Written by Robin Rayburn

If you have had anything to do with the hiring process in the past few years, no doubt you’ve heard the adage: hire for attitude, train for skills.  It’s become a mantra for many recruiters and hiring managers as they look ahead to the looming talent shortage.

“When new hires failed, 89% of the time it was for attitudinal reasons and only 11% of the time for a lack of skill,” stated Mark Murphy, author of Hiring for Attitude, in a recent Forbes article.

Hiring for attitude becomes a given when you’re looking to build an organization centered on workplace culture and teamwork.

But, perhaps we’re looking at the equation through rose colored glasses when the argument is not so black and white.  After all, the notion of hiring for attitude and training for skills implies that you have an organization that can devote time to skills training.  For many companies, that’s not the reality.

The reality is many organizations require talent that can hit the ground running.  Even when they are able to train new hires into their roles, the amount of time and energy devoted to these efforts is minimal or misplaced and it’s up to the new employee to compensate, often creating environments of increased stress and job dissatisfaction.

Bill Fischer, co-author of The Idea Hunter, makes an additional argument in his Forbes counter article to express why for companies who want to be innovative, hiring for skills over attitude is a necessity.

Fischer states, “Attitudes will only get you so far, and when real change is needed — innovation, for example — then attitudes are not likely to be enough to get you to where you want to go. In such situations, you need skills, and lots of them.”

If a company’s survival is based on its ability to be innovative and stay ahead of the competition, this would argue that hiring for skills should be the way we look at talent acquisition, and it is instead the leadership style in managing that requires new training.