Tuesday, May 6, 2008/
When hiring, business operators often concentrate on a candidate’s skills, when their values and attitudes could be more important. MARCIA GRIFFIN
By Marcia Griffin
One of the broadly recognised challenges for business today is the difficulty of finding great people.
Recently I was speaking with a business owner about this. She had gone on a well deserved holiday – in fact her honeymoon – only to find that the manager she left in charge had taken it upon herself to close the doors of the business for a few critical hours each day and go shopping.
The honeymoon was definitely over when she returned to deal with unhappy clients who had turned up to a locked door!
This led to a discussion about values versus skills. This business operator said that she had finally learnt the big lesson that attitude and values were hard if not impossible to teach, but skills can be learned.
When you think about it – attitudes and values develop from our early years. As the Jesuits say, “give me a boy to the age of seven and I give you a man”. Parental guidance (or lack thereof) is vital to a person’s integrity and how they deal with challenges and decision making later in life. In turn, our value set and attitudes are then influenced by teachers, other mentors, peer groups, the media and even celebrity behaviour.
As an employer you are getting the legacy of all these influences. Years of negative, lazy or poor attitudes are almost impossible to change. And yet often when we employ people we focus solely on their skills, rather than their values and attitudes.
Of course, there are sophisticated psycho-metric surveys you could ask a prospective employee to undertake, but you may not have the budget or heart for this.
So in times of a very tight labour market, how can you find the best people possible?
There are a number of strategies that may assist:
- Ask everyone you trust for referrals. Asking people who are reliable here is a key.
- Reward your staff for successful staff placements referred by them. A number of large service organisations do this with great success.
- When reading CVs and conducting interview, focus on attitudes and values as well as skill levels. For example, it is not too difficult to see that people who change jobs constantly may have some issues – it can’t always be someone else’s fault.
- Find out about hobbies and interests. If its rave parties and clubbing you might have some interesting challenges.
- Always check references. I am amazed at the number of employers who simply don’t bother to do this for all sorts of reasons, but mainly because the candidate has put up a convincing case about themselves.
- Ask a previous employer the question – would you re-employ this person? Of course, qualifying the previous employer can be an interesting challenge in itself.
- Listen to your instincts as you go through an interview.
- If in doubt, don’t. Take time to employ – this can be really hard when you and the business are under pressure – but a bad employment decision will have worse consequences.
- If all fails and you do end up with the wrong person, act quickly to rectify the situation. The old rule, hire slowly fire quickly, seems to work best.
The good news for the business operator I mentioned initially is that she has replaced the shopping-oriented manager with a fantastic new person and realises that she should have done this a long time ago.
There are great people out there – we just have to find them!
To read more Marcia Griffin blogs, click here.
High Heeled Success is Marcia Griffin’s latest book, and is a frank account of building a business from a solitary sales person to a multi-million dollar business with 4700 sales consultants around Australia and New Zealand. It recounts successes and failures along the way and was written to inspire entrepreneurs-particularly women to triumph in business.