Work, Caring, and Filtering Employers

While last week’s “don’t work and don’t care” piece was inspired by comments about millennial workers, those “tests” evaluate things important about all prospective employees. Yet there’s more. One non-millennial responded: “Saw your blog post. Filtering employees is only part of the problem. The other side of the coin is filtering employers.

Exactly. So how do you filter employers?

Don’t filter employers because…

Do you avoid employers who filter prospective employees as I described? Don’t. The more care someone takes when hiring someone to join your team, the more likely that person will fit in and carry their share of the load. Good employers have learned to place small obstacles or tasks in the process to identify those who don’t pay attention to details and/or don’t follow instructions. “Email your resume to gimmeajob@company.com in Microsoft Word format” tells someone you aren’t a bot, you read and follow instructions, and you have a baseline of necessary skills. Can you use Word? Can you email an attachment? Is your grammar horrific? Did you use a spellchecker? If you submit a resume littered with errors, employers will rightly discern that you aren’t a good fit for their work, or the quality their work demands. For some jobs, these kinds of skills things are critical – even if they aren’t the core job skill.

Some employers have a complex interview process. As long as the interviews are engaging, it’s OK. If some interviewers are disinterested or not engaged (such as during a team interview), give the impression they don’t want to be there, or are unprepared to interview you, investigate. Ask about their hiring process. They’ll either be able to describe it, or not. If they tap dance, beware. Ask why they are involved in the process of selecting you as a candidate, but do so late in the discussion. You don’t want probing questions to take the interviewer off-task.

Even so, they need to sell you on their company as a good place to work. How prepared for the interview was this person? Did they seem to know little about you? Did you get the impression they were reading your resume, cover letter and other materials for the first time while conducting the interview? This could indicate a lack of organization, a lack of preparation, a random “Hey, go interview this person” assignment, or it could be that the person who normally conducts that interview is traveling or sick.

Filtering employers

You already know that you’ll be asked if you have questions. Do you prepare for them in advance? It’s clear from my comments that you should expect the interviewer to be prepared – and the same holds for you. The quality of your questions is critical.

Your questions during the interview:

  • Indicate whether or not you did your homework on the company.
  • Identify reason(s) to walk away, or become even more enthusiastic about the job.
  • Help the interviewer figure you out while letting you play detective.

About 20 years ago, I flew to West Virginia to interview for a senior executive-level position. Something seemed off, so I dug deeper than usual. At the time, online information was scarce, except for stock market info. I found news of a buyout, a bankruptcy, & reorganization. I asked about these things during my visit. They were floored – no one else asked about these events. They told me later that these questions were the turning point to them making an offer. I didn’t take the job, but I learned a valuable lesson about homework.

Ask about:

  • … company meetings: Do they have an agenda? Are people there who don’t need to be? Are they frequent or infrequent? Are they productive? These things speak to management style and organization, among other things.
  • … projects: How are projects managed? What happens after a successful project? What about an unsuccessful one? Ask to hear project “war stories”.
  • … the sales team: Some companies have them, some do not. The longevity of the sales team, if there is one, can indicate how things are going.
  • … how they use data: Is there a CRM or other strategic data use?
  • … their on-boarding process. What should you expect day one?
  • … crisis management. How did the last crisis / emergency get handled? What did the company learn from it? Was it something that allowed a change in process / design so it could be prevented in the future? How did this affect the staff?

If someone wonders why you care about these things – tell them that you’re looking for a solid, well-run company to grow with, not simply a paycheck.

Photo by adpowers

They don’t want to work & they don’t care like I do

Human resources. Human capital. Two terms that I really don’t care much for (especially the latter one), yet they attempt to describe what is usually the most important part of your business: employees.

You might think your customers / clients are the most important part of your business, but without good employees who want to take care of your clients, one of two things happens: Either you won’t have any clients or you’ll be doing all the work yourself – which sounds more like a job than it does a business. Two complaints I hear most often: “They don’t want to work” and “They don’t care like I do“.

They don’t want to work

If you have people working for you who don’t want to work, it’s not their fault. It is your company’s fault because the company hired them.

