Today productivity is no longer defined as simply doing what has been assigned. Most businesses are far too complex for managers or owners to think that they can just give orders or possibly know everything that needs to be done to satisfy a customer. Virtually all employees need to be thinking and making decisions in their special area of contribution. What’s more, people are now arriving at work expecting to be allowed to think, to get paid to think and to have their thinking considered action.
What do we do with this new reality? Here are five tips to hire thinking people and get the most from them:
Sell your company’s best attributes
Salaries and benefits are no longer the attraction they once were. They still matter, but now employees have other considerations of equal importance. Telecommuting, flex hours, and green working space are new perks, but most importantly people seek opportunities to do personally rewarding work and develop special talents—these are important attributes for new hires. How can you position your place of employment so that talented people end their job search when you make them an offer?
You must be able to define your company’s unique value proposition for potential new employees. Here are some questions you must anticipate and answer even if they are not asked:
- Why is your company a great place to work? Who excels, and who thrives in your environment?
- Why have people stayed, where did they begin with you, and where are they now?
- What have they learned and accomplished while part of your organization?
- How is their life, not their wallet, richer for having made the choice to work in your company?
- If I accept your offer, why will I want to stay?
- Who personally will care if I stay?
- Who will keep track of my satisfaction and development?
Think not only in terms of economic rewards, but also in terms of an invitation that you are extending to someone to spend significant time--their most precious and non-renewable resource--with you. How will working with you contribute to their vision? You can’t answer that for anyone but you sure can ask and then be prepared to listen. This question alone will set you apart from other possible employment opportunities
Treat employees as investments, rather than expenses
Investments are choices you make. You work to make them more valuable. The future value of any knowledge business can essentially be measured by the talent on board at any point in time. What you have done is not nearly as important as what you will be able to do next.
Employ people who are smarter and better than you at particular parts of the business
We live in a free agent economy and people go where they’re free to make the largest contribution. If you are the most talented person around, you have defined the limit of your business.
The workforce today is shrinking. Talent is in increasingly short supply. At the same time, the workforce less educated than in the past. You have fewer great candidates to fill your openings. This means you can afford fewer mistakes with your hiring choices and less turnover.
Do you already have employees you would hate to lose? Determine their talents and strengths, as a group and as individuals, and seek these in new employees. Ask employees for referrals and ideas about where to find others like themselves. If you have significant numbers of people doing similar work consider using a selection system, pre-employment profiling etc. There are many good ones available today.
Additionally, do not think that just because someone can perform a task that they will want to perform that task once in your employ. Ability and desire are not the same thing. Once people are employed you should begin immediately working to make them successful. This means determining accountability for new employee success and retention. I recommend this as the primary responsibility of immediate managers. Review your managers and determine whether they have the skills and interest for this responsibility. If they have interest but not skills take steps to provide these skills, look for outside counsel here. If your current managers are not interested in this responsibility ask them to step aside and make room for someone who is. This may sound rash or harsh but you simply cannot afford managers who do not understand that your employees are investments not resources.
Relinquish control to creativity
This is not your parents’ workforce! If you are 40+, it may not even be the workforce you entered. Today’s talented workers are not afraid of uncertainty. They fear not having the opportunity to express themselves. Your place of business will either fit their plan or they will not be around. Longevity is less compelling to them than creativity. Are you willing to let them make your business better and then share in the returns received?
Whether you are a hiring manager or the future employee’s co-worker, we all have a role in attracting and retaining talent. We have a lot to learn about job seekers, about the “new guy” who just started, about a valued co-worker who wants more freedom of expression, and about ourselves.
Mike Cook is founding partner of Vitalwork, Inc. (www.vitalwork.com), an organizational development firm