Moses Lee

Talent Challenges for Social Ventures: Skill vs. Will

peopleTalent management is arguably the greatest challenge today for social ventures trying to scale-up in their overall impact.? I recently spoke with Deepti Doshi, Talent Manager at Acumen Fund on the subject and she commented, “We have realized that recruiting and retaining quality local talent is one of the greatest hindrances to growth and scale for enterprises serving the poor.”

In the next few posts, I’m going to write about talent challenges at the BoP in the effort to spur discussion and brainstorm solutions.? In this post, I’d like to open up a discussion on recruiting.? The following scenario sets up one of the main issues:

There’s an open position within your social venture and it has been very hard to fill.? One of the primary reasons for this is that there is such as small pool of qualified local people – people with the right skill and will – from which to pull from.? The country’s educational system is not strong and the most qualified people end up migrating to greener pastures.? You eventually stumble across two potential hires: one has the right skill for the position, but doesn’t have the will – the value and drive to build a social venture.? The other person has the will, but not the skill.? The position is considered key within the organization.? What do you do??????

This is the dilemma that many entrepreneurs and business leaders of social ventures face.? Ideally, it would be great to fill all positions within a social venture with those who have both the skill and the will.? But this is no easy task, particularly at the base of the pyramid.

I’ve heard the argument by some that those who work in more operational or front-line positions do not necessarily need the will component.? The reason for this is that some positions just need to be filled by people who can get the job done.? Others, however, argue that hiring someone without the shared values is dangerous – at any level.? If someone doesn’t share the values of the social venture, he/she will, in a sense, “pollute” the venture.I recently read a case study on Jide Taiwo & Co., a real estate business operating in Nigeria.? The following caught my attention:

Inadequately qualified employees detracted from the business as they were unable to meet clients’ needs in a professional manner.? Although this had always been a major challenge for the firm, it was not half as bad as their poor social values.

The founder of the company commented on this situation, saying, “For dwindling quality of education, this can be addressed through training.? But for change in attitudes, there are greater challenges in remolding social values already entrenched in their psyche.” ?

What do you think? What matters most when hiring people into a social venture: that the worker have the right skills to perform the job or the shared social values?? Can you hire a person who has the will and train him/her in the skill? Can you hire a person who has the skill only, but try to train the person to develop the will? Or should you only hire people who have both? – at the risk of never finding anyone?