They may be lazy. You may be exactly right about why they are lazy, but it doesn’t matter. The fact that they are lazy and the reason(s) for that laziness are irrelevant. It’s relevant that the company hired them before figuring out they were lazy. Your job as the hiring manager is to find a way to figure out who is lazy (etc) and be sure not to hire them.

Repeatedly complaining (for example) that “all millennials are lazy and don’t want to work” is not only incorrect, but a waste of time. If the millennials your company hired don’t want to work, blame the broken process used to hire them. If three of every 100 applicants show the right stuff, then make sure your process finds the three.

Hiring people is easier if you put a process in place that makes it all but impossible for someone to join your team when they have the attributes of someone who can’t be successful at your place. This process doesn’t come in a box from Amazon. You can’t simply open the box and plug it in. It requires ongoing attention. It’s work. It takes time. It isn’t easy. The process needs to involve the people a prospective employee will work with, and those they will work for.

There are people who shouldn’t work at your place with your people. Your job is to eliminate them before you hire them. To eliminate each attribute that you don’t want working at your business, you add steps to the process that identify those attributes. “Drama queen” is a one of the attributes I eliminate, noting that these folks are both male and female.

Do you want to hire passive aggressive jerks who will tick off your customers? If not, your hiring process needs a way to filter out those people. Sometimes, it isn’t easy, but if you wanted “easy”, you shouldn’t have started / bought a business.

Attributes like lazy, passive aggressive, or any other that cause you to wish you’d never hired someone are no different than “must be able to lift 70 pounds”. They are a minimum qualification for employment. It isn’t the job prospect’s responsibility to apply only for jobs that they are ideal for. That might be nice, but isn’t realistic. It’s your job to sort them.

They don’t care like I do

Of course they don’t. Remember, they aren’t owners, so it will be rare that they will care like you do. They don’t have as much at risk as the owner and they sure don’t have as much potential upside as the owner.

Expecting someone to act like an owner at $10 an hour is silly. Training them to think like an owner and then giving them more responsibility (and more cash) when they act that way is a whole different thing. Some will still work hard, but won’t think like an owner. Some will work hard and think like an owner once they are trained and learn that there are things to be gained by doing so.

A rare few will act like an owner, at least to the extent they can. “These people” will start caring when they figure out that you do. That starts at the hiring time. If you find a way to stop adding lazy, crazy, and dazed to their department, they will notice. If you ask them for referrals, they won’t suggest you hire their dodgy, lazy friends. It simply makes more work for them. Instead, you’ll get the friends they trust to do their part.

Photo by jonny goldstein

Hire for commitment over ego

The difference between a strong business leader and a weak one is easily detected: Who do they surround themselves with – and why? Do they hire for commitment or ego? Time and time again, you can see examples in business where a business owner surrounded themselves with one of three kinds of people:

The kind of people who will agree with everything the owner says or proposes, almost (if not never) disagrees with the owner, and when cornered, will err on the side of silence or “I’m undecided” rather than taking a stand that might later prove to disagree with the boss.

  • The group who will say little or nothing when they disagree with the owner.
  • The group who will make decisions independently, regardless of the owner’s stance / position, and aren’t inclined to hide that from the owner.
  • The group who will make decisions independently, regardless of the owner’s stance / position, but aren’t willing to offend / rile the owner by stating their disagreement.
  • The group who will disagree with the owner’s choices and decisions no matter how valid – simply because they’re the owner.

There are probably a few other groups / types that I missed, but this list covers the majority of what I’ve seen in the last 35 years.

Which group should you hire from?

From where I stand, neither 100% agreement or disagreement is a good thing, unless each decision is arrived at through analysis and thought. However, as we’ve all seen, some of these disagreements exist simply because they can (a minority, in my view) and others disagree because they feel the owner is making a mistake – however legitimate they feel that mistake might be. When you feel your boss the owner is about to make a mistake that could seriously affect your business, you have choices, which tend to fall into three categories:

  • You disagree, say so and make your case to your manager or the owner.
  • You disagree and say nothing.
  • You disagree and make your case to your peers.

When you hire someone, which choice would you prefer your future employee takes?

For me, it’s the first one, if you’re hiring for commitment over ego.

