How to hire, train, and maintain an hourly workforce

Archive for the tag “applicants”

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Indoctrination

Navy seals What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team?  Part 4 of a series… So here we are in part 4 of this synopsis of my 70 or so post series, walking through hiring the best hourly team members, indoctrinating them onto our team, choosing the right apprentices, and changing the culture of our team from the one that allowed us to be average to one that will not allow average people to remain on the team.  The original posts can be found here starting with hiring… We’ve talked about the importance of hiring for qualities rather than skills (remember, we are hiring hourly team members, from no experience/entry level to Store Team Leaders) since we can train almost anyone pretty much any skills that might be needed, however we cannot teach qualities…   Qualities are the things that make our best people “clone worthy”. We’ve also talked about using the “ketchup question” when hiring for customer service, and the need to determine the default customer service level of your applicant. If you haven’t already, you can read part 1part 2, and part 3. So… we’ve interviewed our applicant by making them comfortable, and getting to know them through an in depth conversation, where we asked questions to find the behaviors that describe the Leadership qualities we are hiring for. And, we’ve decided to hire the person siting in front of us. Now what?  Well… In order to build a truly great team, we cannot allow our great new hire to simply adapt to the team as it stands.  We will simply end up with yet another mediocre team member. First step: Before I leave the room I will spend another 45 to 60 minutes with my new hire.  Yup… another hour to make sure that I get them off on the right foot invested now will pay off in more ways than you will believe. Remember, great does not happen by accident.  We are not satisfied with the standards of behavior, or the culture of our current team (if you are, good for you!  Keep up the great work!), and it is going to take hard work and tough decisions in order to affect the change that needs to happen.  You can do this, and you need to start today… right here and right now. You will invest the time and energy to get this new hire fired up.  You need them to come onto your team with a full understanding of the new standards you will be holding the team to.  You need to indoctrinate them with your excitement about what the team is going to be like, how excited you are to have them on your team, the important role they will play in achieving the goals of the team, and how interested you are in helping them achieve their goals (you just got done talking to them for an hour… you better be able to talk in depth about their goals!). Some people will state that they don’t like the word indoctrinate… and that’s OK.  You don’t have to use that word if it makes you feel uncomfortable.  And… Think of the best, strongest, and highest performing teams you can.  Perhaps the Navy Seals come to mind?  I grew up in the town that borders West Point… that comes to my mind (and where I hope our 17 year old will go)…  Now, do those teams welcome and train their newest team members?  Is there coffee, nice music playing in the background while we talk about how we like our team members to treat each other with the same respect you would like to be shown?   Not so much… What kind of process is it? I’ll give you a hint… it’s indoctrination.  Before anyone is brought onto the team they are told that it will be a difficult job, that it will be hard work, that you’re your teammates will be committed to excellence, and that you will be expected to uphold the highest standards of behavior and performance. I don’t believe that there is any way to maintain that level of performance without some form of indoctrination.  You don’t have to agree, and has what you’ve been doing gotten you a great team?  Is there a reason you can’t have a team that functions at an incredibly high level?  This process of hiring for qualities and indoctrinating every one of my new hires worked wonderfully for me, and that’s why I’m suggesting you take a chance and go for great! Whatever you choose to call it, if you want to achieve and maintain a very high level of performance, you will have to instill your new hire with the values and beliefs of your team.  Make sure they understand how much you value having them on the team, and that you are looking forward to them using their experience and knowledge to help the team improve everything it does. This is not something that you can delegate, nor can it be left to someone who does not even work on your team.  You, and only you (because you are the team Leader) can instill your new hires with your excitement about the future of the team, your passion for the success of the team, the rewards that come from achieving the goals of the team, and what the future can/will hold for your new hire.  If you feel you have found a great addition to the team, make sure they really understand how excited you are about having them on the team, and how they will be a key player in helping the team achieve it’s goals. If you do this right, your new hire will come in for his or her first day of work with more motivation that anyone currently on your team.  And as long as you continue to stay involved in their work and development, you can help them maintain that level of engagement. I believe that team member engagement is all about our relationship with the person to whom we report.  So you are starting to build that strong, trusting relationship the day you decide to hire them! Since we are transparent, we make sure our new hire understands that we are a team in transition. That means they might work with team members who are not upholding the expectations we just discussed, or acting in a manor consistent with the culture we described, and that does not mean it is OK for our new hire to do anything other than meet or exceed those expectations. We will explain that we are working on changing/improving the culture of the team, that we have some team members who may not be a good fit on this team, and that we are working hard to change their behavior of get then off the team. It is imperative that we are honest and transparent from our very first encounter with each and every great new hire.  We may not have always been as honest and transparent as we should have been in the past, and the only way to develop a truly great team is by making a commitment to honestly and transparency moving forward. I wrote a post about how and why I indoctrinate (you can read it here) and your indoctrination process should be personal, and fit your workplace.  I honed this process hiring and developing great teams for Whole Foods Market… a fast paced retail environment where standards are high and so are customer expectations.  You should indoctrinate your new hires with your ideals, your team’s values, and your hopes for their future.  Tell them everything you would want to hear if you had made it onto a team that had very high standards, and happy to have you join them. That’s probably long enough for today (too long by many standards), and I feel that too often posts and articles are too short to effectively help us really understand how to achieve the results talked about in the post.  So… I write until I feel I’ve said enough to actually help you.  I know this will mean some people won’t read them, and that’s OK. In part 5 we’ll talk about the next steps in building a great team, like the next steps in our new hire’s work life, moving those who are holding the team back off the team, and how to change the culture of our team.


Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… Part 3

huge fossil shark tooth

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team? Part 3 of a series…

So here we are in part 3 of this synopsis of my 70 or so post series, walking through hiring the best hourly team members, indoctrinating them onto our team, choosing the right apprentices, and changing the culture of our team from the one that allowed us to be average to one that will not allow average people to remain on the team. The original posts can be found here starting with hiring…

We’ve talked about the importance of hiring for qualities rather than skills (remember, we are hiring hourly team members, from no experience/entry-level to Store Team Leaders) since we can almost anyone pretty much any skills that might be needed, however we cannot teach qualities…   If you are interested you can read part 1 and part 2.

Back to it…

You will have to determine what, if any, qualities are particularly important in your workplace. As I stated in the earlier, I believe that teachability (the ability to hear feedback and change our behavior accordingly), some level of self-awareness, self-responsibility, honesty, and some level of emotional intelligence are perhaps the most important qualities when hiring hourly team members, and I will not hire anyone in which I can’t find some level of development.

Teachability because they will be coachable, and able to hear feedback.

Self-awareness because if we are not aware of our own character, desires, and everything else that is going on within us, we end up feeling that life happens to us, rather than seeing much of what happens as a consequence of our choices.

Self-responsibility because if we don’t own our actions and behaviors, we end up blaming everything and everyone else for our problems. This goes hand in hand with self-awareness.

Honesty because, well we don’t want to hire anyone who is not honest or lacks character. We need them to do the right thing even when no one is looking.

Emotional intelligence because I don’t believe we can develop honest, authentic relationships unless we know what we are feeling. If we are not aware of our feelings, we can end up driven by our feelings… out of control.

I’ve already mentioned that every applicant I hire has to have a default standard of customer service that is at least as high as my own, because it’s next to impossible to get someone to consistently uphold a higher level of customer service than the level they believe is the right level, at least without constant supervision, and who has the time for that?

As I described earlier, and starting here over 3 posts on my blog, I’ve identified behaviors that describe the qualities I am looking for. Then during my conversation with the applicant, I concentrate on finding those behaviors. I’m sure you can come up with many more behaviors than the ones I listed… and then you just have to get your applicant comfortable and talking all about themselves. You keep listening for the behaviors that describe the qualities you need.

For customer service, I ask one question, and one question only. It is the ‘ketchup question’, and I talk about it at length here. I may need to do a video of it, because after teaching scores of people how to ask it, I’ve found that the delivery is incredibly important. Once you get it down, it is the only question you need to make sure your hires have a very high level of customer service. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions you have about the ‘ketchup question’ or any of this.

So… since this is a synopsis, I’ll skip ahead to the point where we’ve decided to hire our applicant because they answered the ‘ketchup question’ the way we wanted, and we are satisfied that they have developed the qualities we are looking for enough so that we feel confident we can help them continue to work on their Leadership qualities.

Next step, indoctrination. Yup… next time in part 4.

Great Doesn’t Happen By Accident… It Takes A Carefully Planned And Ruthless Assault On “Good”

Assault on horseback

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team? Part 2 of a series…

So here we are back with part 2 of this series. We are starting with hiring hourly team members, everyone from no experience/entry level to Store Team Leaders. When hiring for this level we are hiring almost exclusively for Leadership qualities. This is because those qualities are the things that make people clone worthy, as opposed to skills. We can easily train for pretty much any skills needed, however we cannot train qualities. So let’s continue…

Before we get too far, we should talk for a minute about the actual interview. I’ve seen it happen enough times that want to state very clearly that the interview process is no place for us to ‘exert our authority’, make sure ‘they know who is in charge’, or work to make the applicant uncomfortable to see how they react. If you are doing these things you are doing it wrong, at least if you want to call yourself a Leader by any stretch of the imagination. Interviewing with this attitude is pretty much guaranteed to give you mediocre workers who will do what they are told to do, and little more. Mkay?

