The People Question, Part 2

May 30, 2022

This is part 2 of "The People Question." The last blog talked about when to hire and who to hire. When, being when it is strategic and necessary for growth. The Who is more about having the right people on the bus. What does that person look like, what values do we share. 

The next question is "How should you hire?" This isn't really a description of the process you go through to put an ad, where to find candidates or if you should use a head hunter. Instead it is a long term growth strategy. How do you find, recruit, train and develop staff for your next generation leadership? I believe every organization should have a path for leadership. Not necessarily a program, but more as a part of the culture of the business. Our firm has an "Intern to Advisor" path. In our long term strategy for leadership development, we hire interns who are still in college. We train them as staff accountants, admin, tax advisors, marketing and media techs, etc. Usually there are more than a few on board to become next years full time staff. We actually treat all interns as if they were full-time staff. The only concession is their schedule. They are included in all our staff meetings, monthly training courses and monthly coaching meetings. We create a continuing education plan for each staff and intern. I think businesses should be taking their team somewhere. They should be concerned with who their staff are becoming?  

The final part of the people question, is what to do if you have made a hiring error? What do you do when someone doesn’t fit. In answering this question you must first determine how you know that there has been a hiring error. For our firm, it is usually obvious when someone doesn’t fit with our culture. If during the interview, the candidate showed signs of sharing our values, but then when they came to work, became an employee, they quickly shed the interview persona and showed their true colors. This happens with everyone. The degree to which they change determines if you can work with them or not. The things I look for in an employee during the first 90 days: 

  1. Do I have to manage that individual? If I have to watch them to make sure they are working and working properly, then I have made a hiring error. 
  2. Anyone who is a gossip or tries to set team members against each other should be removed immediately. I don't even take time to correct or investigate. Our team works really well together. If a new person comes in and there is all the sudden discord, I don't have to ask question to know what to do.  
  3. Competency doesn’t match the resume received. I understand that there is a learning curve at every job, but I hire people for their ideas, strengths. If after several weeks I am still doing their job or its being done by others, then I have made a hiring error. 
  4. Grass is greener syndrome. We have hired some in the past that simply see our firm as a step to the next position. I will help them on their way more quickly than they anticipate. 
  5. Too good to take out the trash. If the team member is too good to do the menial things; they think those tasks are below them, I have made a hiring error. I once hired an executive assistant that told me that it was sexist to ask her to take out the trash or make coffee. I drove 3 hours from another office to let her go in person. I have CPA's and advisors that will do whatever is asked of them. I don't think I have asked anyone to take out the trash or make coffee (not for me but for the office), but I know if I ever do, they would not hesitate. 

So what do you do now that you have determined you made a hiring error? It really depends on the person and situation. Some people may not be in the right seat on the bus (see Jim Collins, Good to Great). If they are competent in other areas, are willing to make the change (unlike Tim Tebow) and fit in with the team, we will do whatever we can to accommodate. Or sometimes, we might be able to help them find a job with a client, friend, or opening we know about. I have no problem helping someone find a place where they can be planted and grow. Just because they don’t fit with our team doesn’t mean they are not valuable to some organization. Unfortunately, that is not the case most of the time. I recommend that you release someone quickly. Be firm, be respectful, be clear and to the point. The natural response for someone being dismissed is self preservation, defensiveness. I think that rehearsing what you are going to say and then sticking to the script is the best way to cut someone loose. You don't owe anyone an explanation beyond what their next step might be.  

In review, the people question is one of the most important decisions a business owner, manager will make. Knowing when to hire, who to hire, how to hire and what to do when a hiring error has been made can help shape your business for future growth. 

 In Summary: 

  1. Hiring should be strategic, not desperate. 
  2. The right people are your greatest asset. 
  3. Look inside your organization first. 
  4. Recognize when an error has been made and move quickly. 

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