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Finding and keeping top-notch employees

Features, Management | December 1, 2011 | By:

Author and people-skills expert Arnold Sanow answers questions about hiring—and keeping—top-notch employees.

The unemployment rate in the United States has hovered in the range of 9-10 percent for more than two years, and many experts estimate that the true rate is even higher due to long-term unemployed people dropping out of the job market in frustration. Yet, a good employee is hard to find—and keep. Why the dilemma? At IFAI Tent Conference 2012, speaker and author Arnold Sanow will cover common mistakes made in the interview process, traits to look for in applicants specific to the tent rental industry and how to keep great employees motivated and loyal. Here, Sanow answers a few questions about why hiring the right people is so important to a company’s profitability.

Given the high unemployment rate over the last several years, why is it still challenging to hire and keep good employees?

The fact is anyone can get a “body” to fill a position. The problem is getting the right person who has a combination of good technical and people skills. Hiring the wrong person can create numerous problems, from poor performance to havoc in the workplace. The reality is that it is difficult to hire the right people. Last-minute orders, high stress, rushed work environments and the physical nature of the work—along with the long hours—make us more reactive in hiring than proactive.

What is an industry profile, and how is it used in the hiring process?

Industry profiles are thoroughly researched and in-depth documents that provide insight about a specific industry in regard to how it started, where it has been and where it is going. A profile includes the attributes and characteristics necessary for a business to be in a specific industry. Included in industry profiles are current technology, trends, industry products and profiles of the companies and people who make up the industry. The most important part of an industry profile is the numbers and data that provide projections and an outlook to the industry’s future.

An industry profile provides an owner or manager with the key attributes and guidelines for hiring. For example, if the outlook in the profile states that tent rental will become more computerized, knowledge of computers would be one factor to look for when hiring staff. Or if projections show a growth in a particular market segment, the owner or manager needs to look for people who fit that profile.

Is the profile only valuable when hiring a new employee? How can it be applied to current employees?

The profile should be reviewed when hiring any employee and serve as a basis for all hiring decisions. Regarding current employees, the profile will provide up-to-date information of what you need to do to keep all employees current and ready to adapt to changing situations. In other words, what training, expertise, personality traits, physical requirements, education, competence and technical skills are required now and in the future?

Why do companies keep less-than-stellar employees—ones who don’t fit the profile?

What is the true cost of doing this? I would rather have fewer employees than a few bad apples that spoil the whole bunch. The problem is we hire people because we need to fill orders; however, having the wrong people can destroy everything from morale and quality to customer satisfaction and loyalty. Bill Sullivan of Agilent Technologies Inc. says, “Fifty percent of all our obstacles to success center around team dynamics. Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In other words, if some people are not getting along, it will affect work efficiency and effectiveness. Barbara Smith of ROI Communication says that there is no room for bullies, those with bad attitudes, poor communication skills, rudeness or disrespect. “Even if I have someone with top talent, and they don’t work collaboratively, I don’t want them,” she says. “I would rather have a solid B team player than an A+ distraction.” The bottom line is bad word of mouth travels fast, and it can put a big dent in your bottom line.

Once the right employee has been hired, what kinds of things does an owner or manager need to do to retain him or her? Is it all about money?

If you still think money is the number one motivator, you’re wrong! Money is important; however, if someone does not like her job or the way she is treated, I don’t care how much you pay, the employee still won’t like it. The person may still work for you because you are paying him or her; however, there will be no motivation to perform at top levels. To retain employees, it’s good to look at studies of what motivates employees. Based on a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study, the number one motivating factor that gets employees to perform at their best and stay with companies is appreciation and recognition. This can be a simple thank you or pat on the back for doing something well. The best way to provide recognition and appreciation is through the use of rewards. To make rewards work, follow basic guidelines:

  • Design rewards based on the individual’s personal preferences. For example, the reward of a day off to a workaholic could be seen by the employee as, “What did I do wrong?”
  • Reward for achievement. Rewards should be based on what is actually done. For example, if someone has given you an idea that saved time and money, there should be some reward for the amount of time or money that she or he saved.
  • Time your rewards. Rewards and recognition should be given as soon as possible after the desired behavior. Rewards and recognition that come long after the achievement do little to motivate an employee.

The ideal way to motivate employees to stay and to be top performers is to ask them what motivates them. It’s nice to look at surveys; however, everyone is different. Surveys are good in that they provide guidelines of what is important. One of the best questions you can ask employees is, “What do I need to do to keep you here?” By asking the question this way, it shows that you value and care about them.

Arnold Sanow, MBA, CSP, is a customer and workplace relationship expert who speaks and consults. The author of six books including “Get Along with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere,” Sanow is the keynote speaker at IFAI Tent Conference 2012.

Arnold Sanow’s IFAI Tent Conference 2012 session, “Attracting and Keeping Good Employees,” will cover in-depth answers to the questions here and include tips, tools and solutions such as:

  • 14 surefire ways to motivate employees
  • 4 mistakes interviewers make in the hiring process
  • Top 10 motivating factors
  • 17 key personality traits to keep in mind when hiring good employees
  • 5 key traits all good leaders must have to keep loyal employees

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