Making this possible is on you, the owner

So let’s say you’re on board with the whole “I welcome my staff to disagree with me as long as they’re will to discuss it” thing. It isn’t going to happen unless you create an environment that makes it clear that you appreciate it AND that disagreeing with you isn’t going to come with a cost. Saying it is rarely enough. You have to prove it. If it’s been a long time since you were an employee, you may wonder why you have to prove it, but trust me, you do. You might even have to create a situation where a reasonable (ie: calm) discussion gets started, even if you have to “stage” (pre-arrange) the start of the conversation. It might seem a little disingenuous to plan a discussion like this and arrange for someone to disagree with you, but it’s THAT important to show everyone that you’re willing to engage in such a discussion. You need to say and show that it’s ok to disagree with you. You will also need to find a way to communicate that it’s not OK to be a jerk when you disagree with the owner, but otherwise, it’s OK to do so.

Once the discussion is done, it’s also critical that you follow up both privately and publicly. After you’ve had time to reconsider your discussion given the input you received during the disagreement discussion, call the person into your office – and do so that it’s obvious you’ve called them in. Discuss with them what your decision is, whether you changed your mind or not. Explain to them what their comments made you reconsider and how they impacted any other work you’re dealing with. If they changed your mind, explain why. Either way, be sure that they know that the risk they took in front of everyone was zero risk and had a return on investment: You recognize that they have the best interests of the company at heart (commitment) when they publicly disagreed with you and that you appreciate it.

Hiring for commitment over ego means hiring someone who is willing to take a stand because they feel it’s best for the company.

Hiring Millennials

Are you hiring Millennials? How’s that going? Some people love them, some do little more than complain about them and their penchant for selfies. The oft-parroted “party line” is that Millennials are entitled slackers with no work ethic who don’t take initiative, aren’t responsible, etc. Meanwhile, many employers say “We can’t find qualified people who want to work.”

If that’s the case, they’ve either eliminated Millennials by default, or they aren’t looking very hard – or both.

Slacking isn’t age specific

These behaviors are not generation specific. EVERY generation has people who fit one or more of those patterns. You probably know a few. Are they all 18-34? I doubt it.

If people aren’t worthy of your job, that’s at least partly on them – no matter what generation they’re in. If you hire them anyway and aren’t doing so in hopes that they grow into the job or as part of a training effort, then their inability or lack of desire to do the job is on you – and specifically, on your company’s hiring process.

Most hiring processes spend the majority of their effort determining if someone is qualified. Once candidates are considered qualified, gut feel hiring often takes over the selection process.

A critical aspect of the hiring process is filtering out the people who won’t fit in culturally. This isn’t about you being elitist. It’s about making sure the candidate fits your company and that your company also fits the candidate. The culture at Duck Commander is different than the culture at VaynerMedia, Flathead Beacon or Goldman Sachs – and that’s OK. What’s not OK is hiring someone who is a terrible cultural fit. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad candidate, it simply means they’re not the right one for YOUR company.

One of the benefits of exposing your company’s culture to candidates is helping them remove themselves as a candidate. You want to send clear, legal signals that help people figure out if they’re a good fit. Hiring a perfectly qualified person who feels like Quasimodo when they’re at work is a waste of your time and theirs. Both of you will likely have to start over and that’s not a good thing for you or the candidate.

Culture is a big part of attracting and hiring the right people to grow your company. Millennials aren’t the only ones who care about these things.

Your hiring process reflects your culture

Remember, it isn’t the generation, it’s the person and your hiring process. Make sure yours does a great job of selecting not only the right skill set, but the right candidate for the job, your team and your company. Your process should do a great job of showing the candidate what your company is all about – and what you’re not about.

This week I heard about a company that had to fire an employee because they didn’t show up for work. They didn’t show up because they were a registered sex offender who got caught and arrested again. If the company ran a pre-hire background check, would they have declined to hire a registered sex offender?

Would you?

Would it depend on who your clients are, or whether or not the person would have direct contact with clients? Certainly. What about their contact with other employees and their families? What about the desire to rehabilitate someone who has “paid their debt to society”?

Your next applicant is a parent with small children. They’ve got the potential to be drive 10X growth of your company. How would you explain the situation to them? What if they’re a non-violent ex-convict?

Not hiring Millennials? What might you be missing?

