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This blog is about the plug-and-play-strategy to hire instant-ready employees.

The Time-Horizon of Hiring

What is the time horizon of learning? Not all kinds of learning can be compressed. Nevertheless, as one of the comments on his blog tells us, managers want to see people being productive within a year – or even faster. So they focus on learning on the short-term. So the time-horizon of hiring is pretty much linked to the time-horizon of learning.
And I can understand that. We live in a short-term world, with a short-term perspective. And learning has to comply to that short-term thinking. So does hiring.

The eagerness and ability to learn, are the most essential conditions of someone’s success. People who are eager and able to learn will find a job more easily, will be more employable, will be more mobile, will take on different tasks, … Learning defines potential. Learning defines agility. Learning is a key to someone’s employability and versatility.


In a short-term world you are tempted to look for people who can fit in. That’s the priority. Fitting in is easy. It’s like plug-and-play. You hire someone and you plug him into the system. He’s fully operational in no time. There is no need to invest in the development of that person. The learning has been done in the past. There are no worries about the future.  Only when the system requires it, you need to reprogram and re-plug the component. Or you can decide to replace. When you focus on the plug-and-play-employee you are only interested in the active components of that employee, as long as that component remains active. Mind you, that’s not what I believe.

There’s nothing wrong with fitting in. When you hire someone with a high capacity to learn, you probably want to check if that person also fits in. Because if he does not, the learning will lead to frustration. Learning and fitting in are the odd couple of potential. You need both but the fitting in might sabotage the learning and vice versa.
If someone fits in too much and too fast, he adapts. And instead of learning he copies. If someone is able to learn but does not fit in, he might not learn the right things for the short-term. He might be driven by personal interest, personal long-term development and neglect what he needs to learn to stay in orbit. It’s easier to manage someone who adapts than someone who is driven to learn. Plug-and-Play is low on maintenance. So a hiring manager might prioritize the adaptive ability over the learning ability.

Is adaptation not a kind of learning? Yes, of course it is. But it’s a learning without curiosity. It’s confirming things as they are. It is not innovative. There is hardly any future perspective in adaptation. Blending in might be great for stability. But that’s something that is no longer there.

Learners and Fitters

Leaders who want to move their business further on the long run need people to go against the stream. Learning is a source of competitive advantage. Learners look in places others do not dream to go. They question the status-quo. They look for answers to questions not yet asked. They have no interest whatsoever to adapt. They don’t want to fit in. They’re the ones who cause friction, distortion. They are difficult to handle. They could be seen as misfits. But actually they are your source of evolution.

Fitters focus on the status-quo, good execution, balance. They make your operation running. They do not question to question. They may want to excel in the here and now.

And as you can see, every company needs both to succeed. The world is (almost) never dichotomous. An individual can benefit from having a bit of both. In learning we find sustainable employability. In fitting in we find employment. But to fit in, people need to learn. Employment requires sustainable employability and vice-versa.
Fitting in and learning are like ingredients for a recipe both on personal and organisational level. What do you look for when you hire someone? Do you have the right mix in your team?

Where do you find yourself on a scale of 10 on both fitting in and learning. Can you combine plug-and-play with reinventing yourself?

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

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