Getting the right employees for your facility

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng/ Mike Johnson.

When you hire new employees, it can be easy to feel rushed. You’ve got a job to do, and you need someone to start now, or better yet last week. It’s tempting to throw up an ad and hire the first seemingly competent person who walks in the door. That’s the first don’t of hiring new employees. Don’t let yourself be rushed into hiring as quickly as possible. Rash hiring decisions can be made in an instant, but they’ll cost you time and money in the long run.

You know the costs because you’re already dealing with them. It’s the problem employees – the ones who don’t follow directions, who act recklessly, who can’t complete a task without constant supervision – that take all your time. So take the time to make sure you’re hiring good, responsible workers. Follow these simple do’s and don’ts of hiring and you’ll prevent many future problem employees from ever being hired in the first place.

Develop a process

When you need a new worker, it’s natural to think you don’t have time to develop a process so you fall back on old hiring habits. Don’t. If you need workers immediately but you don’t have a good process in place, use a labor agency. If you’ve got more time to find people, use the opportunity to develop a good hiring process. Once you have a process in place, you’ll be able to use it whenever you need to hire new workers. The following steps are an excellent way to put a process in place.

Job postings: attracting the right crowd

Before you start posting ads, think about the kind of candidates you want to attract. The more places you post an ad, the more people will see it and respond. But if you’re attracting the wrong type of candidates – people who don’t have the qualifications you need – you’ll just make your own job more difficult.

If you’re looking for workers with special expertise or training, like a good skid steer operator, post the ad in places where the right candidates are likely to see it. Consider industry-specific job boards or publications. Local technical colleges often have job postings and may be a good fit.

The Effects of a Bad Hire

According to the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics, the average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal as much as 30 percent of the individual’s first-year potential earnings. What’s worse, of the 66 percent of employers who reported making a bad hiring decision, 37 percent said the bad hire negatively affected employee morale, reducing productivity. Make the right decision the first time around to avoid the potential pitfalls of making a bad hire.

What defines a bad hire? The National Business Research Institute surveyed employers who admitted to making bad hiring decisions and they sited these characteristics:

  • 67% – Quality of work was lackluster
  • 60% – Failure to work well with other employees
  • 59% – Negative attitude
  • 54% – Attendance problem

To ensure you make the right decision in the hiring process, consider the following reasons companies have given for making a bad hire:

  • 43% – Needed to fill the job quickly
  • 22% – Candidate was unqualified for the position
  • 13% – Didn’t use proper sourcing techniques
  • 10% – The recession eliminated job recruiter positions, making it harder to go through resumes
  • 9% – Didn’t check references

What’s in an ad?

Once you decide where to advertise, you need to make sure you have a good ad. The best ads aren’t designed to attract the most people; they’re designed to attract the most qualified people. In addition to posting in locations qualified people will look, make sure you write the ad in a manner that tells qualified people that you are looking for them.

Write a clear and friendly job description

In the job description, explain what the job entails as clearly and concisely as possible. It doesn’t have to detail every responsibility, but it should offer enough information for candidates to be able to assess whether or not it’s a good fit for them. It should also set a deadline and be clear about what materials candidates should submit. If you want high-quality candidates to apply, don’t make the job sound like a terrible job. If there are things about your organization that are awesome, make sure you mention that in the posting.

Skills and education

The job description should also cover what skills and education applicants should have. First you should list the minimum skills and education necessary to succeed in the position. Are there any specialized skills you expect all candidates to have? Are there certifications or licenses required to do the job? Include these in the ad to filter out underqualified applicants. If no education is required, avoid writing “no minimum education,” as you may attract a large pool of uneducated applicants.

When licensing is required, be specific about precisely which licenses candidates should have. If you’re willing to hire a good candidate who isn’t yet licensed, you can say that successful applicants are required to obtain certification within a set time period after hiring.

You should also have a section of desired skills, expertise that an ideal candidate would have, even if they’re not absolutely necessary to do the job. It will help more qualified candidates understand that the job offers opportunity for growth. Be thoughtful about focusing on skills that are relevant to the job you’re hiring for.

Compensation

Many companies are intentionally vague about compensation, stating “depends on qualifications/experience.” However, candidates are obviously interested in how much they can expect to earn if hired. Offering a range of potential wages is a good way to provide candidates with more information on the position, but avoid giving too wide a wage range, since candidates are inclined to assume they’ll receive near the top of the scale, regardless of how qualified they are. List other benefits you offer as well, such as health care, paid vacation and flex time.

Interviewing candidates

Once you’ve selected a pool of potential hires, it’s time to interview. A good way to shorten the process is to start with brief phone interviews. You’ll be able to get a good sense of potential hires’ communication skills in just 10 or 15 minutes on the phone. This will help you weed out candidates that look like good options on paper, but won’t be able to communicate well enough to succeed in the job.