If you eliminate Millennials from your hiring process, what might you be missing? In the group of people from 18 to 34, do you believe there are hard working, smart, ethical, motivated people who have the potential to transform your company?

If so, will you ignore that possibility due to someone’s perception that all Millennials are selfie-addicted slackers who don’t have any goals?

If so, where will your company be in 15-20 years if you’ve decided not to hire, groom and train 18-34 year olds over the next 10 years? In trouble, I’d say.

What does not hiring Millennials say to Millennials who might buy from you? Remember, Millennials currently make 21% of U.S. consumer purchases.

Hire incredibly well, regardless of age.

Hiring entry level people & (gasp) Millennials

I know a number of 20-somethings who are looking for (mostly) entry-level jobs. They’re in the age group often called “Millennials”, which some like to categorize as a generation of slackers with no work ethic and no motivation. “They need frequent naps.“, says The Atlantic, while quoting a study that included people as old as 37. My first 40-something manager at EDS took a 20 minute nap at his desk every day – in 1983.

The same types of comments were once made about Gen X, whose work drives a sizable portion of U.S. economic production these days.

If you’re basing your opinion of the potential of a prospective hire based on a broad brush that The Atlantic or People Magazine uses to describe their generation, I won’t be surprised if one or more of your competitors hires carefully selected millennials and uses them to kick your tail in the marketplace.

I don’t mean to say that people north of 30, 40 or (eek!) 50 (that’s me!) are not productively contributing to the economic growth in the U.S. I’m simply making note that they aren’t alone.

We don’t hire entry-level people

One of the comments I heard most often from these job seekers (about a dozen of them) is that “no one” is willing to hire entry-level people. The interesting thing is that none of these folks have zero experience. Most of them are looking for work in the restaurant (not fast-food) business, at least for now. Some of them have management experience – and no, I don’t mean they were an “assistant manager”, today’s euphemism for “an overtime-exempt barely supervisory level person who works 70 to 100 hours a week yet gets paid for 40”.

I recently met some of these so-called Millennials at a brewery in Missoula because I wanted to hear about their experiences.

Here’s a short list:

  • People post jobs on Craigslist and never hire anyone. Old news.
  • People post jobs on Craigslist indicating they are “hiring now”. They interview for the openings, but during the interview, make it clear that they still aren’t sure if they are going to hire anyone – even weeks after they posted the job.
  • Interviewees are told they can’t be hired because the hiring manager doesn’t believe they can learn something new – even if that “something new” is something most adults could do coherently with fewer than 10 minutes of instruction.

One of the “unlearnable” skills was refilling the items on a salad bar. The allegedly “can’t do salad bar” person had several years of restaurant experience serving and doing prep work, but hadn’t worked in a place with a salad bar. Thus, the hiring manager stated they were unqualified and unable to learn that “skill”. End of discussion, with no opportunity to prove otherwise.

Strategies for entry level people & those who hire them

After hearing the job seeker’s laments, I gave them a few strategies for dealing with the situation, including making the employer an offer like this one:

I understand that you’re worried that I can’t do the job, so I’ll work the rest of the day for nothing, starting right now. If I don’t prove my worth, I’ll walk away and you owe me nothing. If I prove I can do it, you’ll hire me on the spot and include pay for today’s work in my first paycheck. Does that sound fair?

Employers: In my experience, testing works, but only if real work is used for the test.

In the last 15 years, all but two of the people I’ve hired lived in a different state. Only three were not tested in advance. Anyone tested was paid for their test work whether they were hired or not (easier to stay legal – and you can do this without a big hassle). Test them once or as much as it takes until you know what they’re made of. Don’t waste time and money giving them made up test work. Give them real work with a minimum of instruction as necessary. Make them show their stuff – especially their resourcefulness and willingness to figure it out.

If you view Millennials as slackers with no work ethic or motivation, and are unwilling to test to identify good people of all ages, it will be difficult competing with hiring managers willing to make this effort.

The most important little thing we do

When you’re on the road, little things matter. In fact, they matter all the time. Every. Single. Day.

That extra comment or tip from the lady at check-in. The friendly suggestion from the dude who drives the shuttle. A restaurant recommendation from the parking/cab attendant that turns out to be amazing and a good bargain all in one.

