What’s all the fuss about new hires?

My one-time partner in crime, Matthew Moore, has lent his voice to the issue of staff inductions as well as divestitures in the workplace. I agree with Matt’s comments about the risks involved with poor induction as well as the idea that inductions should be an on-going process and not a “one-hit wonder”, to be held once, box ticked and move on.

From a CI perspective I take a different view on inductions. Inductions mean there is an influx of new information into your company, as well as new users for your CI materials and services. Often new members of staff come from competitors or from different industries, all offering valuable insights into how your company may be viewed outside your own bubble.

Now I know that mining of information from new hires is a very grey area. Most multinationals are ill at ease opening up new hires to be directly mined for competitive information. Indeed, in many industries, this is against prior non-disclosure agreements and is unethical.

The web is cluttered with poor examples of how to engage new hires within the CI process. A quick Google of “Competitive Intelligence New Hires” lists several articles that talk about eliciting best practices and competitive information directly from new hires, almost the moment they walk in the door.

From my experience, however, it’s best to steer well clear of directly asking for information and stay well above any HR policies regarding new hires. (Talking to your HR manager will garner you lots of information around what is ok and what is not).

For these reasons, getting involved at the induction process, if handled in an open and ethical way, can help grow your internal network and your understanding of your company, rather than mine for competitive information.

For example:

  • New hires from organisations that were/are customers are a rich source of information on customer buying behaviour and common objections.
  • New hires that come from competitor companies may have common enemies and may have learnt successful tactics for going after them.
  • New hires have relevant information regarding how your company is view in the outside world, untainted by corporate speak.

In short, save the induction process to talk about the work which your team does, how it can help them sell more effectively or make better informed decisions.

An informal database of skill sets (for key staff), tagged by past companies worked for and any sales focus experience (Country, Industry, Customer size, etc) is a much better proposition for longer term information gathering. Being able to quickly call or email someone up to ask:

“Hey Joe, you used to sell into the Telco space, if we pitch this solution, what do you think a) the customer’s objections may be and b) what do you think other companies bidding on this will focus on?”

Simple and above board. This also does away with the perception of pumping for information or hiring people directly for their competitive knowledge.