you've never met my mother. That's too bad. Think Betty
White with darker hair. My mom is one of the sweetest people
you'll ever meet and her cinnamon rolls, well, they are simply
life-changing. Trust me, she knows her way around a kitchen.
So here's my advice for you: hire more people like my
Now, I'm not talking about hiring a legion of septuagenarian
retirees to staff your stores. It's a little more complicated
than that. If you've been looking to hire lately, you've
probably been overwhelmed with applicants. With unemployment
high, it remains a buyer's market for talent and there are plenty
of talented and experienced workers out there. The choice of
who to hire can be daunting, so who do you choose? Look for
Sure, a good employment record and relevant experience are
meaningful, but the ability and the willingness to learn are
increasingly important in business today. A few years back
many office jobs consisted of shuffling papers and making phone
calls, or if you believe the portrayal in "Mad Men", drinking
Scotch and smoking cigarettes. To work in a restaurant you
just needed to be able to flip a burger and make change. For
better or worse, life's not that simple now. From the
corporate boardroom to the front lines of almost any business,
technology rules the day. And technology changes very, very
While this constant barrage of technological changes can be
frustrating, these tools exist to make our lives easier. The
sooner an employee embraces new technology, the sooner your company
will realize the productivity gains. This open-mindedness
usually isn't an accident---it's a choice. Learning is hard;
complaining is easy (and I say this as one who does my fair share
of complaining). It's far easier to blame the product than
ourselves when expectations fall short. However, the ability
and the willingness to learn new skills and adapt to changing
environments is essential now more than ever as companies look to
streamline production and increase productivity.
Which brings me back to my 75 year old mother... she may be
retired, but she's always learning new tricks, especially when it
comes to embracing technology. She lives in constant wonder
at the new tools at her disposal and sees each day as a chance to
learn something new. Installing software or a new
printer---no problem. Searching for replacement parts for
obscure appliances---she's all over it. She "googles around,"
as she likes to tell me, and thinks she wants to try "the Facebook"
one of these days. While my mother may not have the lingo
down, you have to admire that spirit especially when a great many
of us complain because we have a new version of Microsoft Office or
some other software package which requires (gasp!) actual effort.
We have just lived through a period which the great economist
Joseph Schumpeter would describe as a wave of "creative
destruction." During this time, we have seen a clear divide
between those entities who embraced change and those who refused to
learn until they were forced to (that means you, General Motors...
and you, Greece... are you listening, California?). While
these non-learners were spared an ignominious demise courtesy of
taxpayer funded bailouts, most businesses don't have that luxury.
We have no choice but to adapt and learn, or face
extinction. So whether you're looking to hire a dishwasher or
a CEO, think about my mother and look for the learner. You'll
be happy you did, and who knows, they may just teach you a thing or