When delivered consistently, they can grow well beyond the sum of each act.

Think about the little things your people do and how your business handles them.

They matter, but they’re almost impossible to put into place with a training program. More often than not, you get them when you hire.

Hire well. It’s the most important little thing you do.

At the hiring time #sponsored

Help wanted sign
Creative Commons License photo credit: andjohan

Note: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. See full disclosure at the bottom of this post.

Doctor Obvious says “Hiring the right people is crucial for any small business.

While Dr. O has a point, what the good doctor won’t tell you is what’s most important about finding the right people.

What’s more important to you when hiring? Experience? Cultural fit? Attitude?

Experience matters

Production experience matters, no matter what “production” means to your business. No one would argue the value of hiring someone who “hits the ground running” (i.e.,: creates value from the day they arrive).

Assuming you do a good job of evaluating experience, you gain from the training and work that person’s done in the past. You may also gain from things important to the both of you that they didn’t have the opportunity to demonstrate at previous employers.

Experience isn’t always required. Many businesses hire for entry-level positions, but there’s still some experience that you can seek. For example, interests and hobbies that relate to the work can help entry-level staffers become productive quickly.

But…is experience the most important factor?

What about cultural fit?

How new staff members fit your business culture-wise isn’t more or less important than the experience they offer – it’s equally important.

If a new employee doesn’t fit your company’s culture, their experience won’t matter. The clashes will prove that. With the speed and quality expectations of today’s business, the ability to collaborate is more important than ever. Even for programmers who often find themselves working alone far from the main office – the ability to collaborate is essential.

One of the things that always impresses me about a candidate is when they understand that they’re here to make stuff happen, no matter what the job. This isn’t so much a cultural fit with the staff as it is with the company’s goals. In a small business, it’s a must-have mindset.

My “initiative test” with the paper ball is one way to check a candidate’s initiative and attention to detail. When someone comes into my office for an interview, I leave the small wad of paper on the floor between the door and the candidate’s chair – making sure there’s a trashcan within reach.

I want to know when “management” isn’t around that they will address something when they see it. Initiative matters. When I look for someone, I don’t want to hear “it isn’t my job”, I want to see that they’re going to either take it on, put it on the list of things to deal with or delegate it properly to the right person.

Culture extends beyond collaboration and initiative

Culture is also how your business works.

Think about a few critical path situations from your past and work them into your interview process.

You’re looking for situations that:

  • Save (or lose) a new customer
  • Save (or lose) a long term customer
  • Expose a known and not-yet-addressed weakness in your business
  • Show off your staff’s “amazingness”
  • Show weaknesses of the past, sometimes ugly ones

While a full-on role play with the candidate may not be necessary, discussing the situation will show the candidate’s:

  • Ability to think on their feet
  • Experience with the situations in question
  • Values re: customers
  • Aplomb during a challenging situation

Even if the position you’re hiring for isn’t primarily about customer service/support/interaction, these scenarios will help you evaluate cultural fit. Does their response echo what your staff would/should do? Is it even better? Will they serve as not only a good staff member, but also as a good example?

When things don’t go well with a customer, this doesn’t mean the customer is a pain or is not a “good customer”. They may be a challenge because they push your skill/service boundaries, or they’re just difficult to work with in some form (what’s their baggage?). A staffer who handles these situations well has great value.

Your candidate’s responses will shine a light on the best of both worlds – how they’ll fit your culture and your clients while leveraging their experience.

DISCLOSURE: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business.

The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently.

Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.

Visa Business_August Infographic_081413

The Bulletproof Superhero

When it was just you and you were a bulletproof superhero, you could remember it all.

You could look at code you wrote six months earlier and you knew exactly what it did and why you wrote it that way.

A bit of time has passed since then. Youâ??ve hired new people. Because you didnâ??t write good technical documentation back then (or didnâ??t keep it up to date), there are many mysteries about your business buried deep inside the heads of your most senior, most expensive staff.

And now, they’re being interrupted repeatedly with every new hire because the new person needs the knowledge stored in the heads of the â??old onesâ? in order to do their job and learn your business.

You want a new programmer to hit the ground running. To become as productive as possible as quickly as possible.

