Category Archives: Hiring Talent

Is It Money?

“These young people! Argh!” Benjamin exclaimed, exasperated. “I just had another quit on me.”

“How many? Total?” I asked.

“Three, since the new year. For all different reasons, one says it’s money, another says he wants to live, relocate somewhere else, the last one says he doesn’t like me. That one was the worst.”

“Tough enough to hire the people you need, now you have to hire three more. This hiring problem looks to be more of a retention problem,” I said. “What do you think people want out of their job?”

“First is money and to bring their dog to work. Actually, they want to work from home, so the dog can stay.”

“Ben, why do you work here? I personally know you could earn just a little bit more from another company, so it’s not the money.”

“I’ve been here for eleven years, this is my home, these are my friends. I feel like I make a contribution to what we are all here for, and the team values my contribution. I make a difference here.”

“Do you think it is possible that your team members, who just quit, are looking for the same thing?”

Mailing It In

“I’m stumped,” Susana announced. “I talk to my team, give them their assignments, so they know what to do, but then, it just seems they mail it in.”

“Meaning?” I asked. “Mail it in?”

“I can’t put my finger on it,” she said. “The team shows up for work. They show up on time. They do the work, but it doesn’t seem they care. I tried to talk to a couple of them about it, but they just shrugged it off.”

“I know what a shrug looks like, but what did they say?”

“They said the work was okay, that if they wanted something more out of their job, they would just go find it somewhere else. I was a little shocked. I mean, when I was growing up, jobs were scarce, and I felt lucky to just have a job. Finding another job wasn’t easy.”

“And, how did you feel about that job?” I wanted to know.

Susana stopped. “You know, I guess it was just okay.”

“Kind of like your current team?”

Susana nodded.

“So, what is different between your experience and your current team’s experience?” I asked.

“I used to think it was all about the unemployment rate. You know, supply and demand. Right now, there are lots of available jobs, so I guess it follows that mobility, free agency is pretty high.”

“And, what is the cost of that free agency, to you as a manager?”

“Turnover is a killer. I thought when we came out of COVID, when people’s government money ran out, there would be a glut of applicants looking for work. But the labor market is tight. Finding people, finding the right people, getting them trained up, letting them make a few mistakes is expensive.” Susana shrugged. “Then, if they are the wrong fit, I have to start all over again.”

“Is this just happening to you, or is it happening to other companies, too?”

“You can read about it in the press. It’s all over,” she replied.

“I know you pay competitive wages, so it’s not all about the money. Your work is no more, no less interesting than your competitor’s, so what is it, that would give your company, your team, a leg up in team member engagement?”

Interest, Passion, Required Behaviors

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
We recently had a new hire not work out, so we decided to terminate. The mistake on our end, I think, was in the Required Behaviors element, but I’m not sure. The position we hired for was an administrative support position. We decided it was Hi-S-I, Lo-S-II based on timespan, using checklists, and expertise. Tasks were getting done, but there seemed to be a missing behavior around awareness, interest in helping others, and assertiveness. Am I assessing correctly that this falls into Required Behaviors/Passion-Interests in the 4 Absolutes?

Response:
First a quick review of the Four Absolutes required for any position, no matter the discipline –

  • Capability (measured in Timespan)
  • Skill (technical knowledge, practiced performance)
  • Interest, Passion (high value for the behavior)
  • Required Behaviors (contracted behaviors, habits, culture)

You describe that task assignments were completed, I will assume on time and at quality standard. Your disappointment was in –

  • Awareness
  • Interest in helping others
  • Assertiveness

The question is, how could this have been detected in the interview? Let’s take the easy one first. Interest in helping others. I cannot see interest, I can only see behavior connected to interest. So, how does a person behave, who has an interest in helping others?

  • Tell me about a time when you worked with a team that required a great deal of interaction and support among the team members?
  • What was the team? What was the purpose for the team?
  • How many members on the team?
  • What created the need for interaction and support?
  • What did you need from the other team members?
  • What did the other team members need from you?
  • How did the other team members let you know they needed your support?
  • What did your support (what they needed from you) look like?
  • How quickly did they need that support?
  • Step me through an example where a team member needed your specific support?
  • How did you become aware they needed your support?
  • Step me through your response?

You can already see through these questions, that the interviewer will learn about your other two disappointments, awareness and assertiveness (speed of response). A person who is aware, will be able to respond easily to these questions. A person who is assertive will respond quickly with specific behavior appropriate to the situation.

These questions are behavioral, I am not interested personality, only behavior. Restrict your questions to real examples from the past. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Under pressure, people will retreat to what they have done in the past, even if it didn’t work.

Role Assessment

Question:
You talk about creating a system for recruiting that would rival our equipment procurement system. Where do we start?

Response:
Think about that machine your company just purchased. If the price was north of $50,000, a bunch of people spent a lot of time looking at this machine in many different ways. Here is where it all started.

One, two or three people sat down and did a needs assessment. In that needs assessment, they asked some very fundamental questions.

  • What do we need this machine to do for us?
  • Is there another way, or another machine that would do a better job?
  • At the end of the week, how much production do we need from this machine?
  • What are the quality standards that we need from this machine?
  • How will this machine interface with our current work flow?
  • What kind of support will this machine require to sustain the productivity we need from it?
  • What other customers like us are currently using this machine?
  • How is this machine performing for them?
  • If we grow, what capacity will this machine need, in reserve, to accommodate our growth?

