Workforce Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Businesses today are facing significant challenges and shortages of qualified staff. Finding and keeping good staff is critical.

How important are staff to your business? That’s sort of a basic question, because everyone knows that without staff you can’t do your own job. But really, how important do we consider our staff? After all, they haven’t been to school as long as we have, they don’t know as much, they don’t make the money we do. Shouldn’t it be easy to replace them when we need to?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of under-rating the importance of staff to a business; but it’s at least as bad to have the wrong staff in your organization. Who are the ‘wrong’ staff? Most of us would say those who don’t work hard, or take too many breaks, or don’t know what they’re doing, or who don’t take initiative. Now, these are serious defects, but the problem goes deeper – are we seeking staff who really complement the business?

When you opened your business you had an ideal in mind. Most likely it included finding and pleasing customers, providing a high quality product, delivering top-notch service to support your product, and getting customers excited enough to tell others about you. Business owners have values they bring to their business. The problem is, most don’t take the time at the front end to formalize those values, and they almost never seek to hire staff who share those same values.

So what happens? The staff who are hired don’t match the ideal the owner had in mind. They might be too brusque, or even unfriendly with customers. They might not get along with other staff, and become a constant source of irritation. They might get flustered when the business gets busy, frustrating both customers and other staff. Maybe they just don’t have the drive that you were wanting in your staff.

But really, can you do anything about that? Sure you can; and the answer comes in two parts:

First, taking the time to identify and formalize your own values, and then build them into the business. What attitudes do you really want in your business? Do you want customers to feel fussed over, or are you happier with more of a formal professionalism? Do you want staff who take initiative, or would you rather have people who check in before making major decisions? Are you concerned with neatness and order, or do you like an atmosphere that’s more laid back and friendly? When choosing any of these approaches, you will need to plan your office structures so the attitude can happen. Failure to plan such a structure may make it difficult – or impossible – for your staff to act the way you want.

Second: For hiring people, translating those values into behavioral interviews is key. If you want certain attitudes and behaviors, you have to build an interview that goes beyond the resume and surfaces underlying conduct. People, especially those who can’t hold jobs for long, can be very good at ‘saying the right thing’ – even when they don’t usually act that way. Part of your challenge is developing questions that will dig out those past behaviors. The questions might be aimed at finding out the prospect’s reaction to a busy environment, or how they usually handle a customer. Questions can be worded to surface bad attitudes under stress, or a prospective employees work ethic.

Believe it or not, the bulk of a business owner’s time and money are spent hiring people with the right knowledge and skills – but the majority of problems and firings are based on attitudes and behaviors.

Conclusion

In summary, if you want your business to move closer to your mind’s ideal, you have to take time to identify and formalize your values, building them into the structure of your business – how it is run. THEN you have to develop an interview process that surfaces a prospective employee’s behaviors, and checks them against the attitudes you are seeking in the day-to-day operation of the business.