How Hiring Collaborative Talent Breeds a Creative, Scaleable Organization

January 5, 2017 at 9:00 AM by William Clarke

collaboration.pngThis is the fifth in a series of ten posts on hiring candidates for characteristics linked to high performance. Each post focuses on a key candidate trait, why it matters and how recruiters can develop processes to correctly and fairly evaluate for it.

So far, we’ve covered the science of first impressions, the important difference between hiring for personality versus character, how to hire candidates committed for the long haul, and how to find and hire motivated candidates. This post will look at how hiring teams can find and bring on talent committed to collaboration to fuel a more collaborative organization.

McKinsey released a report called Mapping The Value of Collaboration. The report identified three key trends driving the need for better collaboration: improving communications technologies, the rise of globalization, and the increasing specialization of knowledge work.

Since then, those trends have accelerated, making tools like Salesforce, Slack, and Google Docs essential solutions for millions of businesses. But true collaboration goes beyond the technologies we use to facilitate it. It is the result of shared expertise, analyses, and experience that directly impacts performance. Ultimately, that’s where the value of collaboration comes from.

By creating more effective work processes, organizations reduce inefficiencies, increase the adoption of best practices, ensure knowledge sharing, and improve the customer and client experience. Every organization stands to benefit from such improvements, but it takes time, effort, and buy-in. And that begins with recruiting and hiring.

The value of collaboration

When done well, the benefits of collaboration are widespread. Collaboration stokes creativity  and drives strategic problem solving. But it takes far more than just telling people to work together and holding a few meetings. True collaboration is the result of aligning strategic goals across teams and generating the commitment necessary from those teams and individuals to create collaborative processes.

By breaking down invisible barriers between teams and employees and creating an environment where collaborative problem solving is the norm, organizations can replicate high value activities and practices, reduce lower value activities, and respond to strategic challenges with aplomb. You can and must train for these things, but it also helps to bring in talent predisposed toward these behaviors as well.

Establishing collaboration in practice

A 2015 Nielsen study showed that diverse teams of people from different departments create products that resonate more with customers, but most companies struggle to create teams of more than two people. The truth is that at many organizations establishing actual collaboration requires a wholesale change in the day to day functions of the business.

The Nielsen study identified four main barriers to collaboration:

  • Not enough feedback
  • Difficulties managing multiple ideas
  • Risk of conflict amongst stakeholders
  • A fear of losing control of the projects

They offer two main solutions: establishing clear expectations via management for collaborative, cross-functional processes and adopting collaborative software that promotes increased collaboration. The software is relatively straightforward, but establishing clear collaborative expectations starts at the candidate stage.

Create a collaborative brand

A collaborative employer brand can help overcome the natural resistance to collaboration that the Nielsen report describes. By signaling the importance of collaborative values, an organization can attract collaboratively-minded candidates who are willing to share credit, cede control, and deliver or receive feedback.

To establish a collaborative employer brand, emphasize the value of teamwork across recruiting collateral, from your careers page to your recruitment marketing. Then be sure to build out the scope of each role with collaboration in mind. Work with hiring managers to articulate how the role will be tasked with working across teams by maintaining open lines of communication, contributing expertise to diverse projects and maintaining a flexible, agile approach to their responsibilities and expectations. Then figure out what kind of experience and signals best correlate with those activities and aptitudes. 

By articulating a collaborative approach to work in job reqs and during outreach you will not only attract collaborative candidates, but you will also help your recruiters and sourcers better identity more team-minded candidates that are a good fit for your roles.

Finding collaborative candidates

One key result of better collaboration is a focus on outcomes. True collaboration bypasses the fiefdoms, power struggles, and egos that can be so detrimental to organizations. Focusing on a results during the screening and interview process can shed light on candidate motivations, approaches to teamwork, and their capacity for contributing under diverse circumstances.

It may go without saying, but asking about their experience working within teams is an absolute must. Effective collaboration relies upon self-starters capable of working alone when necessary who are nonetheless comfortable changing tack and working with teammates as well. Candidates focused on outcomes rather than internal politics or other distractions will be driven to collaborate regardless of who their teammates are or who is heading up the project, making them the ideal teammates for a collaborative environment.  

Ideally, every hire is a LeBron James-type person equally comfortable taking the lead as they are taking a backseat to their teammates. But the truth is that LeBron is a once in a lifetime player and searching for the perfect teammate will lead to false negatives.

Instead, look for the Shane Battiers of the world. The players who will take a charge, hit an occasional three pointer, and work hard behind the scenes to keep their teammates happy and motivated. That means finding determined, selfless, open-minded people, who are focused on achieving goals for the good of the team, not just for their own benefit.

Ask them about when they took one for the team. Why they did it, and what they learned from the experience. Ask them if they ever let someone else get credit for their work or helped out a teammate just because they needed the support and not because it actually benefited them in any tangible way. These types of activities show who is committed to collaboration because they know it’s for the greater good and who is committed to collaboration only insofar as it benefits them. The difference may seem subtle, but it’s separating the true team players from the pretenders.


Silos are the enemy of true collaboration. The ability to collaborate seamlessly across time zones and thousands of miles has changed the very nature of work, and experienced talent that can effectively manage and nurture relationships is at a premium. By hiring for people ready and willing to work as part of flexible teams and equipping them with tools they need to succeed, you can create a high-achieving organization that will not only reach its goals but do in a way that excites, motivates, and rewards its talent.

Other posts in the series (so far), Evaluating the Traits of High-Performing Employees:

1. What The Science of First Impressions Can Tell Us About Recruiting

2. The Dangers of Hiring Candidates Based on Personality 

3. Attracting, Hiring, and Retaining Talent For The Long Term 

4. How to Identify and Assess Motivation in High-Performing Candidates 

Related Articles:
How Collaboration, Integrity and Grit Power Entelo's Sales Team
Why You Need to Make Recruiting and Hiring a Team Sport  
What Happens When You Standardize Your Interview Process 

  New Call-to-action