Everything Starts With Hiring Right

Everything starts with hiring rightWhat does this title mean, Everything Starts with Hiring Right? When I owned a recruiting firm, I always said that the single biggest asset a company has is their people. It doesn’t matter whether you have the latest, greatest, coolest product or even if you are first to market, because sooner or later others will steal your groovy idea and some of your competitive advantage will vanish. The constant, though, is the people that work for your company. The people can help you stay ahead of your competitors.

I know you know this. Every company I have ever visited and every client I have had always talks about the people and how the people that work for them either influence positively or interfere with your success as a company and as a leader. It seems that everyone in a leadership role I talk with tells me the same thing — they struggle with some of the people who work for them. They struggle with accountability and performance issues and communication skills and desire to develop and leadership skills. And you know what I tell them? “It all starts with hiring right.”

One of my clients has a significant problem with accountability pretty much across the entire organization. Not everyone, but a large enough percentage of the people that it affects productivity and customer service. A couple of the leaders are super smart, super talented technically, and yet miss the mark on the softer skills side. One lacks complete accountability. He is never, ever at fault for anything, ever! The other doesn’t communicate well with his team and mistakes are made or deliverables not met. And what you might expect is if a manager lacks accountability it trickles down the chain. In fairness, perhaps when they hired these managers they were the right hire. I doubt it, but maybe. These soft skills aren’t learned, they are innate. Sure they can be developed, but you either have them or you don’t. At least that is my experience.

Another client has hired a couple of top-notch assistants for two of their key leaders in the last year. They have always had assistants and not the caliber they have now. What’s happened since they hired right? Their revenue has increased by 15% and this is already a $4M company. These two assistants think outside the box, think past the current step or even the next step to three or four steps beyond. They do what they say they are going to do when they say they are going to do it, and both have excellent client facing skills. The list goes on. What these two have created is improved productivity for everyone, less mistakes and re-dos by multiples I can’t even determine, the leaders have time to meet with clients and prospects and develop new business. The list goes on. They used to spend huge amounts of time fixing problems with clients because of mistakes; and ridiculous amounts of time managing/micro-managing and discussions on accountability with previous employees.

There are numerous other examples I could give and they would tell the same story. When you hire people for attitude rather than depending on technical competencies to take the lead, you will end up with a more productive, efficient, customer-focused, communicative and happy workforce. When I was recruiting I would tell my clients that my goal was to identify someone for them that could do 60% of the job very well and had all the right interpersonal skills. The other 40% was the reason someone would come to work for you — the opportunity to grow and develop which got them excited and a reason for them to put their feet on the floor in the morning. Yes, I know some positions require deep technical competencies and the interpersonal side is less important. I suggest, however, that there are less of those that you need than you likely believe.

Happy, productive, thoughtful, caring employees rub off on others around them. They can be a huge positive influence and raise the bar substantially. Once a company/team or group really knows what good looks like, those who want to will rise to a new level. Not everyone, for sure, but more than you probably believe can and will.

you can teach technical skills for any position. You can’t teach people to think differently, unless they are open to it. Why do some employees demonstrate leadership even when they aren’t a manager? What does the C-suite value in their leaders…technical competencies or the other skills such as high EQ, ability to think strategically, ability to communicate effectively, and grow and develop others around them? The interpersonal skills are required at the C-suite. Your technical competencies may have helped you take on more responsibility, but it won’t get you into the C-suite.

When you think of challenges that exist in your organization aren’t they always around the people? They are performing poorly; they refuse to be accountable; they lack attention to detail; they rebuff your view of their performance as inaccurate; their colleagues and team complain about their behavior; delegation isn’t a concept they understand…and more. Do you ever complain that someone doesn’t have the necessary technical proficiency? I bet not often.

Everything starts with hiring right. When you hire for attitude, you’re already ahead of your competitors because most of them are not hiring in that way. Learning how to interview to determine attitude is for another article. As I end this, I want to leave you with this thought. When you think about your organization and identify those you consider high-potentials, highly-productive individuals and describe what you see that makes them special, the adjectives you will use are about who they are, not what they do functionally. I’m just sayin’…


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