Hire to Empower


Hire to Empower

By Alan Davis

Have your Selection Techniques Kept Pace with the Changing Corporate Climate?

So you’ve done your business process re-engineering; you’ve down-sized/rightsized/restructured (or whatever it’s being called this month); you are now a flat organization; you are customer-driven and all your employees are empowered team workers.

Oh, and by the way, all your employees are now doing a whole lot more work with fewer resources! Not only does this represent an enormous challenge to your existing employees, it also means that anybody you hire into your re-engineered company must have the capability to meet your revised expectations.

Organizations emerging from the last two years of economic downturn are hiring again. Hiring to fit the new culture, and more than likely, hiring a more highly-skilled “empower able” workforce. But now, most Human Resources departments no longer have the resources to act as gatekeepers of the company culture, and the hiring managers have been mandated to select the next generation of employees. Do they have the necessary tools to hire?

As James Champy puts it in his best-selling book Re-engineering Management, “Re-engineering demands more sophisticated screening and hiring processes. Gone are the days of the simple interview.”

Most of today’s high-growth industries require a high proportion of intellectual activity and technology is the key driver. The desire to get ahead, and stay ahead, is achieved only by a massive investment in human capital. And once you get your key people you’d better be sure to keep the work environment and the conditions attractive, because otherwise you’re sure to lose them.

Recruitment and selection become an even more daunting task when you consider that the baby boom generation has passed and we are very quickly entering the baby-bust generation. If the percentage of the population at large that go into the technical and scientific disciplines does not increase significantly, the supply of qualified talent will drop at the same time that the demand is steaming wholeheartedly in the opposite direction. It is therefore necessary to invest considerable time and effort in finding the people who possess the technical abilities companies are looking for, and who also have the personal traits and characteristics necessary to fit into the new culture.

Traditionally, organizations use a two-stage selection process: First, a one-hour interview with Human Resources, followed by a “technical” interview with the hiring manager and colleagues. However, the new reality is that many Human Resources departments barely have the time to explain the company’s benefit plan and produce the offer letter. In any event, in the new empowered organizations, hiring decisions are made by the newly-empowered hiring manager.

So what can be done to provide the hiring manager with the tools to select appropriate candidates? The answer, just like in any other element of empowerment, is of course training.

In this critical area the training should include:

Understanding what constitutes a good fit

A good fit means a lot more than the candidate being able to carry out the basic functions of the job. It means that the candidate should share the values of your organization, harmonize with the culture of tomorrow, serve an appropriate period of time in the position, and add value to your organization – both in the long-term, as well as in the short-term.

Defining both the technical and non-technical elements of the job

Defining the technical elements of the job does not normally represent a difficulty for the hiring manager. However, even in this relatively straightforward area, it is easy to over-specify the technical parameters at the expense of personal traits and characteristics. If your new culture really is oriented toward teamwork and customer service, it can be difficult to ignore the temptation to hire the technical superstar who may not possess the traits which reflect the new culture. In other words, don’t be too hasty to load up the list of technical prerequisites and pay less attention to the “soft” skills. Technical skills can be trained – personalities cannot – and it’s the people who will make or break your re-engineering initiatives.

Picking the most cost-effective recruitment method

As a first step, many companies will automatically advertise a position. This is often costly, unsuccessful, and unnecessary. Look first at existing employees and encourage a job posting scheme. This can generate both applications from inside the organization and referrals from existing employees. Look also at the CVs that you already have on file. Use your network of outplacement firms, local educational establishments, etc. Referrals from these sources are generally free. If there are no visible internal candidates, post positions on your web site; journal and newspaper advertising is a last resort.

Conducting telephone screening

A telephone screening interview can save a great deal of time and money. In many cases, you will screen out candidates at this stage, rather than going to the expense of a face-to-face interview. Just be sure that the candidate is free to speak when you call – you may in fact have to call “by appointment” to make sure that the conditions for a telephone interview are right. You can cover a check-list of basic information such as travel requirements in the job, relocation issues, and salary expectations, and provide the candidate with a much better appreciation of the position and the expectations surrounding it. You can also gauge the candidate’s telephone manner and verbal communications skills.

Preparing the interview, and most importantly, how to devise sophisticated yet straightforward questions to ensure that you pick the candidates who will meet the future demands of the organization.

Some interview techniques rely solely on previous experience to predict future performance. Research has proven that interviews of this type greatly increase the chances of hiring successful candidates. However, it can take too long to research the job (and therefore prepare the interview questions), training is required to learn the technique, and more importantly, it doesn’t go far enough in predicting future on-the-job performance.

A better interview technique is one which balances retrospective questioning techniques (looking backward into a candidate’s previous behavior) with prospective questioning techniques (looking forward by placing the candidate in realistic scenarios and role-plays). The advantage of prospective questioning techniques is that it gives you a good idea of how the candidate thinks, and serves as an indication of how the candidate will perform in a real-life situation. These types of questions are impossible for the candidate to predict and rehearse.

The ideal interview of the future is one that is predictive, defend able, and which assesses the appropriate personal traits and characteristics which will be required to enhance your new culture, yet is easy to learn and to apply. When you are already doing more with less, time becomes your most precious commodity.

Interviewing within the law

Employment law has been described as a minefield for those managers who have received no training in this area. Believe it or not, male managers are still asking female candidates if and when they are planning to start a family! And it’s getting more and more complicated with new legislation appearing all the time on issues ranging from employment and pay equity to the individual’s right to privacy.

The recent backlash in the United States against Employment Equity legislation appears to be slowly spreading north of the border, making it even more necessary to provide concrete and quantifiable justification to hire one individual over another, regardless of age, race, colour or any other factor – whether real or perceived. It pays to know the law.

Checking references

Checking references can be tricky if you’re not used to it. What isn’t said is as important as what is said, and which questions should and should not be asked needs to be addressed.

Making the right hiring decision

Most hiring decisions involve a compromise in one form or another. Hiring managers need to know where to compromise, and how to justify a hiring decision.

Orienting and motivating the new employees to ensure they stay

An orientation checklist is an invaluable tool in making sure that once you’ve selected a candidate, you protect your investment by ensuring that all the factors relating to motivation and performance have been addressed and are in place. There is nothing more demotivating for a new employee than to turn up for work on Day One to find that there’s no desk available and nobody in the team knew they were coming. It has happened!

What if you’re feeling overwhelmed, and not sure that you have the necessary skills? Please see the description of our Picking Winners™ course at Picking Winners Seminar

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