Hiring for qualities is a bit different from hiring for skills, as at least in my experience, the best way to determine what Leadership qualities our applicant has been developing is through conversation, rather than simply questions and answers… I find “tell me about a time…” much less useful than getting my applicant comfortable enough to tell me all about the things in her life that she is proud of, where she puts her energy, what kinds of things frustrate her, and what gets her into a ‘flow’ state, to name just a few. I believe that we all have Leadership qualities within us to one degree or another. The key is finding the people who have been developing these qualities throughout their lives.

I know that a large percentage of our applicants have been interviewed many times now, so a good number of them know just what we want to hear. If they are smart they probably have already thought about how to answer many of the questions they have heard before. This is another reason why I prefer the conversational approach… it doesn’t allow the applicants to stick with their ‘script’ or preformed answers.

I believe the best way to find Leadership qualities in others is to determine whether or not they show the behaviors that describe those qualities. Qualities, by their very nature can be difficult to pin down, however I think we could easily come up with a list of behaviors that describe each quality or trait. Read more about behaviors that describe Leadership qualities starting here.

For instance, I believe that the ability to hear and respond to feedback is on of the most important qualities a new hourly team member can have… In my experience it is perhaps the best indicator of future success, maybe because it means they are trainable, coachable, and humble. So… how will we determine whether or not our applicant has this quality?

I try to get them to tell me all about their experience of school, trying to get into college/grad school, involvement in sports, or any other way they may have received feedback. I don’t ask specific enough questions to allow them to fall back on any prepared answers. Since no one else ever asked them what they thought about their performance in that pick up game last weekend, how they responded to the feedback they got from their high school football coach, or the grade they got in that college class when they thought they deserved better, I generally get honest answers.

Any instance in our lives when we get feedback is fair game. What makes you think you are a good driver? On what do you base that opinion? Do you follow the advice of the personal trainer at the gym, or do you think you know better? What have you learned in your personal relationships? I can easily give many examples of when I have hurt the feelings of people in my life, and how I reacted to that feedback. Is that their problem? What’s my responsibility, if any? These are all roads that out applicant has never been down in an interview, so we are likely to have an honest and genuine conversation.

I know you are all screaming at me… how about feedback from another job? Of course this is appropriate, and can be very useful. However, remember that our applicant has been asked about this many times already, so again, if they are smart they have learned what to say about feedback from work. I also feel that my personal experience has some bearing here. I’ve worked for, and with, some really poor bosses, and at work places where honest feedback was not the rule. There are a lot of people out there who have been forced into the bottom, middle, or top third simply because that’s the way the company did things, so bosses had to come up with some reasons for assigning a person to this rung. Because of the way this is set up, the feedback that many people get at work is often not honest feedback, with the intention of helping that person learn and grow. If it happened to me, it happened to a lot of other people, so I feel we have to take feedback from past jobs with a grain of salt.

What about another quality before we call it a day? How about self-responsibility? Since we are already involved in a friendly, casual conversation with our applicant, we probably already have some example of something that didn’t go as planned. So we just need to find out a little more about the outcome… who was at fault? Did our applicant have any part to play? What about that feedback you got from your guidance counselor/coach/parents/friends/boss? What did you learn from that? How were you responsible for what happened?

Have you been late for work or some other appointment? What happened? I need to hear the applicant take responsibility… yes the train was late… not your fault. And… what, if anything did you do? Did you start taking an earlier train since we know trains will be late? Did you find alternatives, like friends you can call when the train is late? These are simple examples of self-responsible behaviors.

To spell it out, I need to hear that our applicant, at least at some point recently, heard feedback and understood that the other person’s experience of them is that person’s reality.   To be coachable, the applicant needs to have changed their behavior in response to that feedback. For self-responsibility, I need to believe that our applicant takes responsibility for the things that happen in their lives; that their choices determine what happens (not everything that happens of course) and that they are responsible for the choices they make. If I don’t hear these things, I’ll thank them for coming in and move onto my next applicant.

Self responsibility, teachability, honesty, some level of emotional intelligence, some level of self awareness, and feeling that quality work is it’s own reward are some of my make or break qualities. If I do not believe that my applicant is developing these qualities I will not hire them, no matter how skilled they might be. Remember, this is just a quick synopsis… you can find my whole 16 part series on hiring, with a lot more detail, starting here.

Wow… this takes so long to discuss doesn’t it? That has to be long enough (probably too long many will tell me) for today, and we’ll pick up next time with what to do once we decide to hire the person sitting in front of us. No… if we want great we cannot simply shake their hand and send them off to have another person take over. We need to indoctrinate them. Yes… I understand that many of you don’t like that word, and all of its connotations.   And… I don’t believe that we can get ‘great’ by using the same process (welcoming and training, the same onboarding that gave you the average team you have) you’ve been using. Great doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a planned assault on Good. Hey, that’s catchy… maybe I’ll use that for todays title huh?

