the software programs your team uses. They will gradually come to understand the higher education environment. You can give people time to learn some of the specific tasks within a job. But they have to bring their potential.

How do I know when someone has potential? I look for people who:

  • Show interest in a variety of topics and ask a lot of questions in a conversational way.
  • Give an honest assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Freely admit when they’ve never done a particular type of work but tell me why they can learn it or figure it out.
  • Speak confidently about their contributions in previous jobs without seeming embarrassed.
  • Like to work alone, like to work collaboratively, and like to learn from other people on the team.
  • Want to fill their workday with a mix of duties, responsibilities, and projects.
  • Can think critically, assess situations, and present solutions to complex problems.
  • Are able to build on the ideas of others.
  • Have held a wide variety of jobs. This may include work experience gained during high school or college. A diverse employment background demonstrates knowledge of different kinds of people and professional environments.

If you’re not convinced, think of it another way. People with potential become the employees you can send anywhere. They’re the ones who can attend any meeting and always contribute productively to the discussion. Taking it a step further, these exceptional employees can go unprepared to a meeting of strangers but still discuss an unfamiliar topic or issue, ask appropriate questions, and make worthwhile suggestions. These individuals have the skills to adjust to new tools, changing platforms, and a communications and marketing environment we can’t imagine today. We need them on our teams.

Read more from Ready to Roll:

Copyright 2014 Council for Advancement and Support of Education. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

2 thoughts on “Ready to Roll: Expanding your team.”

  1. This is a refreshing perspective. Potential is the fuel for success! When I think of building or expanding a team, potential of the new members can contribute to the work experience and task knowledge of the existing members. Balance in energy and experience can create an environment where those with untapped potential are learning from and pushing forward those who have the knowledge and ability to perform the team’s tasks.

    As I have observed in recruiting and admissions teams, those with potential are often highly interested in fulfilling that potential. The other side of hiring for potential, I think, is developing it. Training and purposeful employee development can ensure that the potential is fulfilled, and fulfilled in a way that best suits the need of your particular organization and needs. I have found that this investment creates an innovative, committed force on a team that can influence significant growth.

    New growth and innovation can only come from unfulfilled potential; hiring otherwise guarantees nothing greater than more of the same, if you’re lucky.

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