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How to employ the right people

If your situation is starting to get better, or if you have lost someone through retirement, etc., this article will offer suggestions to make the process go better.

The R & R of business (that’s recruitment and retention, not rest and relaxation) is a challenge no matter the size of your organization. What we are trying to do is to identify, hire and keep people who can help our companies while helping themselves. To improve the process, companies undertake a number of things, including testing, interviews, reference checks and even background checks. While there is no perfect, foolproof system, here are few things to ponder that may help you make better decisions for the long-term:

What do we mean by the right people?
First of all, there is no master list of “right people” or characteristics that will ensure job success and longevity. All of us possess various knowledge (formal education and experience) and job skills (what we need to be able to do to apply the knowledge). Additionally, we learn, correctly or not so correctly, how to act while performing our jobs (what I like to call behavior). When our knowledge, skills and behaviors are compared to the set of criteria businesses have developed around a particular job, we find if there is a good match or fit. When we find the match is better than with other applicants, we try to hire the candidate.

However, the process of making the determination that a person’s needs and wants match the company’s needs and wants is often flawed and subjective at best. What we do know from numerous studies and many practical experiences is making good hiring decisions and being able to keep those good people helps our organization in many ways, not the least of which is an increase in productivity. Besides, when we have had to replace a long-term, high-performing employee, we know that the costs of hiring and training can be daunting.

One last thought to keep in mind: While knowledge and skills are certainly important to job performance, behavior, specifically inappropriate behavior, is the cause of ¾ of all terminations.

How to get started
It may seem overly simplistic, but the place to start is to make certain that you understand the job and the vacancy. Among some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Why do you have an opening? Is it a new position?
  • If a replacement, why did the previous person leave? If so, where are there needs for improvement?
  • What are the characteristics of the job; i.e., does it demand creativity? Self-motivation? Working in a team environment or with others?
  • Based on the answer to these and other questions, how would the ideal candidates present himself/herself?

Once you have a good idea of the job, write a job description that outlines the functions and duties along with the qualifications needed to be successful in the position. This document will also help you as you write help wanted advertisements for your local newspaper, trade association, trade journal, newsletter or online service.

Develop a timeline of other key steps in the hiring process so you can keep on track and make certain others who are involved know how and when to help out. One thing that often disables good efforts is poor planning.

Using the job description, expand on the statements to develop specific criteria against which to measure candidates. For example, listing specific knowledge and skills can expand “5 years management experience” to more meaningful criteria such as:

  • Ability to set and achieve goals
  • Budgeting for revenue and expenses
  • Knowledge/skills in encouraging participation from employees

Prepare for telephone and in-person interviews by developing a set of questions based on the job description and job specifications. Always keep the questions related to the job to avoid discriminatory or illegal inquiries. Questions are best when they are behaviorally anchored and open-ended to allow the candidates to do most of the talking. Try to think of situations where the applicant gets an opportunity to describe how he or she might act. For example, “Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with a co-worker. How did you handle the situation?”

Don’t forget to do reference checks before offering the job to someone. Everyone lists the references that will give the best comments. Don’t stop there. Ask for names of former co-workers, customers or others who can give a “360 degree” perspective on the person.  

Looking for Mr. or Ms Right
Finding candidates is always a challenge, especially to your pocketbook. Consider all possible sources for applicants. While the Internet in all of its options has become useful for many organizations, it may not be the only medium for your message. Other sources can include local and regional daily and weekly newspapers, trade associations, trade and business publications, newsletters, other employees and networking.

Be aware of the fact that even in today’s fast-paced world of instant communication, many, many positions are still secured from person-to-person contact. Seek out people you know; ask for their help and recommendations. It still works very well!

Consider the benefits of team hiring
As companies begin to see the wisdom of encouraging employee participation, challenges seem to come from the how and what aspects of involvement. One way I have found to help address both challenges is by getting others, in addition to managers and human resources staff, involved in recruitment and selection of new employees – a vital part of any business. Experience indicates that teamwork is the key to good hiring decisions.

Companies that use this approach have had several successes and a few “learning experiences.” There is no perfect situation and we all need to be aware teams can make hiring mistakes, too. However, when managers have involved the team early, shared all pertinent information and encouraged employee owner participation including the final decision, we have been extremely pleased with the results.

Remember that the decision to hire someone is intended to be a long-term decision. While we all know that “employment at will” means someone may choose to depart, usually, we are hoping that good people stick around as long as they are making a contribution. New employees who have been chosen by the team begin to feel a part of the organization immediately, and they realize that they can seek help from any of the team members when problems arise.

Another excellent outcome of the team process is the increased awareness, which comes from everyone understanding the work that needs to be accomplished. This has a positive effect on communication, morale, customer service, productivity of the entire staff and retention. After all, aren't those the reasons we are in business?


Sid Scott is president of Scott Consultants in Dubuque, Iowa. You may contact him by e-mailing editorial@mhwmag.com.
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