Discussions with all my Vistage members over the past few weeks has emphasised that the general subject of staffing the business is getting to be difficult.
Not only are leaders finding that recruiting the right people is difficult but also their existing staff are receiving offers and general blandishments from competitors.
I wrote last week of Ed Ryan’s question as to why it takes us eighteen months to get rid of someone who we interviewed for only an hour and a half? This elicited a response from my good friend Harold Woodward who very wisely pointed out that the problem originated eighteen months ago at the recruitment stage.
One of the issues of recruitment is that we tend to emphasise skills, experience and qualifications when, in fact, these should be “givens”. For example, we don’t normally appoint an engineer to be Financial Controller.
The most important factor and the question to ask oneself in the recruitment process is: “Will this person fit in to our business and culture?”
Accordingly we need to major on the overall attitude and behaviour patterns of the candidate because we have to live with them as well as they having to live with us. To simplify the matter (and it might sound rather twee) but do we actually like them as a person?
I recall a case where a colleague of mine appointed a salesman and when I asked what he was like, he replied:
“He is a very experienced and well qualified salesman. He’s horrible as a person but his skills will get over that”
The salesman lasted three weeks.
There are many ways in which we can discover at the interview stage what sort of attitude the candidate brings to work, performance, time keeping, planning and all the other good attributes of a successful appointee.
The fact is that we need to uncover the general style of the candidate and whether he/she will fit into the business. Tine spent in this facet of the interview will pay dividends over and over again.
Having landed our fish, the next big issue is to ensure that they will stay with the business, at least for a period of successful employment which will show a return on the investment of time and effort put into the recruitment process.
Retention is becoming a vexed question in pretty well all businesses as the economy improves. The cost of replacing a good employee is probably double and more than the salary offered especially if we take into account loss of domain knowledge, training period for the new incumbent, management time and so on.
I had a long discussion with a leader of a small intellectual business mainly on the subject of targets for the people. It transpired that while targets were being set they weren’t necessarily being used and could just as easily be discounted altogether.
Targets are only of value when the business runs on a commission or bonus system, which is not to my liking. I do not believe that people in general are “coin operated” so money does not generally act as a motivational influence on performance.
Far better, I would suggest, is for the leader to design and develop a culture of engagement and alignment to give everyone in the business the freedom to undertake their allocated tasks without interference and with the maximum of non-financial reward for success.
If the leader can (and manifestly should) drive that culture into the business, built on mutual trust, good recruitment followed by retention becomes a far simpler and more likely result.
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