In my last post, I provided a process-based approach one can take to set the conditions required to ensure your business environment includes processes which facilitate desired employee behaviors. So, how can you recruit and select employees who will fit your organizational needs? I’m going to go back to processes.
First, if you didn’t recognize the need to map out a recruiting and selection process when you read the previous article, here is a good time to do it. Why is it important to have a recruiting and selection process? As you seek to start up and grow a successful business effectively, creating and delivering your products and/or services depends on your ability to develop employees who are engaged, skilled and empowered to continuously improve. So, recruiting and selecting the right employees is critical.
Each employee has specific roles and responsibilities they must fulfill. The fact is each employee’s roles and responsibilities can be defined by the business processes they participate in. Assuming you have clearly defined your business’ mission and values, mapped out your business processes and defined the “how” for each activity, you now have the “specifications” you need to engineer the perfect job description. Regardless of the recruiting channels you utilize (direct-hire, staffing agencies, local media advertising, job fairs, social media, recruiting websites, etc.), the job description is your primary recruiting tool. Writing a job description that clearly defines exactly the type of person you are looking for can be accomplished by:
The last step is where you illustrate the alignment between your business’ mission and values and how they translate down to the roles and responsibilities of the position. I believe it’s important to be very specific in that last step, avoiding the boiler-plate approach at writing the job description. After all, during the recruiting phase, you want to attract the people who will have the highest probability of meeting your expectations to apply so you can select the best candidates to interview.
Be careful about the minimum requirements you list. Only list the requirements that are critical for hire. For example, if the incumbent requires a specific license prior to being hired, it should be listed. However, if you’re willing to train the candidate with the right attitude you may not want to include it. Instead, you can review the information they provide on their resume or application to try and understand who they are and what they think. During the selection process, if you have stated all of the real minimum requirements, it will be easy to glean out the under-qualified applicants based on the education, training and experience information they provide. Just be careful that your job description doesn’t eliminate the right person based on false requirements.
My experience has been that attitude is what truly differentiates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to selecting employees who are willing to constantly engage in developing the right skills and continuously improve in a specific role. So, don’t waste time asking questions during the interview which the candidate has already answered on their resume. Instead, spend time focusing on seeking to understand their core values. This will accomplish two things:
For example, I once interviewed an applicant who sought a position on a food manufacturing line. The activities they would participate in required a detail-oriented person who could consistently ensure their hair was covered with a hair net, their uniform was free of contamination, their hands were clean and the gloves they wore were sanitized. So, I described a scenario in which a number of tasks needed to be performed prior to starting work and why they were important. The number of tasks was similar to the steps I expected an employee to take just prior to approaching the production line. When I asked them what they thought of such a scenario, they replied, “I’m here to make as many products as possible in the time I’m here. It’s all about productivity, that’s all anybody really cares about. The tasks you just described seem like a waste of time.” Their answer indicated the candidate prioritized efficiency over food safety (external safety & security), which was not in alignment with how my organization prioritized values. I decided not to hire because I did not have the confidence I needed to trust they would make decisions that drove the kind of behaviors the job required to optimize risks.
There is a tendency to take a boilerplate job description and modify key words to fit the position. Taking this approach means that you will probably attract a lot of applicants, but you may not find the person you truly want for the role. Translating the behaviors critical to being successful at the business activities associated with the position and being specific about the values you are looking for in an employee can streamline your process of selection for interviewing and hiring. The time you save in taking the boilerplate approach may reduce the time it takes to post an opening but don’t make the mistake of believing it will not cost you more later on. You will end up investing more time and effort into selection or employee development than you expected. Use your business processes as the driving force behind your recruiting and the investment has a much higher probability of paying larger dividends in the long-term.
When you start a business, it is always useful to create a board of advisors. A board of advisors is a group of business people who can help you with your company, by providing advice you may be missing from key roles or staff. Such a group may include accountants, lawyers, marketers, or other entrepreneurs in later stages of company development. Don’t confuse a board of advisors with your board of directors and investors. These folks are there because they want to see you succeed, but they typically don’t have an investment in your company.
Entrepreneur magazine states that: “When recruiting advisors, look for the holes in your business. Silicon Valley startup expert Cynthia Kocialski says to focus on the jobs not already being done by an expert on your payroll. “Advisory boards are for whatever you don’t have,” she says.
It is important to be clear with an advisor about why you’ve asked them to help. Maybe you need their advice on legal matters, but can’t afford them as a full time lawyer or general counsel. Perhaps a top salesperson, now retired, can help you establish some contacts in the industry where you’re trying to break in.
Some companies award advisors small blocks of stock, typically in the less than .5% of the total company, doled out over time as a thank you and additional incentive to continue to advise.
Many start-up CEOs need advice, but feel that they can’t ask for that help since they’re “in charge. Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley discussed the stress of being a CEO and admitted to using not only investors as advisors, but also having a CEO coach. “There’s a difference between a mentor and an advisor,” Crowley said. “An investor may be an advisor. We tell them our strategy, and they try to help us. I get emails all the time from people who want me to advise their company. But typically that person has skin in the game. On the other hand there are mentors or coaches like Jerry [Colonna, his business coach] who help me solve management or personal problems with my job. These are different discussions than the business model problems. I get different feedback from those types of people.”
In addition to having formal advisory boards, a group of women entrepreneurs I know in NYC acts as a feedback group for each other. They meet monthly for coffee, trade business challenges, hold each other accountable, and pass on contacts and generally work towards the success of the non-competitive companies in the group. Mastermind groups exist in the same vein.
Face it – there are a lot of tough challenges to starting a business. Having an additional set of intelligent minds to support your success is a smart plan.