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team? Part 1 of a series…

blue angels

A truly great team requires obsessively great hiring, a trusting, transparent Leader who strives to be a servant Leader, shared goals and values (best if developed by the team), a culture of ownership and responsibility, and a need for constant improvement.

I have been writing about hiring and training the best hourly team members, as well as how to change the team culture to enable the development of a truly great team on my blog for some time now. It’s been almost 100 posts in the making, and I imagine it can be daunting jumping into what is essentially a book on hiring and team development.

So… I thought we might shorten all of those posts into a much shorter series on hiring the best hourly team members; how and why to hire for Leadership qualities; honesty, trust and transparency as they relate to Leadership (servant Leadership in particular); developing team goals and values; developing/changing our team culture; and developing enough trust and ownership in that culture that will not only allow for constant improvement, but will demand it.

I’ve been hiring hourly team members, from entry level/no experience people to department Leaders and Store Team Leaders for 30 years now, and that is what I’m writing about. When hiring executives, or other jobs where specific job skills, talents, and/or a specific educational background is needed, weed out the applicants without these mandatory requirements, and then follow the steps I outline below. If you disagree, I’m sure you’ll let me know

Hiring is arguably the most important thing we do. You cannot have a great team without hiring great people. If you don’t have the team you want, the first thing you need to look at is your hiring. In fact, if you don’t have the team you want, and you have been doing the hiring, I’d suggest that you need to get someone who has a track record of hiring great people either take over your hiring, or retrain you on how to hire. Yes it’s hard to own up to that, and admit that we aren’t good at hiring. And… without great hiring we will never have that great team.

Too many of us have some notion that we cannot admit we are not that good at hiring… for some reason admitting that is a huge blow to our egos. We are all very good at one or two things, OK at most things, and not so good at other things. Build and play to your strengths, and find people who are very good at the jobs you are not so good at. You can read my whole series about how to hire hourly team members for Leadership qualities starting here on my blog. It will take some humility to fully accept that we need to unlearn our old ways of hiring in order to learn to hire for qualities. And the payoff is simply amazing!

You will be hiring for attitude/qualities first, and any needed skills second (again, I’m talking about hiring hourly team members). In fact, you should be hiring for every position based on Leadership qualities first, skills second. If you are serious about developing a great team, you will need the best Leaders. How many places have you worked where great Leaders are being developed? Any? So… you will have to grow your own, and hiring for Leadership qualities is the best way to start. The hourly team members you are hiring today will be your Leadership team in the near future.

Your should read my post about Hiring for what can’t be trained, and in a nutshell… Think about the people who you would love to clone… they are probably really good at the skills of their job, and is that what makes them clone worthy? Probably not… They are most likely clone worthy because of the qualities they possess… because of their attitude towards their work… that’s what makes them great! I can take the next person you see and train them how to do every task needed to run a grocery store (you can probably train the skills needed for your workplace), however I cannot train qualities. We cannot train anyone to be self aware, to show self responsibility, to have courage, to extend trust, or to be honest… those cannot be trained, so we must hire for them, and I dare to say, at least for hourly team members, almost only for them!

The best way I have found to determine which people have the qualities we are looking for is through a long and friendly conversation, with some specific questions used to draw out our own make or break qualities.

For instance, if your new hires will be dealing with your customers, it is imperative that their default level of customer service is at least as high as your expected level of service. I have found it next to impossible to get people to consistently provide a higher level of customer service than they believe is the correct level, without constant supervision, and no one has the time for that. So… we must hire people who already believe that our expected levels of service are the correct and only reasonable level of service. Then, and only then, can we count on them to consistently deliver that level of service without any supervision. I wrote a post specifically about hiring for customer service here.

Well, we knew this would be a series… next time we’ll start to talk about just how we discover whether or not our applicant has been developing the qualities we’re looking for.

How to Hire the Best Hourly Team Members Part 10 1/2… Self Responsibility is a Must Have

So… I was just writing another blog or something, all about helping hourly team members get ready to be promoted, when I realized that I left a mandatory quality and the related questions out of the hiring series. So here it is…

One of the qualities that I believe to be pretty much make or break is self-responsibility. How much of what you do, what happens to you, and what your life is like do you own? For instance, our 11-year-old (he’ll be happy to tell you only 6 days until his birthday!) forgets to write down his homework assignments, or forgets to bring home the book needed for the homework. Now… I’m sure forgetting this stuff is pretty normal at 11, and we can still use the example.

When I ask him why he didn’t write the assignment in his homework book, he could say I got distracted, or I just forgot, however he usually says something like… I was going to, and then Collin started talking to me and… well…. or I was about to and I couldn’t find my pencil and then blah blah blah, or I was just about to and the teacher started talking and I had to pay attention to her. In the first two, he is pretty much taking responsibility, and in the others he blames it on everyone but himself.

