“Who to do business with” is one of the most important decisions that a business person makes. The importance of the “who” applies to customers and suppliers as well as the partners, professionals and employees that you choose. If you are doing business with the right people, a lot of things go smoothly.
In the short run, you don’t always have complete freedom of choice in establishing these relationships. For example, you receive an order and you have a customer. It might be some time before you recognize that the orders this customer places, the lead time they give you, their complaints, returns and payment record makes them an undesirable customer.
When it comes to hiring new employees however, we have nearly complete control. Why is it then, that so often poor decisions are made when hiring?
I have listened to business owners who complain that they can’t find good help. I hear numerous people complain that they can’t find good jobs. There must be a way to bridge this gap. If you are going to successfully build a business, you must be able to identify, select, develop and retain qualified personnel. People will ultimately be the most important resource in your business.
The employment process has four distinct steps, defining the job, recruiting, screening and selection. Before you can determine who is the best candidate for the job, you must first decide on the contents of the job and determine the key ingredients to success. Focus on what you need not on what you want.
The recruitment process should never end. If you take applications year round, you will have an answer to the question, “where are they when I need them”. From clerks to executives, referrals will always be one of your best sources of personnel. Since you can’t rush referrals or turn this source on and off, always keep your ears open.
The screening process is perhaps the most difficult step in the employment process. Because it’s time intensive, there is a tendency not to be properly prepared, to hurry the process or to end it prematurely. Interviewing skills aren’t something that we are all born with. However, the ability to conduct a good interview is a valuable skill that can be acquired. Don’t underestimate the value of testing. A major manufacturing company recently reported that they administered an average of 13 hours of tests to their entry level factory employees prior to offering them a job.
Selection is the final step in the hiring process. If you have conducted the employment process diligently up to this point, your decision should be amongst several attractive alternatives. Based on objective criterion, choose the person who can best meet your requirements, not the one that exceeds them or can develop into them.
Your relationship with your future employees begins long before their first day on the job. The manner in which you conduct the employment process will not only determine the type of people that will go to work for you, but also the first impressions that they will bring with them. Set high standards, be professional, friendly, fair and show that you care about who goes to work at your business. You will be communicating a very important message about how you want your new employees to conduct themselves once they start to work for you.
Whether you employ five people or five hundred, choosing the people that work for you is one of your most important decisions. Listen to part of a conversation I had with the CEO of a rapidly growing high tech company, founded five years ago they now employ over five hundred people. “Employee selection is one of the few bureaucracies which we have in the company. I wrote the manual and it’s 20 pages long. We will not abdicate the management of people to a personnel department.”
That hands on philosophy is not limited to new high tech companies. The president and part owner of a small but successful tool and die shop who I recently visited also has strong opinions on the subject. “Finding people with the right values takes planning and hard work. I personally get involved at every step of the process, from composing ads to conducting interviews. Our success, after all, depends on having the right people, so I feel it’s critical for me to be on top of the hiring process.”
Who you do business with is your most important decision. Because it’s your business, make sure that you get the right people to work for you.