One of the great Vistage speakers from the USA is Ed Ryan whose emphasis is all about hiring the best people. Three of his more memorable mantras have become basic thinking in my Vistage group and I hear them repeated from time to time, realising that I have been saying them for years and now they have been passed on.
The mantras are "If you can't change the people, you'll have to change the people", "Why does it take eighteen months to get rid of someone we interviewed for an hour and half?" (that one tends to go very deep), and critically: "We hire on skills and fire on attitude".
Jim Collins in his masterly book, Good to Great, says that we should always "get the right people on the bus" and again, this has become standard thinking in my Vistage group. Whether or not it happens, of course, is another matter.
There is no doubt that the ideal solution to hiring the right people is to bring them up through the business which ensures succession at all levels and strengthens domain knowledge in the business, a vital ingredient for success. Kenneth and Will Hopper in their great book, The Puritan Gift, make the point that when a manager is parachuted into a business from outside, the shop floor can take eighteen months to teach him about the business.
However, to be realistic, we do need to recruit from outside from time to time and Ed Ryan's strictures make for uneasy reading. I well recall the former HR Director of an enormous global company with around 120,000 employees saying to me that if they got their recruitment right 50% of the time, they were doing OK. That is a frightening statistic if only for the downside costs of hiring the wrong person.
Too often in the hiring process, the demand for background skills and experience outweighs all other criteria and too often we find that the individual with great skills and experience just doesn't fit into our organisation - too late in many cases.
Ed Ryan also makes the point that the correct ranking of criteria should be firstly, chemistry or better still attitude, followed by experience followed by skills. If we recruit an accountant, the skill level should be a given and relatively easily proven. Experience may or may not count for anything but above all, the right attitude is essential and not too simple to uncover.
There are useful techniques around for determining attitude which should be at the forefront of the interview questioning process. Get the attitude issue solved and that 50% statistic will be a thing of the past.
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