Friday, February 14, 2014

How to Hire the Best Hourly Team Members Part 1... Honestly Evaluating Our Hiring Skills

I thought it would be worthwhile to do a series on hiring, training, and mentoring hourly team members.  I searched around to see how my experiences and advice would line up with what was out there, only to find out there was very little actual useful advice on hiring hourly team members!  I found quite a few “The 5 Secrets of…” and “The 7 Keys to…”, however most of that was very general advice and not too useful in the real world.  So… over the next however long it takes, I plan on walking through the process of hiring the best hourly team members.

I should probably state here that my experience and success is in hiring for hourly team members. If you need to hire an accountant,  someone to code Java, a Pilates instructor, or any number of roles that absolutely demand specific experience my advice will not be as relevant.  For hourly team members however, I have found this way of hiring has been more successful than any other way I have seen (and I've been working in retail and restaurants for over 30 years now).  I have hired and mentored more team members who are now in team and store leadership than anyone else I know (or have heard of) at Whole Foods Market, so I know this method works!     

Hiring is arguably the most important thing we do as leaders.  Having the right people on our team makes it so much easier to achieve both the team’s goals and our individual goals.  With the wrong people on the team it is almost impossible to achieve our goals.  And it is very costly to lose a team member, and then hire to replace them.  Best to just get it right the first time around.

Yet for some reason we so often get it wrong.  In many industries turnover is absurdly high, making it next to impossible to maintain consistent levels of performance. 

So why do we have such high turnover?  Why aren’t our teams full of superstars?
Turns out there are a lot of reasons.  Most of us can judge our job performance against key performance indicators.  We can quantify sales, comps, margin performance, conversion, customer counts, order size, shopping cart, COGS, click-through, and so many more.  It’s more difficult however to quantify the results of our hiring decisions.  It’s very easy to shift the blame from our decisions and ourselves to the person we hired.  It must be their fault… they misled us; they lied about their ability to do the job; they aren’t working hard; they aren’t willing to do what it takes; they just don’t care; I could go on and on.

Since it’s difficult to objectively judge our hiring decisions, it’s not surprising that so many leaders believe they are great at hiring.  However unless your team is full of superstars, you probably need to reassess your ability to hire the best people.  I’ve found that most leaders feel that they are much better than average at hiring, even though their track records do not support their thinking.  You are probably not as good as you think you are. 

So, maybe it’s not your fault that you are not hiring the super stars that you’d like to have on your team.  Maybe you haven’t been trained properly.  Maybe no one has told you that you continue to hire people that are just like you.  It’s an easy and natural thing to do.  We like to surround ourselves with people who are like us, however this is unlikely to help us achieve greatness.  Teams that achieve greatness are much more likely made up of people with different strengths, backgrounds and opinions.  They challenge and question each other, and push each other to be their best.  It’s not always comfortable.

So let’s start from scratch.  We’ll have to forget what we might have been taught about interviewing and hiring, since those “skills” haven’t been helping us achieve our goals.

What is your purpose in hiring today?  If it’s to hire a person who can do the tasks of the job I would argue that you should rethink that.  Hiring to fill a role so you can move on to something else is hiring for good enough.  Hiring for good enough WILL NOT help you achieve your goals.  Hiring for good enough WILL NOT achieve greatness.

So what should we hire for?  Where do we start?  I think we should start with taking a look at our best team members.  You know the ones that you’d give anything to be able to clone?  Odds are you only have a handful of them.  What qualities do they have that makes them so valuable?  What makes people successful in most any job?  Is it simply that they can perform a task fastest?  Is it that they have never once been late in their whole career?  Do they have a background and experience that closely resembles our own?  Are they “yes” men or women?  Do they make us feel good about ourselves?  Do we see them as not quite as smart as we are?  Are they non-threatening? 

I would bet that it’s none of the above!  I believe that your best people have qualities that are much more difficult to quantify.  They are more positive rather than negative.  They do a good job because it gives them some self-satisfaction.  They take pride in their work.  They will go out of their way to help others when they can. 
They are able to roll with the punches and adapt to changing conditions.  They speak up and express their thoughts and ideas clearly, directly, honestly, and with respect for others.  They can deal with problems in a solutions oriented manor.  They treat those around them with courtesy and consideration.  They listen to understand, without debating or arguing every point.  They are able to receive criticism as constructive and use it to make positive changes.

They are trustworthy… that means when they make a mistake or a problem arises you will hear about it from them first.  They take initiative and help make things happen.  They are enthusiastic about the goals of the team as well as their own goals.  They are consistent and can be counted on to get the job done.  They will speak up, with the door closed, when something doesn’t seem right.  You could probably add many items to the list.

So… the question becomes… how do we find people who have these qualities?

Tune in next time…  And thanks for reading!

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