From Hire to Retire
Finding and engaging a committed workforce
In business there are some things money just can’t buy. Real estate can be acquired, capital can be loaned, and you use your revenue to pay the bills and keep the business going. Maintaining a dedicated employee, however, takes more than just a paycheck. You may have heard of setting SMART goals (Specific Measureable Attainable Relevant Time-bound). You may have also heard of what’s being dubbed “the new SMART”, which are CLEAR goals. Here’s what they are, as Inc.com explains them.
- Collaborative (Goals should encourage employees to work together collaboratively and in teams)
- Limited (Goals should be limited in both scope and duration)
- Emotional (Goals should make an emotional connection to employees, tapping into their energy and passion)
- Appreciable (Large goals should be broken down into smaller goals so they can be accomplished more quickly and easily for long-term gain)
- Refinable (Set goals with a headstrong and steadfast objective, but as new situations or information arise, give yourself permission to refine and modify your goals)
This article isn’t about setting “CLEAR” goals, but if you’re like me, that “Emotional” part probably grabbed your attention. This single bullet-point sums up this article pretty well. According to the survey mentioned in his article about why people stay at a job, Billy Arcement made the determination that the number one reason workers showed up every day was because they took “pride in their work”. I’ll say it again, that’s the number one reason employees showed up to work every day. As a manager, you must find a way to engage this pride & passion, and you will unlock your employee’s true potential. Here’s the first step:
Select in haste, repent at leisure. If you rush into hiring, you’ll be rushing to hire again soon. Instead, hire slowly. Take the time required to get the results you’re looking for. If you’ve already had issue with an employee turnover that’s higher than you would have liked, take the time to measure the cost of poor selection. Right off the bat, though, I can tell you that one of these costs is going to be under-performance as new employees suck up your time with training, orientation, and getting settled in. In other words, high turnover causes loss in time, money, & productivity. So how do you hire right?
Determine: What do I need?
Think through the job. Make a mental map of the daily life of your future employee. Picture the end result. Instead of assigning activities, you should be delegating accomplishments. Think to yourself “what must this job produce”. Now determine how you will measure progress, think of the employee’s job as creating a product. What does this product look like?
Now determine the exact skills needed to do the job. When interviewing, seek these skills as specifically as possible. The best thing to do is glean the interviewee’s skills from things they have already done. Instead of asking whether they have organizational skills, ask for examples. You’ll also want to document the personality traits you’re looking for. What will be conducive to the already existing environment at your place of business? Here’s a few ideas: positive, honest, energetic, caring, friendly, etc
The Job Description
Putting in the extra mile here will save you hours of heartache later in life. Envision the perfect person, not the acceptable person. Write it down! In your draft, make a list of everything your perfect person would be, have and be able to do. What are their skills, personality, education, and experience? Then comes the list of activities and tasks. I’ve seen job descriptions two-pages long, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Now, Start Looking
Many people are always looking for a new job. No job is perfect, and there’s always the possibility that something better might come along. Resumés stay up on online databases for years, not because they haven’t found a job, but because people are always looking. So, as a business, you should follow suit, and keep the ABC rule (Always Be Considering).
This only applies to some companies, but the first thing to do, if possible, is look within your own company. Transferring, reassigning, and promoting is ideal. Putting out the help-wanted ads is the easy part, but here are some tips to remember when doing so.
- Always Be Considering. Never take down that help wanted sign!
- Look within. Promoting within your own company encourages people to stay longer, and put in the extra effort in order to earn a promotion.
- Hiring bonus? A WorldatWork survey concluded that 54% of employers are offering sign on bonuses for middle and upper management positions. This may be all it takes to tip the balance in your favor when you have prospective employees considering more than one position at a time.
- Tell everyone. If you really want to find that employee, don’t just put up the ad. Mention it to everyone you deal with in your business, even if it’s just in-passing.
- Cast the net widely. The fact that you’re looking for the employee means you don’t know where they are, so look everywhere.
- Professional recruiting services. Some of these agencies are tried-and-true, and have been around for a long time. It’s a good industry, so you’re free to do some shopping around to find the perfect service, should you decide to use one.
- Go online. Craig’s List, Idealist, Indeed, look for the most used websites to tap into the biggest pool of job-hunters. Don’t forget to mention it on your own website, too!
- Colleges & Universities. All community colleges have a job-board, if not dozens. Go in person, and bring your own thumb-tacks, as well as several copies of the ad. Even though they’re less popular now, consider using a QR code. You make one in a few minutes, it’s free, plus it makes it more convenient.
- Pre-screen- remember the 80-20 rule: 80% of your results come from 20% of the causes. (other facts: 85% of respondents are not capable, and 85% of companies report that they were unable to find qualified personnel to hire, according to this article from business.com) It’s going to take patience & determination! Stick to your guns, don’t settle.
Write out your checklist of questions:
- Work Experience
- Skill Level (includes education, etc.)
- Where are they going? (their career path)
- Habits, attitudes
- What do they know about your organization?
- Personality tests? Consider doing an online search for personality tests for job applicants. They’re less popular now, but in a larger company they’re still useful.