Kids are like that, and while we need to talk to them about their responsibility in it, we expect this behavior to continue, at least until they get a little older.

Adults however, should not be like that. And yet too many of them are just like that.   They like to justify, rationalize, or otherwise find someone or something other than themselves at fault. People who cannot accept responsibility for their attitude, their actions, or what their life is like, cannot be good team members. Taking responsibility for our actions and ourselves is a quality that we cannot teach. Or at least it takes way more time and energy than most of us have.

So… we have to ask questions to find out whether or not our applicant has self-responsibility. But what questions? Well… what questions do we always ask? We get our applicants talking about themselves of course. We already have the rapport with them, so we just ask them about things that haven’t gone as planned, or about mistakes they’ve made, or about any reasons they left another job, team, or group.

If they have left a sports team, question the applicant about what happened and why. Their description will tell you all you need to know. Was it the coach’s fault? The other players? Or did our applicant play a part in what happened?

Talk to me about something that went wrong at your last job? We can see if they take responsibility for their part in whatever it was. Get them to tell you all about their previous performance reviews, and you can see if, in hindsight, they can own any of the negatives. We all, without exception, have issues with our parents at one time or another. Ask about arguments or disagreements they had with a parent, and see if again, in hindsight, they can own their part in it.

Talk to them about their grades in school. We’re not really concerned about the actual grades at this point of course. But do ask them if, looking back, they thought they could have done better? Why didn’t you get better grades? Do you think you are smart enough to get better grades than you did? Then why didn’t you? With luck they will own their behavior, admit to being immature, choosing the wrong friends, being too involved in sports, or something like that. If they blame it on sports or the like, keep digging. Could they have made other choices? We need them to accept responsibility! I mean, here in the interview our job is not to make them see that they should accept responsibility… we will only hire those who accept responsibility.

A lot of people have had their own business at one time or another. Ask all about that, and see what happened. See if applicant owns what happened to their business, good or bad, and especially the bad. If they had an employee take advantage of them, did our applicant have any blame for hiring this person? Could they have made any different choices?

I would hope that after some time, and looking back at our examples, our applicant can own up to their part in these things. If they cannot… you know the drill… thank them for coming in, and move on.

Right after the ketchup question you can follow-up with a question about one of the team members in their store. Remember it is their store, with their name on the sign and everything. So, after the ketchup customer leaves, they are walking back to their office when a team member asks if they can have a few minutes of their time. Of course they can… come up to my office in an hour. The team member shows up, and wants to talk about why they didn’t get the supervisor job last week. That jerk Terry got the job, and they need to know why they didn’t get the job.

Well, remember that it’s your first day here, and while you do now own the whole store, you don’t know anything about Terry, who may or may not be a jerk, this team member, or any supervisor job. You do want to help though, because this team member seems really upset, and you want to make him feel better about working here. It costs a lot of money to replace a team member. Without knowing anything about the actual details of this job, what might you tell him about why people get jobs, and why people don’t get jobs? Do not accept ‘I don’t know’, or the like… they must answer this question in whatever words they have.

Listen carefully to what the applicant has to say to our team member. What they say to the team member is likely what they believe to be true. The follow-up questions you ask will depend on what our applicant tells the team member. This conversation will be very telling, so listen carefully and take notes. We want to hear something about self-responsibility, or about asking for feedback and listening to it. We do not want to hear that our new owner doesn’t have time for this crap, and the team member needs to get back to work. We can get an idea of other qualities with the answer to this question, like empathy, emotional intelligence, listening skills, compassion, and relationship building. Worst case, we thank them for coming in, and move on.

You can suggest to the applicant that problems come in three categories: ones we have no control over, ones we have some control over, and those where we have total control. Then ask whether they agree or not. Either way, ask them to explain what they think about it in more detail. If they suggest that they have control over almost all of their problems, we’re probably good with this topic. If, however, they don’t think they have control over much at all, thank them for coming in, and move on.

In my opinion, self-responsibility is right up there with the ability to hear and act on feedback, so take your time and get this one right. Otherwise you will regret it for a long time!

How to Hire Hourly Team Members part 15… Don’t Onboard… Indoctrinate!

OK… so look. Here’s what let’s do. I’m kind of caught in the middle of finishing up our hiring process and the beginning of how to create a leadership team (which is necessary to keep these great hires and turn our team into a leadership development machine), so… I’ll take a very short time (hopefully just one post) to go over the process of indoctrinating our new hire, and then get back to building our team. K? K.

As homework, you should start reading one of two books… your choice.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie or
Developing the Leader Within You by John C. Maxwell.

