The research is in. There is no question that the success of your company is inextricably linked to the quantity (depth) and quality (competence) of your people. Yet, very few companies take the time and make the investment in aligning their people strategy with their business strategy. So, sales managers are replaced, new ad campaigns are launched, training programs are begun - all with very little impact. Why? The answer is quite simple, the underachievers outnumber the high achievers, and the former group is gaining strength.
Here are the four most common practices that we see within companies that keep performance down and under achievement flourishing!
Practice 1- Hiring F A S T
A person leaves and the position will be vacant in two weeks. Panic sets in. There is all this work to do and soon there will be one less person available to do the work! Let’s get someone in right away! Great idea in theory. In practice, however, there is an old saying that usually proves to be true “Hire in haste, repent in leisure. ” All too often in my experience as a business owner and in working with many businesses in the past 12 years, fast hires result in more cost and disruption in the long run than taking a little more time up front to actively seek a pool of qualified candidates to select from. By a pool, I mean at least three. Whether it is a frontline position, sales position, technical, administrative or management position, it doesn’t matter. Unless you have at least three candidates to choose from, you have no choice at all.
Now, I don’t mean that you needlessly drag your feet on hiring. With concerted effort, I have found it possible to develop a list of three within 30 days, even in tight labor markets. The key to be able to do that lies in eliminating the next practice.
Practice 2- Not knowing what you’re looking for!
Almost all companies have job descriptions of some kind. That’s great. Normally, job descriptions only talk about “WHAT” needs to be done. However, success in any job whether it is frontline, mid-manager or senior level is made up of 3 kinds of capabilities or competencies. Let’s call them Thinking, Relating and Working factors. We can think of these vital factors as ingredients in each and every job. The amounts and mix of these ingredients vary by job and are what determines under, average and high potential performance in a particular job function. For example, a technical manager may require Thinking factors of in-depth problem solving, technical acumen and innovation, whereas a customer service job may require more Relating factors like influencing and persuading, negotiation, informal communication and written communications. After you hire an individual, other factors such as the work itself, the relationship with his/her supervisor and myriad of other things determine longevity. The real point is if you do not have a clue as to what factors drive HIGH performance in a position, those other things won’t matter much.
Practice 3- Rely Heavily on Resumes and Interviews
A large, national background checking company reports that as many as 33% of resumes have false or erroneous information contained in them. A study done at Michigan State University found that interviews were only able to validate to job success with a 14% success rate, about the same success rate as random selection. Now, Human Resource specialists in hiring may develop a higher degree of skill at eliciting pertinent information from candidates…MAYBE. What about all of you occasional interviewers out there? Yes, you. You that only need to hire someone once or twice a year. How proficient do you think you are at interviewing? Today, there are many companies that specialize in coaching and helping jobseekers practice interviewing. Do you think you can overcome that disadvantage? In a minute, we’ll share an alternative method you can use to help level the playing field.
Practice 4- Lack of Clear Expectations for the Job
Recently, a colleague of mine told me the story about a friend of his name Joe, who was being courted by a large, public company for a very high level position. In the process, Joe asked to meet with the President of this company. In that meeting, Joe specifically asked the President what results would be expected of him in the first 6 months if he came on board. The President said, “Oh, not very much. If you can get some of the administrative issues ironed out that would be enough. ” Can you imagine? Needless to say, Joe, who is a very talented individual, passed on this opportunity.
This is not unusual! Bright, talented individuals want to work someplace where they can apply their talents and intellect, not accept a position and be put on autopilot! When great candidates ask about your expectations of them, what are your responses? Are you willing to stretch them? Challenge them? Set High Performance standards and work with them to achieve them? If so, you are in the minority of companies that are doing things right!
So, what can you do to overcome these 4 practices that lead to extreme mediocrity?
First, your number one job is to be a talent scout for your organization. Always be looking for people that could bring more depth and breadth to your company, not just when there is a vacancy.
Next, understand the skills and competencies that DRIVE high performance in every position in your company. It’s the difference that makes the difference between average and excellent.
Third, knowing those attributes, utilize valid assessments to assist you in uncovering the true strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, rather than relying solely on what they have been coached to say!
Finally, write down your expectations for each position in the company. Start with the most important functions in your company, usually the sales and production positions. Do the incumbents in those positions completely understand your expectations? That would be a great place to try out your new expectations!
Kevin Logterman is a Managing Director at FSG Associates http://www.fsgassociates.com an executive search firm focused on critical searches for Industrial and Manufacturing organizations. In recent years, FSG Associates has successfully completed searches at the Director, Vice President, President and Board level for clients throughout the U. S.