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Archive for November, 2012

I believe there are those things in life that will always ‘work’.  I’m talking about the things you can count on like candy on Halloween or the smile on my kids’ face when they smell ‘Grandma’s’ homemade rolls coming out of the oven.  I know that if I eat less than I work off – I lose weight; if I spend less than I make – I save money.

In the business world we have things we can count on too…like the value of good customer service or a good employee. We know, in the end, both will make our company more profitable.  Ironically we spent a lot of time, energy and money on ensuring our customers remain loyal. Yet I hear many employers clamor for the secret to ensure their employees will remain loyal.

I do a lot of speaking engagements and have noticed recently it seems the topic everyone wants to discuss is employee engagement.  Last week I spoke on this very topic for a group of national CEO’s and Executives who were in town for a convention.  While I appreciate their kind words when they said my presentation was “…the best (they’d) ever heard on the topic of engagement.” it has me pondering why a concept so basic is so hard to do.  What IS the secret to, as the book Good to Great would say, ‘getting the right person in the right seat on the right bus’?

This morning, while enjoying one of the ‘old’ luxuries of life (reading the Sunday newspaper while leisurely drinking my coffee), I came across an article that every employer who is trying to ‘hire the right person for the right seat in the right bus’ should read.  The article was in the Omaha World Herald’s Marketplace Jobs section.  The writer had interviewed  experts on job hunting such as nationally certified resume writer, Rosa Elizabeth Vargas and other career coaches.   The experts advise coming  up with a specific proposal for what you would do in that position.  They called it the first 60-day plan and went on to say “As the first interview wraps up, be sure to ask the hiring manager what the ideal candidate looks like.  Listen attentively to the company’s needs and become the solution to any problems.”

What employer would NOT want a job candidate to lay out how they’d handle the first 60 days and how they’d be the solution to your problems?  Sounds great doesn’t it?   But think about what that candidate is about to ask you.  Do you KNOW the answer?

If you (who already works at your company) do not know what the ideal candidate needs to look like to be ‘the right person in the right seat on the right bus’ at your company, how on earth is a job candidate much less a new hire supposed to be that person…let alone be engaged, productive and successful?

In most cases, the way you prepare and interview a new candidate is exactly why you can’t hire the right person.

1.  You don’t worry about defining job needs you just know you need to hire someone.  You may or may not have a job description on hand. Who cares if its current or not and care less about what behaviors are needed to successfully DO the job.  You come up with a couple of skills that you think you need and you post the job.

2. You’re excited to have your first job candidates’ and you start randomly scheduling interviews. In some cases you are tempted to hire the first person you interview because you need someone – anyone. Then you decide it’s silly to hire your first applicant regardless if they are ‘the right person for the right seat on the right bus’.  Nobody hires the first applicant, right? So you keep interviewing until you are tired of interviewing then you pick one based on your gut feelings (which you tell yourself is right based on your experience).

3.  When your new hire starts you  tell them a bit about the mechanics of the job and encourage them to ‘get to work’. You don’t explain to them what optimal performance looks like in their new job or what behaviors they’ll need to exemplify to be engaged, productive and successful in the job. Three-to-six months later you are frustrated because you, in fact, did not hire the right person.

If you find yourself doing the above you might want to re-work your hiring process before the next candidate asks you that ‘ideal candidate’ question.

In business, there are tried and true things you can do to ensure your employees will be loyal, engaged and productive.  And like most ‘tried and true things’ it really is very simple.  Stop making your hiring process difficult and an exercise in futility; try DOING what Good to Great is telling you works:

1.  Define the job before you post the job aka ‘the right seat’.  This means taking a minute to determine what work needs to be done and look at whether or not your current ‘grouping’ of these tasks make sense.  Don’t create a job, for example, that involves detailed work and multi-tasking unless you intend to hire one skill set then watch your new hire fail on the other.  Most people have natural tendencies.  Creating a job that requires opposite tendencies in order for the job to be done well is just asking for failure.  If you find your job duties list require such opposites, consider reworking a couple of jobs until you have similar job duties grouped together.

Did you hire a sheep or a wolf?2.   Know who you are hiring:  screen out problem candidates and screen in candidates who have the ability to perform ‘optimally’ in the job aka ‘the right person’.  It’s not enough to know if your candidate has the skill to do the job, you must also know if their natural behaviors will fit your job at your company.  In this day and age of data, it’s silly to try to hire a candidate without first knowing if they have the work ethic and attitudes essential to becoming a successful employee at your company.  Secondly, it’s imperative to understand what optimal performance looks like in the job.  This is what is referred to as ‘Job Fit’.   Job Fit is the key to  hiring ‘the right person in the right seat on the right bus’.   Assess your current top performers to know what your new hire will need to look like in terms of successful behaviors; confirm this model by comparing it to those ‘passengers’ at your firm who aren’t engaged or producing to your satisfaction.

3. Coach your new hire to help them adjust to performing ‘optimally’ in the job aka ‘the right bus’.  Assessments provide a great way to understand how you can help your new hire perform at optimal levels.  Employees become engaged when their understand what success looks like in their job and they are able to work at an optimal level.  Using data to coach your employee towards optimal performance is a better way to achieve the ‘right person, right seat, right bus’ goal than using our gut instincts – even if they are good most of the time.

It sounds simple but it works and the research is undeniable.  Aberdeen Group found that companies using this hiring and on boarding process tended to have 22% more revenue per employee over those not using this process.  Harvard business Review, in a study of over 260,000 salespeople followed for 20 years, found Job Fit to be the key to sales growth.

Using these 3 steps in hiring will ensure your hiring process is as guaranteed to work as I’m guaranteed to have candy on Halloween.

Nikki Ellison is a business advisor, executive coach and founder of Ellison Partners. Through proprietary skill acceleration programs and assessments Ellison Partners helps businesses achieve results.

© Nikki Ellison, 2012.

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