We need to start developing the foundations of your Leadership. Now…

We’ve talked about the need to personally indoctrinate our new team members, and I know what some (many? ALL?) of you are thinking. You are thinking WHAT? Steve, I have way too many important things to do. I cannot sit here for what now, a total of 2 hours talking to this one hire! That’s crazy! I’ll just have one of my apprentices do it, and it won’t take more than 10, maybe 20 minutes. So I’ll say you can certainly do that. And… you might as well put all of your energy into meditation and other ways to accept what is, because nothing is going to change on your team. This new hire will join the ranks and your team will continue along it’s current trajectory. If everything is going exactly the way you want it to, and you are achieving all of your goals, you certainly don’t need me telling you what you need to change.

On the of chance you are not achieving all of your goals, and your team is not as high functioning as you’d like, then please read on…

We need to start where we are. You may have inherited this team, you may have done your best to build it from scratch, and it really doesn’t matter… You’ve done the best you could with the tools you had. So we probably have a mixed team. If you graded each team member from 1 to 10 (10 always being best) and graphed the results it would likely look like a parabola. A couple of great people, a lot of mediocre people, and a few you really regret hiring… if you could you would wish them into the corn field! Wishing won’t change anything, so we have to work with what we have.

We cannot just throw our new, better than average hire, that we’ve spent so much time and energy on, to the wolves so to speak, and hope they help us turn the team around. It simply does not work that way. It’s kind of like driving up a long steep grade in a vehicle with an underpowered engine. You have to stay on it if you want to keep up a reasonable speed and reach the top.

So… we will indoctrinate our new hire for many reasons. We need to get them excited about working on our team (we’re excited about the team and where it’s going, right!?). We also need to set expectations for them from the start. In many companies there is a delay between hiring and any ‘orientation’ and training, and you may not even be involved with either one (this will make it harder, and not impossible to achieve greatness). So… it’s even more important that you get your new hire on board knowing how you define a good job; your idea of when a good team member shows up to work; your idea of why a person might call out, and how often is too often; your idea of how a person behaves when part of a team at work (this is going to be a large part of our talk, so I’ll continue it below); your interest in their feedback on workplace safety, the tasks of the job, and even how this new team member sees your impact as a leader on the morale of the team; reiterate their goals (long and short team) and talk about how you are going to help them achieve those goals (and you actually have to do it!); how other team members have moved up on the team and have earned their way into different roles, with more responsibility and money (you may not be able to do this yet, and you will); how they will be judged during a review; how their job, no matter what job it is, is a very important part of the success of the team (if this job had no impact on the success of the team you would not be paying someone to do it!); how the team’s goals came to be, and why we are all excited about them; how much you are depending on them, and how happy you are to have them on the team!

What you are doing is pretending to be (unless you are in fact) Tony Robbins… we need to excite and invigorate our new hire. We want them so happy to have found a workplace and Leader who cares about them and their goals, who values them, who understands what they have to offer, who knows they can and will succeed, and have them filled with that excitement and energy when they come back to start working.

Another key… To have a high functioning team every team member needs to feel that they are an important part of the team, and it’s your job as the leader to see that they believe it. Now back to it…

As team leaders (owners, managers, however you define your role), you probably feel that you take more ownership than anyone else. You likely feel that you care more, put in more energy, work harder, are more vested (and perhaps literally invested), and are faster at many tasks, and there are probably many more you can add… than anyone else. So… you are the only one who can infect our new hire with your energy, interest, and expectations for the team. Please do not make the mistake of leaving this all-important role to a team member, apprentice, or worse yet someone who doesn’t even work on your team (like an HR team member). Have your apprentices there to learn, and you must deliver the message. Otherwise the message will be uninspired, get watered down, and fail to have the impact we need.

From this moment forward you will be the inspiration for all of the good things that will be happening on your team. You will have to stay positive 100% of the time at work. You CANNOT bitch or complain to anyone at work! So if you do not currently have someone (probably not your spouse or partner at home) to talk to about your frustrations and issues at work, get one now. It can be a trusted peer, however they should probably not work along side you (you will end up talking about something negative at work), a professional coach, or a friend with lots of time on their hands. Work on this today.

Oh… and if you like the blog please like my facebook page.  Thank you!

I want to include a link to an HBR article Why Good Managers are So Rare. We will end up talking about the points made here later on, and for now it’s good food for thought.

How to Hire Hourly Team Members part 14… The Initial On Boarding, or Better Yet, Indoctrinating

Congratulations! We’re sitting here with our apprentice(s) and our applicant, or rather our new hire, and… now what?

Now is make or break time. Even when a person has answered our questions to our satisfaction there is no guarantee they will be great team members. It just means that they have necessary qualities to enable them to be great. It’s up to us as Leaders to bring out the greatness within them. Our first step, before we leave the table, is to give our new team member their first indoctrination. I use the word ‘indoctrination’ on purpose, because it doesn’t just mean introduction, or welcome. Synonyms include to train, brainwash, and programming… “to cause to believe something”.

