Performance Now!

You have spent time selecting a new employee, making them an effective offer, and onboarded them properly. Now it is time to ensure that they deliver the performance that you need. That is the entire point of the exercise correct? We return to the question that I started out with. How do you know that the employee is doing what you need?

There are side discussions that can happen here associated with delegation and retention. Today, I want to focus strictly on job performance. I work with many clients to help them define the way that they will measure performance. This measurement needs to be part of the way the business works. Otherwise keeping track will not happen. If the tracking does not happen, then the measurement does not mean much. This is part of one of the major rules of performance management. The rule is to Inspect what you Expect. If you are paying attention, your employees will as well. When I worked for Racal-Datacom, we had a VP of Engineering who wanted to improve schedule performance. Every Friday morning, we reviewed the schedule updates for every project in Engineering. If your schedule was not updated properly or changes were not explained, you were chastised in front of a crowd. This ensured that we had accurate and updated project plans. Those that did not were not employed for long.

If you are having trouble measuring employee performance, you might want to think about using Virtual Assistants. I have had several clients that employed these folks to implement documentation and data tasks at a modest price. This allows you to take advantage of more data before you have had a chance to automate it. This is important as you might want to adjust processes before they are automated. It costs less money to make changes before you have invested in the process.

Another management principal is how to address performance. The answer is that feedback must be timely and specific. This is true whether the feedback is positive or negative. Don’t let things go. If you appreciate what somebody has done, tell them as soon as possible. That feedback will help people understand what you want. Otherwise, they think that you don’t care. If they do poorly, then you need to address a problem before it is repeated. By being timely and specific, you let employees know that you are watching and care.

Some people think that numbers and objective measures of performance are too cold. I think it is transparent and removes personality. We want to talk about how John and Jane are doing their job against a standard. We don’t want to consider their personality or any other personal characteristics. An employee is doing the job, or they are not doing the job. They know what their accountabilities are and that is how you are judging their employment. If all the employee’s objectives together exceed your business plan then you have a circle of excellence to build on.

Have a great day!
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Leadership Training, Sales Training, Strategic Planning

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

 

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All Onboard!

You have hired a new employee and they are starting.  This is the time to onboard them.  Depending on the company and the position, this can take an extended period.  When I worked in High Technology, we thought it took between 6 and 12 months for a new Engineer to reach their maximum productivity.  New Engineers needed to learn all the in-house lingo and processes to make them completely self-sufficient.  So bringing someone onboard is more than letting them know where the restrooms are.

 I want to talk about this topic with the three biggest issues at the start of work:  Rules, Context, and Authority.

Rules are the starting point and are best covered in an Employee Handbook.  I know most small businesses do not have them, but issues like holidays, pay periods, and time off can be easily documented.  On top of that, the employer can cover those things that will lead to termination.  One of my early clients was a General Contractor.  The first issue that we worked on was that he found that some employees were giving his customers business cards for their side business.  This type of solicitation is really bad form but needed to be a clear rule for him.  By having clear rules about this in an Employee Handbook (that each employee signs), it simplifies any disciplinary action that will be taken.  

Context is more an issue for the hiring manager.  Every company works differently.  I have worked at companies where they used the exact same phrase to describe something entirely different.  When a new employee starts, they will have issues with the language and the way things are done.  For example, when I joined AFC, I found that hardware went to pilot production multiple times before the product went into production.  The reasons for this were historical, but what it meant was that Manufacturing no longer believes Engineering when something went to Pilot Production status.  No activity to turn the product into full production was done because of that change.  This was very different than my expectation of what Pilot status meant.  It took me some time to get my head around why things were the way they were and how they needed to change to be more effective.

Finally, we have Authority.  This means the ability to make decisions.  Employees need to have two things at the start of employment.  The first is how to weight factors in making decisions.  If there is a choice between A and B, how would you want to make that decision?  Mission, Vision, and Values are great general guidelines to this.  There may be more required in specific circumstances, but this is a place where alignment between you and your employees is demonstrated.  Secondly, employees need to understand what decisions they can and can’t make.  For those decisions that are outside of their authority, their escalation path needs to be clear.  An example of this is signing authority in larger companies.  Directors might be able to sign $5,000 purchases.  Any amount above that needs to be escalated.  This is important to ensure employees know how to do their jobs effectively.  This area is the most malleable over time.  Employees that have built trust should have more leeway in making decisions.  How you deal with that falls into delegation.

Have a great day! 

