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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Organizational Hiring / Policy and Procedure Overkill! (2 in a series on hiring)

Picture this.  A small local business has a total of 25 employees.  One of those employees is consistently late to work.  The boss has mentioned it a few times, but nothing changes.  One morning the employee comes in late on a particularly bad day for the boss.  The boss has had enough.  She orders a time clock for the office, and writes a new policy that everyone must clock in and out.  A few weeks later the boss notices a customer standing around waiting for help.  Another employee, who should be assisting the customer, is distracted because she’s on her Facebook account.  The irritated boss writes another new policy.  Employees are no longer allowed to go on any social networking sites while at work. 
This scenario points out a very common habit; rather than deal with an employee problem, the boss writes a new policy and expects the problem to be resolved.  With each new policy, your star employees are further punished and left wondering why the policy is needed.  Over time, this habit leads to restrictive environments and rule books that are too large to memorize.
Organizational values can help.  If you hire, fire, train, reward and communicate towards defined strategic values, restrictive and detailed rules are no longer needed.  The “right way” is known without the rule book.  Here’s an example.  Let’s say that ambition is one of your core business values.  One of the ways you’ve defined this to employees is by stating that everyone is expected to practice exceptional time management skills.  You explain the “why” behind this.  It’s discussed in interviews and new employee orientations.  It’s listed on job descriptions.  Employees are rewarded for exceptional time management practices, and training to improve this skill set is provided.  When an employee consistently comes to work late, you don’t need a new restrictive rule or a time clock.  They are not meeting the expectation, made very clear, of exceptional time management.   They are not adhering to the core value of ambition.  Now deal with it.  Similarly, when an employee’s time on Facebook leaves a customer standing around with no help, that’s not practicing exceptional time management either.  You don’t need a new rule; you just need to deal with the problem.  An added benefit is that employees are more willing to accept expectations that are tied to values, than they are to accept a constantly growing rule book brought on by unresolved problems.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Organizational Hiring / Make Three Right Turns - The Right People! The Right Way! The Right Results! (1 in a series on hiring)

Minimum Qualifications: Helpful or Harmful?

I was reading through some job descriptions recently written by a client, and the idea for a blog posting came to me.  It’s an exciting topic; minimum qualifications.  Yeah, sounds boring, but I’ll keep this short and hopefully make you think carefully before your next recruitment efforts.

When we create job descriptions, we so often just make up some minimum qualifications such as requiring two years experience or a college degree.  I realize that for some jobs, there are legal and safety reasons for requiring certain educational and experience backgrounds.  I’m not talking about those positions.  I’m talking about those jobs where success is highly related to having certain attitudes, natural talents, or personality characteristics, rather than a very specific background.  If you can get someone who likes to learn, who is enthusiastic, and whose values fit in well with your organization, you often can train them to do their specific job duties.  I’d rather hire someone whose attitude is great and who can learn needed skills, than someone who has learned specific skills yet has a lousy attitude.  My point is that if you haphazardly define minimum qualifications, without careful evaluation, you may greatly reduce your best applicant pool, and may end up focusing your attention on the wrong things during interviews.

Here’s an example.  Colleen Barrett just recently retired from Southwest Airlines.  She was the President.  She never attended college.  Have you ever seen an executive position advertised, for a multi-billion dollar corporation, that didn’t require AT LEAST a Bachelor’s Degree?  Colleen learned everything she knew with on-the-job experience.  She loved to learn and had the right values and attitude.

To find out what it really takes to be successful in a certain job, talk to someone who already is.  Better yet, have them help you do the interviews.  Minimum qualifications are important; just make sure they are truly related to job success.