Let me go back a few steps here and ask some questions of you. Are you perfectly happy with the performance of your present team? Do you have only one or two people on your team who are not up to your standards? Or is it the other way around? Do you sometimes hire great people only to see them leave before very long? Do you want to change the culture of your team? Are you ready and willing to do whatever it takes to have a high performing team, where new leaders are trained? Then we’ve got some work to do.

IT ALL STARTS WITH YOU!! And you must change the way you run the team. Starting right now!

Every negative thing that happens from this point forward is your fault. You will accept the blame for everything that goes wrong.

Every positive thing that happens from this point forward happened because of the actions of a team member, or the team as a whole. You will give away the credit for everything that goes right.

There are three things that can happen to this new hire sitting in front of you.

You will allow the current team to train and indoctrinate them, and I guarantee that the person you just spent so much time and effort hiring will join the crowd and be another mediocre team member for you to manage.

You will allow the current team to train and indoctrinate them, and once they see what your mediocre team is like they will leave at the first opportunity.

OR… YOU will indoctrinate them. You will train them (or at least dictate how they will be trained, and then follow up very closely on their training. This will be different from your normal training routine). And you will check in with them daily at first, then several times a week. Why you ask? Whether you like it or not, your team has a culture. Either you spent a lot of time and energy building and cultivating that culture, not settling for anything other than what you wanted, or the culture developed while no one was looking. If you put any new hire, no matter how good, into a culture of mediocrity, you will end up just adding another mediocre person to your team. If you are not happy with your team, you have a culture that needs to be changed. It’s a long and arduous process, and one that pays incredible dividends if you only see it through.

So… back to our new hire. We are going to sit here for another 30 to 60 minutes talking to them… Indoctrinating them. You AND your apprentices have to speak as one voice from this moment on. If there is a change in expectations from one shift to another (perhaps because a different person is in charge that day or shift) the job of changing your culture and rebuilding your team will be twice as hard. I would even go so far as to say if you have an assistant/associate/supervisor that is not on board with the everything you want to do and the new direction you want to go, you are better off getting that person off your team as soon as possible, and before expending a ton of time and energy in trying to change the culture of your team. My experience is they will minimally hold you back, by giving inconsistent expectations and rewards, and at worst they will undermine your efforts at every turn.

Do yourself a favor and make sure that everyone who will be setting the example, holding people accountable, setting expectations, and driving the team towards your goals is fully committed.

Crap… we’re off on a tangent, and it’s a necessary one, so I’ll carry on.

If you have read this far, and are really committed to hiring the best people, keeping them, and developing a high functioning team, then you need to not only make a commitment to yourself, but also include the high performing and trusted people you will be taking with you.

In order to get a real commitment from your apprentices (I think from now on I’ll just use “apprentices” to cover the people who will be leading shifts when you are not there, like shift leaders, associates, and assistants), you will need to involve them in the process of deciding what you are going to change, as well as how you are going to achieve said change. I would even suggest including your very best team members (only one or two), in particular if you use these great team members to train your new hires. People need to be part of a process like this in order to really buy into it. Their feelings, fears, ideas, and goals need to be heard. And perhaps most importantly, they need to really feel like they were heard (that’s your job.). Make sure that everyone contributes something, and has their opinions listened to. Otherwise your efforts will fail. This is a key to being a Leader.

Ok, so we’ll have what will most likely be more than one meeting with our apprentices, and first agree on our reality. If we don’t agree on what is actually happening we will never agree on what needs to change. You, as the Leader will probably want to make sure that everyone agrees with much of what you think is happening, and… just because you are the Leader DOES NOT mean you are the smartest, the best anything, or even the natural leader in the group. It just means you are in charge. Listen and you just might learn a thing or two…

Agreeing on our reality is akin to knowing where we are standing right now, while making our way through the woods with only a map and compass. If we don’t know exactly where we are right now it doesn’t matter whether or not we can use a map and compass to head in a certain direction. We’ll be heading somewhere… and will it be where we wanted to go?

So everyone on our staff needs to agree how things are. Are we at the needed level of quality with what we are producing? What level of customer service do we provide? Do we have workers we simply must get off the team (bad workers can infect those around them and keep you from making positive changes)? Are there processes or practices that are not working for us? What normal workplace standards like absenteeism, and tardiness are we expecting and allowing our workers to follow? Are the standards consistent from shift to shift? If you live in the same world in which I live, I would bet not. We must know where we are in order to move forward together. Again, it may take more than one meeting. This is neither the time nor place to blame, or call anyone out. In order to have an accurate picture of what is actually happening you need honest answers from your team. If you attach a negative consequence to ANY answer you get during this process you will guarantee that you will not get the true, whole story, and therefore will not have an accurate picture of what is happening.