Jim Sackman

Focal Point Business Coaching

Business Coaching, Leadership Training, Sales Training, Strategic Planning

 

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

 

Make Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse

Now that you have selected your preferred candidate it is time to make them an offer. The offer is an important element for the future of the employee. You need to consider it carefully.

Your offer sits somewhere at an intersection between what is normal in your industry, what your business plan allows, and what is viable locally. An offer is the point at which the business transaction between employee and employer happens. It is generally best and final. I have occasionally asked for clarifications and minor changes, but most of us are not like athletes where many employers compete at the same time for offered services.

What is normal in your business can be found out through research. For C level positions, Board of Directors is supposed to check with services that get companies of your size, industry, and location. Then the Board has justification for the pay that they are going to offer. Such services are available at other positions. Additionally, the perks and benefits of the position should be in line with other employers.

Locality is very important as part of this. Different areas of the country have different cost of living. People living in Silicon Valley need more to live than those living in Casper, Wyoming (one site I looked at pegged that change at 127%). If you are offering less than a living wage (what would be required to live alone in a 1-bedroom apartment), then you are likely looking at rapid employee turnover. Less than a living wage is often offered for entry-level jobs by young people. They are expected to live with their parents or have a roommate. But over time they will want to be on their own and the only way for them to do so is to work 2 or more jobs or find a better job.

You need to look at your business plan and how much you will make by employing this person (remember my question about how you know that they are succeeding?). Henry Ford paid more money to his workers because they made him more money through this assembly line. By understanding this answer, you will see if you can afford to pay this position what is needed locally and what is at least normal for the position. If you can, then you are likely to fill this position. If not, then you need to think seriously about why you are opening this position.

Once the person has accepted your offer, you need to onboard them. This is the topic of my next blog post.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Leadership Training, Sales Training, Strategic Planning

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Interviewing Best Practices

Now that you have decided on a small number of candidates to bring in for face-to-face interviews, we need to explore the best way to select the best of the candidates.

Much of the time I see the process of interviewing being a repetition of what has been done on the phone. That is not the best use of time in this round of interviewing. So, what do we want to accomplish here? Theoretically, you have already screened for the technical background to do the work. You can do more on this front, but we need to focus more broadly. The primary issues that meeting the person face-to-face is that you gain that extra measure of body language as part of the conversation. This allows you to judge more about them as a person and a fit in the organization.

So, how to implement this? First, it is always best to have more than one person interview the candidate if possible. Each person should have a specific focus for the time that they spend. That does not mean that they should not ask any general questions. Without providing some context to each interviewer, they may end up all covering the same ground. The idea is to get a broader view of the candidate in the time available. At the end of the day the interviewing group gets together to give feedback before time causes impressions to fade. If you are a Sole Proprietor hiring an initial employee, you may wish to have a consultant or your spouse talk to them as well.

The questions that you will ask should primarily be open ended. You want explanations and learn how the person makes decisions. It allows you to ask “Why?” One technique that is popular today is the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result). There are lots of online resources that can help you with this. But again, the idea is to allow the potential employee to give you a view into how they work. You are looking for their maturity as an employee. This will help you understand if they will fit with you. One question that I recommend is to ask how they made their last large financial decision (purchase a car or home would be examples). This provides a non-work context on decision making.

Finally, you should get references and check them. Their past employers will be highly restricted on what they can say. So, you are looking for former colleagues that can talk to you. You would be surprised by what you get from them. I just did one of these for a friend with an employer that I knew. That prospective employer got to learn what happened while the two of us worked together.

I hope that helps you understand how to use the face-to-face interview as part of your selection process.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman

Focal Point Business Coaching

Business Coaching, Leadership Training, Sales Training, Strategic Planning

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Getting from Resumes to Interviews

I have spent two blog articles helping you define what is important in a new hire. The idea of this is to provide you with a set of tools to help you filter the resume pile that you get into those that need further exploration and those that don’t. The modern world has made this worse with the trivial way to find open jobs and submit a resume. This means that employers need to be able to sort through large numbers of resumes.

Larger employers will have resumes scanned for specific keywords. Smaller employers must go through resumes the old-fashioned way. Let’s go back to our principals and start with the qualifications from the Job Description. The first sort is for those that do not meet the mandatory qualifications. Those resumes go straight to the “no” pile. If the pile needs more sorting, then you look for those resumes that meet all the preferred qualifications. At this point, you would hope to have between 5 – 12 resumes to work from. If you have fewer, then scan the mandatory pile for a few more that seem good. If you have too many, then look for those candidates that have something special you are looking for. You may have jobs that are so general or so specific that this process yields resume counts that are too large or too small. You can then think about changing your needs slightly to change the candidate pool.

