Monday, February 17, 2014

Hiring Hourly Team Members Part 2: Finding Clone Worthy People

Now… where were we?  Oh yes… we were describing the people we’d like to be able to clone.  Last time I stated that “odds are you only have a handful of them”, when in reality most teams only have one or two of them (which, if you are being honest with yourself, should tell you something about your hiring skills).  We talked about some of the qualities that these great team members possess.  Now, how do we find others like them?  How do we interview for those qualities?

We should take a moment and talk about the difference between qualities and skills, or the ability to perform tasks.  Many of us have been told that we should hire for experience.  That is, people with years of experience doing the tasks involved in a job are the ones we should hire for our job.  Do you find this to be true in your experience?  Do those people usually turn out to be amazing team members, or “clone worthy”?

While it’s true that those applicants with experience doing the tasks of the job may need less training in those tasks, it does not follow that they will be successful in those jobs, or assets to the team.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that success in most jobs has very little to do with skills, or the tasks involved with that job.

In my experience, success in almost any job you can name has much more to do with how people feel about us.  It’s really about our ability to form relationships.  Sure, there has to be a minimum level of competence at the tasks at hand, and that is ultimately not the determining factor in whether or not we are valued; seen as doing a good job; and earn the raises and promotions we desire.  It is so much more about the relationships we form with the people around us.

Think about the people you admire.  They are probably people you like to be around… they make us feel good about ourselves.  Yes, they may be efficient and get things done on their own; and they also get others to buy into the things they want to get done.  They get others to put their energy behind a project.  They form strong relationships!  We like them, we want to be around them, and we want to help them succeed!

Before we can get to the people we think might be “clone worthy”, we need to quickly and efficiently weed out everyone that does not meet our minimum requirements for skills and intelligence.

So… we have to set up some hurdles for applicants.  We can usually test their ability to pass these hurdles with questions on an application, in addition to a phone interview.  How do we decide what these minimum requirements should be?  After all, it’s pretty important that we get them right… we don’t want to waste our time (or the applicants time) talking to people who don’t meet our minimum competency; nor do we want to screen out people who might be future superstars because we set up the wrong hurdles.  I have picked up quite a few excellent team members from other’s reject piles.

I’ve come to believe that none of us is as smart as a group of us.  So, you should involve your assistant(s), as well as valued team members (who are doing the job) to come up with the minimum requirements. 

What should those hurdles look like?  I’d say we might include:
Some level of self-confidence.
Above average communication skills.  And that does not mean speaks in perfect English.  It means they are able to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively.
Some experience showing the ability to learn skills and tasks.  This can be at home, in sports, in other interest groups, at school, or in the workplace.
Taking some personal responsibility for the events of their lives.  That will show up when questioned about things like changing jobs, being part of a sports team, periods of unemployment, or for younger applicants even being part of a family!

You can certainly add others, however you are only looking to be sure of minimums here…  I could take pretty much anyone off the street and teach him or her almost every task involved in running a restaurant or grocery store in short order, so you are not looking for experience doing specific tasks.  I feel this bears repeating since so many leaders/managers hire for “experience” and end up with mediocre teams.  Hiring for the right attitude as opposed to experience might mean you have to spend some time teaching tasks, and it will pay off in the end!

These initial bars don’t have to be super high, since it can be tough for some people to communicate on an application or on the phone.  People who will turn out to be great team members won’t necessarily have the work or life experience that they think you are looking for, and so perhaps won’t come across as smart or confident.

Right here is where I have to remind you to take an honest look at your team.  Look at the people you have hired.  Are they really helping you achieve your goals?  Do you have a great team?  A team full of great team members?  High performers teaching others on the team how to be high performers?  Does your team have high enough standards that the team members simply won’t allow the wrong person to stay on the team?  Do you spend much time do you spend celebrating wins, cheering on your team, as opposed to 'correcting' behaviors?

Or do you have an ok team, with a couple of good hires?  Be honest with yourself.  Do you spend way too much time doing "corrective action"?  Are there others who are hiring from the same pool of applicants and yet ending up with much better team members?

The difference here is you.  Since we know that it’s hard to quantify the success rate of our hiring decision most of us will naturally think we are pretty good (if not great) at hiring, and we certainly don’t need anyone else’s telling us how to hire!  The fact is there are only a few leaders out there who know what to look for.  They aren’t better than you… you’ve just been looking for the wrong attributes.
Honestly looking at your past hires, and admitting you need to do something differently is the only way to make any real changes.
You can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results.
If you want to achieve different results you’ve got to do something you’ve never done before.

So how do we interview for the qualities we are looking for?  Tune in next time for another exciting episode!

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