Think about these questions. Replace the word “machine” with the word “person.” Think about the role description you are writing. This is where you start.

Trying to Shortcut the Work

“So, let’s call her right now, offer her the position, straight away,” I suggested.

“But, you haven’t even read the profile,” Kristen protested. Even she could see the absurdity of making an offer before proper due diligence.

“I don’t need to read the profile,” I replied, pressing the absurdity.

“But if you don’t read the profile, how can you know if this person will be able to do the job?”

“Excellent question. How can we know if this person will be able to do the job if we don’t have a role description to help us read the profile?”

“Well, we have the job posting.”

“Kristen, I read the job posting. There is more on company benefits than there is on expectations. It appears to me that you are trying to shortcut the work required in this hiring process.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to do the work, I just don’t have the time. I have a lot of other important things I need to be doing,” Kristen insisted. “Writing a role description takes a lot of time, and I am sure HR has one that is pretty close.”

“It’s not that you don’t have the time. You have as much time as you need. It’s just not a high enough priority.”

Do We Really Have To?

“Before I look at the personality profile, let’s take a look at this job posting and see if we can create a job description that will help us,” I insisted.

“Do we really have to?” Kristen pushed back. “You know, if we don’t make a decision quickly, I’m afraid this person might take another job. That’s why I asked you to come in this afternoon, to look at the profile assessment.”

“So, you would rather make a wrong decision this afternoon than a better decision tomorrow.”

Kristen was exasperated. “I don’t think we can wait until tomorrow. I told the candidate we would call her with a decision before the end of today.”

In a Hurry to Hire

“Here it is,” Kristen announced. “I couldn’t find the job description, but here is the job posting that we put on the internet.”

“So, you don’t know if you have a job description?” I asked.

“You know, we were in such a hurry to get this posted, I don’t think we actually wrote a job description.”

“So, how will you evaluate the candidates who respond?”

“That’s why I asked you to look at the profile assessment. Everything is there. That’s why I think we have a good candidate,” Kristen curtly replied.

“Oh, really,” I mused.

“Yes, based on this personality profile, I think this is someone I could really work with.”

Hard to Find Good People

“I hear you finally extended an offer today for a Project Manager,” I said.

“Yes,” Colleen replied. “This has been one of the toughest searches ever. It was difficult to find anyone who wanted to apply. And, their first question was about working from home.”

“How did you make the decision, that this was the candidate to pick?”

“First, he actually agreed that he would work in the office. And, he seemed really enthusiastic. Said his last job was a dead end, that he was looking for more challenge. I liked his attitude.”

“And, his experience,” I pressed.

Colleen hesitated. “Well, he said he had been a project manager before, so we will see.”

“And, the length of projects he has under his belt?”

“Most of his projects were about three weeks in length. I know it’s not the same as our projects, which last nine or ten months, but he knows how to use Excel, so he should pick up our project management software pretty easily. I mean, project management is project management.”

“You didn’t see a mis-match on the length of projects?” I asked.

“Well, yes, I knew that might be a problem, but he was still the best candidate, and he didn’t ask to work from home.”

“So, tell me, Colleen, what could go wrong on a three week project, and what could go wrong on a ten month project?”

The Decisions of a Salesperson

“You’ve described the work of a salesperson as probing and connecting. Probing for the customer’s pain and connecting it to our product or service?” I asked, not waiting for an answer. “So, a sale that requires more than order taking likely requires a higher level of complexity?”

Marlena nodded. “We used to think we could hire anyone, give them a list of features and benefits to recite to the customer and that would be sufficient.”

“And?” I asked.

“And, sometimes they would get lucky, but our hit ratio was less than stellar,” Marlena explained. “We finally stumbled on a salesperson that was closing ninety percent. Her process was simple. In a screening phone call, she identified the customer’s pain.”

“Let me stop you there,” I interrupted. “At that point, what was the decision?”

Marlena paused. “More than one decision. Was the customer’s pain something we could solve? Was the pain strong enough to prompt the customer to take action? Would the customer see enough value in our solution to pay the price we needed to make it a win-win?”

“So, when I ask you the question, what’s the work of a salesperson, what are the problems to be solved and what are the decisions to be made, you now have a much clearer idea?”

What is the Work?

Marlena thought for a moment, changed her mind to protest some more. “But, what about a salesperson who doesn’t like to do expense reports, or doesn’t like to update our CRM program? Don’t we have to look at those things in a person’s profile, attention to administrative detail? I will tell you, when we hire a salesperson, if they can’t, or won’t pay attention to the administrative part of the job, then we won’t hire them.”

“If that is the behavior you need from a salesperson,” I shrugged. “However, I think you need to think this through a bit more carefully. What is the work of a salesperson?”

“Well, first, they have to research their market, compile a list of likely customers,” Marlena started. “Then, set appointments to see those people, do a presentation, secure a contract, follow-up to make sure the contract is delivered to the customer’s satisfaction, then make sure we get paid.” She stopped. “That’s about it. If I can get them to do that, I’m happy.”

“So, let’s think through this,” I replied.

  • Could the market research better be done by the marketing department?
  • Could appointments better be done by an administrative scheduler?
  • Could the follow-up better be done by customer service?
  • Could securing payment better be done by accounts receivable?

I would submit to you that your salesperson is doing all kinds of non-sales work, which I am sure keeps them busy from making sales. It all gets down to – What’s the work of a salesperson?