Saturday April 13, 2013
This week, I was at an event where I heard a few successful business leaders sharing their recipes for success. One commented that you have to have 3 things: a good idea; a great team; and $$$.
I love a good idea. I love brainstorming good ideas with entrepreneurs. I love hearing their dreams and the sometimes outrageous ideas that no one else has tried yet. I also love it when the money is available to fund the vision of an entrepreneur. I’ve seen entrepreneurs take all kinds of risk, leveraging everything to move their concepts from ideas to success.
But my passion is the team. Most entrepreneurs’ ideas won’t become reality without finding the right people to help them make it happen. Because of some bad experiences, some entrepreneurs face the prospect of hiring staff with a lot of trepidation. Rightfully so. The right team of employees can make a dream come true; the wrong ones can turn it into a nightmare.
So how do you find the great team members out there to employ, while avoiding the problem ones? There are all kinds of books and websites designed to help any job applicant have the perfect answers to your interview questions. There are processes an employer can put in place to find the best candidates. Here are a few I recommend:
Employment Brand. Everything you do in finding and adding employees to your company will create your employment brand. You may think about your “brand” as being a marketing image. It’s more. The way you handle the whole process of adding staff will create your employment brand. Your PR and marketing efforts will impact your hiring efforts. The converse is also true. Your goal should be to create an enviable employment brand so that filling jobs at your organization is easy. You want to be the place everyone wants to work.
Sourcing. The economy is such that lots of people will apply for ANYTHING. Where possible, hire known entities. Current great employees should be your best source for new candidates. If you are just starting to staff up, use your network. Hire people that someone who you know, knows. Most people who like you won’t refer someone who will embarrass them; they will only send you people who they will be proud of. But keep in mind, you don’t need people just like you. You need people who bring other strengths and they won’t necessarily be your gender, ethnicity, or age.
Application Process. Having candidates sent a paper copy resume to a snail-mail address, or to an [email protected] e-mail address creates an image of a behind-the-times employer. And think about the amount of time it will take someone to wade through all that paper! There are great paperless solutions out there today that are very cost effective, and will not only save you a ton of time, but will give you an image you want – one of being current with today’s technology. Be sure you use a system that is intuitive for the applicant, and not one that will annoy great people from bothering with your automated process. Systems that parse resumes and then require the applicant to move all their data around waste time and send the wrong message.
Learners. Many of today’s jobs didn’t exist a few years ago. The college degree that someone received even fairly recently may now be obsolete. So find people who like what they do enough to stay current. Look for life-long learners; not someone who got some initials behind their name 10 years ago and hasn’t done anything since to keep growing.
Alignment. People are happiest in jobs where they feel that their personal values are congruent with the values of the organization they work for. Get this wrong, and a good employee for someone else will be a bad fit for you. Know your organization and culture well enough to value having alignment more than having a job filled.
Passion. Resist the temptation to just fill a job. You need more than a pulse. You need someone you can trust your vision to; someone who won’t just be an entitled employee, but will instead have an ownership mentality with your vision, your customers, your public relations, and your money. Hire for attitude. Train the rest. But don’t try to force a round peg into a square hole. Know your roles well enough to help the right people find the right place in your organization – where they will operate with the side of their brain engaged that is natural to them.
Test. There are all kinds of tests that help determine fit. There are also tests that will determine competencies. You can also create your own. Create true-to-life examples of a workplace issue that an employee would have to solve. Ask the applicant to review it, formulate a plan, and respond to you in writing. You aren’t looking for a right answer – you are getting an understanding of how they think and how they communicate. Make them demonstrate the competency that they say they have. Have them interact with your team. Engage your team or your network, and the process will demonstrate who you can best work with.
Remove. As Jim Collins articulates in Good to Great, you have to get the right people on the bus. I believe you also have to get the wrong ones off. You will hire some who don’t work out. Don’t let it drag on. Engage them in a straightforward manner about whatever isn’t working, asking them to create solutions. But when it isn’t improving, take appropriate steps to sever the relationship. Failure to deal with these issues expeditiously undermines your credibility with great employees, customers, and the general public. It also doesn’t help the person floundering who isn’t a good fit. You can part ways allowing someone to exit gracefully with their dignity intact.
A lot of other things go into creating a culture where great employees thrive, and your vision becomes reality. How you engage employees, how you compensate employees, how you appreciate employees, how you design interesting jobs - all become part of your culture. Stay in a continuous improvement mode.