Think back to the last new person you hired. Remember that ramp-up period?

Now imagine hiring three or five at once. Just try to get something productive done while they are getting up to speed. You (and whoever is managing them) probably have other tasks to do, perhaps very high ROI tasks. Without strong technical, application/market and process documentation, those tasks are going to get incessantly interrupted with things that should have been documented.

Sure, you’ll get brilliant questions that you might not have foreseen. The other 912 questions likely could be answered in your internal wiki or other documentation. Or you could enjoy their visits to your office, their emails, IMs, texts and phone calls, while pondering the time they’re wasting by getting you them both out of the zone every time they have questions.

Your choice.

PS: Just because you aren’t a programmer or don’t have programmers doesn’t mean you’re immune to this.

Be employable

Yes, that’s a baby with a bong.

I’ll get to that shortly.

I spend 99.9% of my time here writing things aimed at employers/business owners, but today this one is for the employees and those who would like to be employed.

Lately, I’ve noticed a few things that make it not all that surprising that some folks aren’t having much luck getting work, so I have a few suggestions…

Be in Wikipedia for a good reason

The viral news piece of the last couple weeks has been the story about the Jet Blue flight attendant who, after getting clanged on the head by an overhead luggage compartment door (thanks to a particularly snarky customer), unleashed a flurry of profanities, popped the emergency slide, grabbed two beers and slid down the slide.

Yes, many of us have been sorely tempted to do something more than a little nutty when a member of the public acts like an idiot…but most of us find a way to suppress that impulse. Slater didn’t.

If you’re going to end up in Wikipedia, try to make it for a good reason.

To their credit, Jet Blue’s public response to this has been subdued and as close to ideal as you could expect for a “PR crisis” (or opportunity) like this, but ask yourself this:

While you might relate to Slater’s frustration and find his actions funny, you have to wonder if any other airline would hire a guy who did what he did.

For that matter, would *any* other business – of any kind – take a chance on him?

I wouldn’t. I can see the guy being frustrated at the annoying passenger and upset about getting clocked on the head, but popping the evacuation slide? He may have hundreds of thousands of fans on Facebook, but how many of them will offer him a job?

And speaking of Facebook…

Don’t hang your keester out in the breeze on Facebook

Microsoft’s Data Privacy Day discussions made note of research finding that 79% of US hiring managers rejected candidates based on what they found online.

So….YES, those comments about employers that you make on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace might come back and bite you in the butt.

So might your discussions about how hammered you were at work yesterday (even though you’re sure no one noticed).

And so might those Facebook-visible photos you posted of your baby holding drug paraphernalia. Permanent link (pdf)

Don’t inhale

More and more employers perform drug tests and/or have illegal drug termination policies. When you take a look at the DUI-involved accident numbers in industries like trucking, you’ll see why.

This also goes back to the Facebook issue. If you are doing these things, broadcasting them in public seems like a bad idea. It reflects on you, but also your employer, your kids, your parents and a number of others. Is that really what you want to accomplish by posting that stuff?

Besides, you might run for office someday.

Button your shirt

I was sitting in a restaurant in Columbia Falls last weekend, having a conference with one of my about-to-be Eagle Scouts.

A guy walks in to apply for a job.

His shirt is unbuttoned. Let me correct that – the shirt has no buttons.

Thanks to the prevailing airflow in the building, I can smell him across the room (about 10-15 ft.)

If he was applying to be an extra in a rap video, maybe (smell notwithstanding) you’d sign him up.

The waitress hands him an application, he sits down.

Shortly, the owner appears. He asks why he comes into his restaurant applying for a job with his shirt like that. “The buttons popped off on the way here.”

“All of them?”, the owner asks.

The topic of smell comes up. Excuses are made. “Didn’t you know you were coming to apply for this job when you left the house?’, says the owner.

It went downhill from there, with the owner providing some quiet advice to the man about thinking through the process before dropping in to apply for the job. Hopefully he takes it to heart.

Look at it from the other side of the table

Employers are under a lot of pressure from a lot of different places. Finances, insurance, legal, employment paperwork, Feds, State, etc.

They don’t need more baggage.

Make it a no-brainer to hire you. Don’t do this kind of stuff.