Put the interviewee at ease, if you relax, they will too. Remember that a job interview is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences known to man, so try and have some sympathy.
Watch their body language, listen beyond the words. Pay attention to things like smiles, where their eyes go, whether they look confident, and the general impression you get from their body language.
Don’t sell unless you’re buying! If you’re not liking where the interview is going, don’t waste your time telling them about yourself & your company. Give them a chance to change your mind during the interview. If they don’t, move on.
The Key Points of the Interview
Remember John SWAN, who might be your perfect employee. He is SWAN- Smart, Work Hard, Ambitious, Nice. Keep the picture of the perfect employee in mind.
- Ask your questions (Have a list! Be consistent! Ask each interviewee the same questions). Here are some examples of questions:
- What were your primary responsibilities
- Whom did you report to and how was your relationship with that person
- Why did you take that job and how do you feel it worked out for you
- What did you enjoy most, do best
- What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career
- How would you feel about working evenings or weekends if we have a project or important job to complete?
- PROBE THE PAST!
- Listen first
- Listen hard
- Ask for clarity
- W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?) As the wise man says, “ I cannot learn when I am talking”
- Only predictor for future success is past performance. Ask for real examples.
- Do they see the past as a valuable learning experience. See if you can determine this on your own, rather than ask them straight out.
The next important thing to do is make sure they need the job. There should be a sense of urgency. Find out why they want the job. Also, after the interview make notes of things you want to watch out for that you noticed.
Background Checks: More Than a Good Idea
Pursue the references ardently. They might not answer on the first ring, and some days they might not have time to answer your questions. Make appointments with them so you can ensure you get the time you need. Promise confidentiality. Tell them nothing they tell you is getting repeated. This opens them up a bit. Remember to ask if they would ever hire the person again. After you’ve exhausted the questions, ask them, “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?”
Check on degrees, certifications, and do a criminal background check. Anyone can write a degree on their resumé, but whether or not they actually have one is verifiable.
The Rules of Three
The best things come in three’s and hiring is no different. Give yourself a fighting chance, increase your odds with the lucky number.
- 3 Interviews. This is common practice. 3 interviews is a small time commitment compared to the length of time you’re hoping to keep the employee.
- 3 Locations. If possible, hold the interview in different areas each time. Let them react to different environments, and give them a sense of progress as they “graduate” from one interview area to the next.
- 3 Candidates. Please, please, please don’t just pick the first one and go home! Expand your options and give yourself a feel for what’s really out there, what kind of variety exists.
- 3 References. One or two references could give you skewed, or fluke, information. Three is best.
- 3 Managers or other Co-Workers. Don’t be the only one involved in the interview process. Let two other people meet them and have their own short interview. Have them write down their impressions as they go, and make sure they’re going in with their own list of questions.
Try the “family approach”. Take them out to Olive Garden! No! I’m just kidding! Sort of. Having a dinner engagement let’s you meet them on a more personal level and often reveals things they wouldn’t in a more professional setting. If you do hire them, it creates a memory they can always associate with the hospitality of your business.
When you make your decision, do this: Decide, then wait. Sleep on it before you tell them. Remember, you cannot rush this. If you have any doubts about making your decision, question the doubts. Challenge them. Write down both sides of the argument going on in your mind. What’s causing the doubt, and can it be quelled?
- Do your homework: i.e. Get data on comparable positions
- Ask what they are looking for
- Consider the whole package. Think of them as a “collection” of everything they are.
- Remember: What this person is worth to your organization should be the guidance
There are two numbers the candidate is looking for. What they ask for and what they’ll negotiate down to. Unless they seriously lack basic haggling technique, the first number they say will not be the end-all-be-all requirement.
Consider the 90-day method. Have them agree to slightly less than they want for the first 90 days, with a raise possible after review of the 90 day period.
Start Them Right!
- A great first day and first week: A valuable investment! Take the time to make it great.
- Invest your time and/or use the buddy system. Either put the effort in yourself to make them feel welcome and prepared, or assign a “buddy” co-worker to do it for you.
- Overviews. Give them a good idea of how the whole puzzle fits together! This makes them realize how important their job is. If they feel like the work is needed, they will do it.
- Work area. Put some effort into making them a nice little nest with lots of pillows and blankets. Sorry, just making sure you were paying attention! They should have a clean efficient, well-lit area. Avoid clamming them into a confined space, as this affects attitude and productivity. Ensure an efficient layout by putting yourself in their shoes as you set it up. Remember the “Work Triangle”, a method for laying out kitchens that emphasizes proximity of refrigerator, counter space, and stove. You can use the same idea in workspace.
- Lots of work, lots of opportunity for questions from them and lots of feedback from you. Make sure they feel comfortable with asking questions. Give them a lot to do so they can practice prioritizing and get used to the every-day pressure.
- Critical first days! Stay focused, these first couple of days are important.
Take the time to help them become engaged, feel like a team member, make their commitment; do what you can to make it an exciting time. Remember, the job is part of their life now. If you start acting like it, they might feel like it, and who knows, maybe they’ll stick around. Do you recall any first-days that stand out in your memory? Is there anything you wish the management had done differently?