After you narrow the group of candidates down, arrange to have them come in for interviews. Make sure you have a well thought out process for interviewing candidates. You want to end the interviews with enough information to fully assess the candidates. You also need to ensure that the process is uniform for all applicants, so you can fairly assess their strengths and weaknesses relative to each other.

If you’re developing a new process, work with a human resources consultant or employment attorney to come up with questions that give you a good picture of the candidates. If other questions come up during the interview, that’s fine, but you want to have a set of questions to start off with every candidate.

Set a time limit for each interview and let the candidate know what it is. This will also give you a chance to see how well they manage their time when they’re answering questions.

What questions should I ask?

Think about what qualities are important for the job, such as attention to detail or good people skills.

Many organizations in the green industry are specifically looking for safety-conscious employees. If you’re hiring for a job where safety is important, there are certain qualities you should look for.

Teachability – It’s important for employees to be interested in learning new skills and procedures. Employees who are set in their ways won’t be willing to learn about the safest way to do things.

Job ownership – Employees that take ownership of and responsibility for their jobs are going to be more aware of safety concerns and more likely to follow up on any concerns they have.

Challenging attitude – Workers who are willing to challenge you are much more likely to bring safety issues to your attention.

Teamwork – If a worker is a good team player, it’s going to help build a safe work environment for all employees.

Communication – Employees who are clear communicators are going to be better at raising and explaining safety concerns to others.

Getting the right answers

Don’t ask leading questions. The questions you ask should be clear, but open ended. Job candidates want to please you by giving the right answer to questions, so avoid questions where the right answer is obvious. Instead of asking, “Would you be able to travel 40 percent of your time?” Ask, “How much would you be willing to travel for this position?” Often candidates will have difficulty answering open-ended questions like this, but you should push for a clear answer by rephrasing the question.

Simulation

Interviews are helpful for getting to know a candidate, but they rarely require the same skills as the job the applicant is interviewing for. Since the most important thing is how well a candidate would perform, consider a simulation. Even asking candidates to perform simple tasks like changing a spark plug can be helpful for assessing their skill level. Just be sure the task won’t result in injury during the interview. Another option is to give the candidate a description of a situation or task and ask them to write down exactly what they would do. If you have several well-qualified applicants, a second interview may be helpful for making the final decision. Just be judicious about when a second interview is truly called for.

References

Always check references for applicants. Even if candidates seem perfect in the interview, you should still do your due diligence by consulting their references. Of course candidates will give you a list of people that like them, but by asking open-ended questions you can still get a good sense of their strengths and weaknesses.

If you know any of the candidate’s previous employers, give them a call to find out more about their performance on the job.

Provide an offer letter

Once you decide to hire an applicant you should make them an offer in writing. Start with a phone call, and if they accept the position, send them an offer letter to confirm the terms. Make it explicitly clear in the offer letter that you are not offering an employment contract, and the employment will be “at will.” In some circumstances a contract may be a good idea, but you should offer “at will” employment by default.

Don’ts

Don’t hire someone because you’d like to have a beer with them.

It’s easy to choose the candidate you get along with best. Studies have shown that employers are inclined to choose employees who are similar to them even if they aren’t the best-qualified applicants.

Know what else studies show? Diverse groups, made up of people with different life experiences, skills and personalities, are more productive than homogeneous groups. Diverse teams are better at creative problem solving and better at handling conflicts.

So when hiring a new employee, don’t just look for someone you’re comfortable with. Look for someone with skills and experience that will complement the team they’ll be working with.

Don’t wait for the ideal candidate to walk in the door.

Hiring managers often assume that the right candidate will stand out from the crowd, only to be disappointed and unprepared when they don’t have that epiphany moment. If you have a well thought out hiring process, with objective criteria for evaluating candidates, you won’t be caught off guard if you don’t find your dream applicant.

Don’t let any applicants skip the hiring process.

When you need to hire, it may seem easy to just hire friends of current employees or friends of friends, but you should never skip the hiring process. And you should always seek out a broad pool of applicants. If an employee recommends someone who turns out to be the best candidate, great! But don’t simply trust the recommendation. Your employee probably values their friendship more than your bottom line. Even if they genuinely believe their friend would be a great hire, they might not understand what qualities you’re looking for in a candidate. Plan ahead and put a process in place that will ensure you have motivated and trained employees who will increase your organization’s productivity. Taking these simple steps will greatly reduce the amount of time you spend in the future dealing with problem employees.

Patrick McGuiness is a partner at Zlimen & McGuiness, PLLC. His law practice focuses on assisting green industry businesses and organizations with a wide range of legal issues. He can be reached at pmcguiness@zmattorneys.com. If you would like more information regarding employment law or other legal matters, please contact Zlimen & McGuiness, PLLC at 651-206-3203 or http://www.zmattorneys.com.