Measurement, competition and the right person for the job

Everyone just loves performance evaluations.

Employees tend to dread them because they’re often a useless exercise of “well, you’re doing ok, here’s your 2% raise, see you in 6 months or a year or whatever”.

Sometimes you’ll hear that you need to improve something, but more often than not you’ll hear nothing specific that you can really bear down on. Back to the treadmill you go, cubicle boy.

While there are exceptions in high-quality (and sometimes, high-pressure) organizations, salespeople with easy-to-measure performance metrics (deals, revenue, etc) often get little in the way of feedback other than a Zig Ziglar book tossed in their direction.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing and it’ll likely help – but it isn’t detailed, high-quality feedback that helps you improve your performance. Quotas aren’t feedback and neither is a serving of Zig, no matter how tasty a morsel of brain food it might be.

Self-employed folks like me get evaluations in a slightly different way: in the form of testimonials or by not having our calls returned, or by something somewhere in between. Not unlike an employee performance review – you almost always know why and to expect what you got.

Don’t be the majority

The majority of folks just don’t get a lot of guidance on what they need to do and specifically how to get there.

Some companies are better at this than others, but most just don’t seem to focus on it. Big mistake, because without specifics, you don’t know much.

You don’t know for sure who the best is, unless you consult your “Seat of the pants” meter – and we all know how accurate that is.

You might think you know because Joe talks about what he does more than Mary or Jerry, but it might turn out that Stefan (who you never see) is really the one putting out the programming that has the fewest bugs, the pottery that has lowest return rate, the timber framing that requires the least amount of shim, the websites that produce the best sales, the brochures that generate the most calls, or whatever.

All of these things are measurable.

If your business isn’t one of the ones I mentioned, there’s something that your employees do that can be measured – and thus, managed (yes, a Druckerism).

You already know what to measure. But you might not be doing it, and you likely aren’t doing it by employee, much less breaking it down by time of day, days since the last day off, days since first leaving for a sick day and so on.

Real world

Let’s make it a little bit harder by making the job a little bit harder to measure.

Imagine that you’re trying to do this measurement at an architecture firm. There’s a lot of highly-subjective work going on there. Seems like it would be hard to measure.

Who makes the best designs? And what does “best” really mean?

Sells the best? Uses the least amount of resources? Burns the least energy when compared to similarly purposed structures?

You have to decide what “best” is because until you do, best is a gut feel.

That’s a terrible way to assess performance, particularly of complex tasks like architecture, engineering and programming, but it isn’t any more attractive for less-complex roles.

Knowing your staff. REALLY knowing them

Without performance measurement of this nature, you might not have an idea who is more productive with high quality work when single family homes vs. commercial structures.

You might not know who does crappy work when they take 1 sick day and hits their normal quality level when they take 2 days. If they happen to perform critical path, possibly life-threatening work on that second day, wouldn’t you want to know?

The really cool thing is that it can completely alter your company’s future by vastly improving the one thing that lots of folks mess up, or at least, don’t do a very good job of.

Hiring.

Every manager has a bad hire story, maybe two.

Trouble is, that’s the part of the iceberg that’s above the water. Avoiding that hire or giving HR and management more tools to make a better hire are what you really need.

Measurement to the rescue.

Aych Arr

Using this same measurement data, your hiring can change – if you want it to.

For example, instead of hiring someone who knows how to competently design 437 different structures (in generic terms, a civil or mechanical engineer), you may just need to find the master of all composite wood beam designs because that’s the weak spot on your team.

You know this because… your measurement data says so.

Even if your composite wood beam expert just retired, you can still look at your measurement data to see which parts of their job should be given to existing staff and what specialties across the entire staff are your company’s weakness.

Either way, you hire for strength in the skills your data indicate – remember, the data illustrates what your existing staff do best.

IT managers and software execs: Imagine if your favorite programming environment could do this. What could you get from a tool that measured development at this level of granularity?

What if you knew who performs task A faster than everyone else, but stinks at performing task B, but you never really figure this out because each person does their own project from beginning to end.

Get to the point, will ya?

You have all this data. As a result, you have better people who are creating better work. If you bid jobs, your performance data will help you produce better bids (we talked about that last week).

And why exactly aren’t you measuring performance?