The Principle of Immediacy
- Solve problems and issues quickly. Don’t let things fester, if it’s affecting productivity, get the matter resolved.
- Feedback. I’m going to stress this again, your feedback goes a long, long way toward ensuring productivity. Tip-toe around directly telling the person what they did wrong, or if you must, lead with a compliment before making a correction.
- Guide and encourage. It doesn’t have to be much, but a simple “good work” is better than nothing. You would do well, though, to follow the wisdom of Dale Carnegie in his iconic best-seller, How to Win Friends and Influence People. He says, “Be hearty in your approbation, and lavish in your praise.”
- Point the way. Make sure they know exactly what they should be doing and exactly how to do it.
- Help them learn how to solve issues as appropriate for their job or know where to go for the help they need. Ask the question, “What do you think would work, and why?”
- Allow for some failure space. Everybody is going to make some mistakes, especially within the first few days of working.
Help them improve
- Explain clearly what is expected; quantify everything, never assume understanding. What I constantly hear disappointed managers say is “I thought he understood that”.
- Measure, and be sure there are tools or methods for doing so. What gets measured gets done.
- Feedback. Last time I say it, I swear! But feedback is a two-way street. Encourage them to bring up any areas for improvement and don’t be one of those who doesn’t take criticism well.
- Inspect what you expect. What are you asking for? Is it really doable in the time-frame you’re asking for? Reevaluate this regularly. What may seem easy last week might be revealed to be a bit more complicated later on.
- Appreciation. People thrive on knowing they are doing a great job and making a contribution. They love the feedback (oops!) from you letting them know you see this. I used the word “thrive” on purpose. This encouragement is necessary for continued growth and productivity.
Life ain’t all caviar & cupcakes, here’s how to deal with the bad things that happen.
- Approach issues with the benefit of the doubt. As judge, jury, and executioner, make sure you’ve got the whole story, and try and take issues in context.
- Coach & Counsel. Use your status as a teacher rather than as an authority figure.
- Warnings: Written & Verbal. These tools for accountability, and deterrents against further failure, use them.
- 3 Strikes. Emphasis on the first two strikes, everyone deserves a chance, and a second chance too. 3 strikes, you’re out.
In either approach, be specific, ready to help, and make sure you follow up later. Start a file, and record the incident; include details.
Reminder of the Promised Land
- Where are we going & Why? Never forget your goals!
- People want to belong, and feel like they’re a part of something greater than themselves.
- Allow independence and affirm value. As John C. Maxwell says it,
“Few things build a person up like affirmation. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary… the word affirm comes from ad firmare, which means “to make firm.” So when you affirm people, you make firm within them the things you see about them. Do that often enough, and the belief that solidifies within them will become stronger than the doubts they have about themselves.”
- We Work Together. I cannot stress this team mentality enough. Give constant reminders of how important they are to the whole, and how the whole team works together.
- Push the culture. Whether you realize it or not, your work environment has it’s own culture and idiosyncrasies. You should also realize that you can control this culture. Foster the culture as you see fit, and drive it. Some examples could be
- Hanging up motivational signs & slogans
- Keeping the place clean
- Leading by example. Be a positive, encouraging influence.
- Reinforce a learning culture by encouraging/suggesting additional training
Keep Them Engaged
- Share information. Go lightly on the “need to know”, heavy on the “what you are a part of”
- Appreciate! To quote Dale Carnegie again (love him!),
“Give honest, sincere appreciation.” “Appreciation builds our image faster than any other practice … the success of every job demands cooperation and effort from others … people contribute to our success as much as we contribute to theirs,” How to Win Friends & Influence People
- Create a great work environment. More than just a clean & efficient space, a great work environment is one that listens, appreciates, and is free of hostility.
- Train, train, train! All day, every day? Training never stops, your employees are learning every day. Introduce new skills and technologies as you see fit.
- Focus on them. Your business should focus on its customers, but your managers should focus on its employees.
- Reviews, evaluations. More than just once a year, review your employees quality of work, improvement, and efficiency. It’s also a good idea to let them see it, so keep this in mind when you write it up.
- Reward Systems. Bonuses, perks, luncheons, and group outings! Break up the monotony.
- Moving Forward. Give them a chance to grow. Let them learn new skills and take on more responsibilities.
What to do when it doesn’t go so well?
- When you can’t go from hire to retire.. After the coach & counsel, verbal & written warnings or 3 strikes…. What if they… strikeout?
- Hire slowly, fire quickly. If it’s not working out, don’t hang on to them like a loose tooth.
- Document, document, document. You’ll need this for case-studies, notes for future hiring, when a reference calls, and in the worst case, a wrongful-termination suit. Be ready with documentation.
- Consult with HR or your boss or partner- don’t go it alone! If it’s not an on-the-spot termination, discuss it first.
- When possible, be kind, but give reasons
- Always be professional!
If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to comment, I am here for you! I’ve managed dozens of employees and consult regularly with other managers and business owners. If I can’t answer your question, I’ll try & find someone who can!