Once you have 5 – 12 potential candidates, it is time to start making calls. I prefer to set firm appointments with people. It tells me if they can operate from a schedule. This also allows them to be in a proper mindset and situation for a call. My goal with the phone interview is to reduce my pile to 3 candidates that I will bring in to the company to interview. This first contact provides a chance for context around the role. It allows those people to ask you questions for the first time. If they have no questions, that should tell you something right there. In general, I am looking for people that were prepared to be called and talk effectively about the role and their potential interest.

I hope this has helped you think through some strategies on how to get from a pile of resumes to an effective number of candidates to interview in detail.

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Leadership Training, Sales Training, Strategic Planning

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

 

The Most Important Question in Hiring Anyone

Most of the time we spend time talking about how to select good employees from the crowd of resumes. I wrote last time about Job Descriptions and that is along that line. Further posts in this series will help you to understand how to interview, select and onboard employees. But that is in the future. Today, I want to talk about the question that you should be asking at the very start of this process.

How will you know if this new employee is successful?

Many people don’t think about this before they hire someone. They tend to hire and retain employees based on their feelings about them. I am asking the basic question about employee performance. If you cannot define how the employee fits into your business and contributes to the business. This can be difficult for Owners and Executives. There needs to be some objective measure of employee performance.

Let me provide an example. I was working with a client in one of the Construction Trades. They were working to hire an Operations Manager that would work in the field on existing jobs. That would free the Owners up to do more business development and administer the business. When I posed my question to them, the Owner said that he was not sure. So, I probed around the job and the desired outcome. For this position, there were 2 objective measurements that came out clearly. These measurements were project completion to budget and to schedule. When I pointed this out, it became obvious to the Owner. Even then I asked for clarification. Is it required that projects complete on time or is 1 – 2 days of slippage okay? My goal here was to make sure that the Owner had thought through this.

In this case, this will allow the Owner to give the new Operations Manager a clear way to understand their own performance. One can argue that the financial impact of this position is indirect. But if you are late and over budget on projects, you won’t have profits or a good reputation. Employee performance makes all the difference.

So, before you even write the Job Description think about how you will measure the new hire’s performance. By doing that, you will be able to write a better Job Description. This work can help you onboard and manage the employee better once they have started.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Leadership Training, Sales Training, Strategic Planning

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

 

Defining Whom You Want to Hire

This post will be all about the starting point of getting the right person to fit an opening that you have.  This means defining the role through a Job Description.

A Job Description consists of at least 2 sections.  The first section is all about the Job Duties.  This portion of the Description is all about defining the regular responsibilities for the person that you are going to hire.  What will they have to do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?  The second section is all about Qualifications.  This tells the potential candidate what your expectations are of them to demonstrate that they can do the work.  This might include Education, Certification, or Experience.

Let’s start with this last point first – Qualifications.  The goal of this section is to help you screen people before you even talk to them.  You should expect to get several resumes and you will have to sort them into candidates to pursue further and those that hold no interest.  The Qualifications section should provide that first screening criterion.  In that portion of the Job Description, you might consider mandatory and preferred qualifications.  A candidate without the Mandatory Qualifications is immediately eliminated.  This does not mean that they could not be successful, but the backgrounds of the other candidates will be more reassuring that they can do the job.  Preferred Qualifications are for those characteristics that improve the chances of a good job match.  So, once you eliminate those that don’t meet the Mandatory Qualifications, you can sort those that meet the Preferred Qualifications into a priority pile.

The Duties section is straightforward.  But you do want to be complete here.  I have seen “Other Duties as Required” on some postings, but that is not what I mean.  I have seen many posts that are generic on duties.  The more specificity that you have the better you are.  Some positions are generalist positions.  The position might have a primary duty but needs to be able to fill in for other job categories.  If this is needed, by spelling it out you will likely lose candidates that cannot or don’t want to do other things.

Note, this is a selection process where you are qualifying them as a potential employee.  They are also qualifying you as a prospective employer.  By being detailed and exacting in a job description, you save everyone time.  Even candidates that you reject or never apply will appreciate the transparency involved.

 Have a great day!

 Jim Sackman

Focal Point Business Coaching

Business Coaching, Leadership Training, Sales Training, Strategic Planning

 Change Your Business – Change Your Life!