In my experience I found that I had supervisors and assistants who were not following my instructions or holding the team to my expectations. The blame for this however, did not lay with them… the fault was mine. After thinking about it and being honest with myself, I let them both down (the whole team in the long run). I did not follow up with them enough. I didn’t work with them enough. I was asking them to have difficult conversations, and I failed to realize how scary and difficult these could be at first. I did not give them the tools they needed, nor did I train them correctly to use those tools. So… I had to take a step back and work with these apprentices to give them the means to accomplish our goals. I can only imagine that you will face the same reality. We’ve made assumptions about the skill set and qualities of our apprentices, and now we need to reassess those assumptions, and get it right from now on.

And… this is a key…If we believe we have the right people working with us, if we believe they are doing the best they can, and they are still not able to achieve our goals or meet our expectations, then either our expectations are too high, or something is getting in the way. Either they don’t have the skills or tools we thought they had, or something else in keeping them from meeting our goals. To fix it we need to get to root of the problem, and to do that we need our team to be honest with us. An overbearing, angry, emotional, threatening, or in any way scary boss persona will not get us the honest answers we need.

If you are not developing the kind of relationships at work that build trust, respect, and loyalty, then you should stop reading right now and make a plan to do some personal work. Get a recommendation for a therapist, a job/life/leadership coach… do something to discover the reality of where you are personally, and then you can start moving in a positive direction with the people around you.

Oh… and if you like the blog please like my facebook page.  Thank you!

Before I go I also wanted to link to this article about conflict at work. I’ve found that team members challenging each other, including the leadership team, makes for a much more creative and successful team. Enjoy! http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2014/03/11/conflict-collaboration-work/?iid=SF_F_River

How to Hire Hourly Team Members part 12.5… Finding Hidden Issues

So… I need to plug in some thoughts as I remember them. I apologize for not having them in a decent order, and I don’t want to go back and insert them into already published posts. So here they are in all their glory. There will likely be more… just sayin’…

When interviewing applicants on the phone, we want to weed out as many poor hires as we can. To that end I like to ask something like “when I call your last boss, how will he or she (I will have looked at the application and have either a name or at least a pronoun) describe you”? Use the word ‘when’ to let the applicant know we WILL be calling, and using the name (if you can read it on the application) or the pronoun lets them know you are serious about it. That gives the applicant a little more impetus to answer as closely as they can to what their last supervisor might actually say… closer to the truth of how they were in the last job. Some applicants might give some vague or general descriptive words so don’t be afraid to push them with additional questions. Things like ‘how many times will they tell me you were late or called out’? Or ‘What will they tell me is the one thing about you they would change if they could’? Or ‘Will they say they were sorry to see you go, or happy to see you go’? Listen carefully to their answers and you will know pretty quickly if we should raise a red flag, or if the applicant is far from a great hire.

It’s also worth your time to call for references. Many companies have policies that restrict what can be said when someone calls for a reference. And… if you had a great team member who had to leave for some reason, you would probably want to help them. What are the chances of you giving some kind of positive reference for your best team members without saying anything to specifically break the rules? Pretty good I’d bet. If, on the other hand, someone called for a reference on someone mediocre or poor, you would likely either say nothing or sneak in some obvious negatives. Reading (hearing in this case) between the lines can tell us a lot. Perhaps not always enough to make our decision for us, and certainly giving us valuable information.

The next question that can be asked over the phone is: “Why did you leave your last job”? We ask this to get an idea of what their last boss thought of them. When we have a great team member we will do whatever we can to keep them. We are much more likely to bend some rules to get them through a rough patch. We do whatever is in our power to get them enough money to keep them from leaving for that reason. I’ve rearranged schedules for great team members with short-term transportation issues. What would you do for your best team members? For not so great team members… I’m less willing to bend rules, and certainly won’t extend myself financially. So… the answer the applicant gives to this questions can give us clues as to whether the boss would have liked them to stay, or whether the boss held the door open for them as they were leaving.

I have spoken to countless applicants who look me in the eye and state that they left their last job because they weren’t making enough money. So… let me get this straight… you left a job where you were making some money, and now you are making NO money, is that right? Well it’s been nice talking to you. I’d be OK with them keeping that job, and looking to find a higher paying job, but leaving?
You will most likely encounter applicants who will tell you that they weren’t getting enough hours at their other/past job. What does this tell us? Hmmm? It tells us very clearly that they are not great workers! Do you cut the hours of your best workers? For long enough that they would need to find other work? Unless that business is going under, I think not. I would advise you to run, not walk, away from these applicants.

We should probably talk for a minute about what to look for on an application/resume’… I don’t think I’ve mentioned that at all. It’s a bit of a departure from what we’ve been talking about, and I don’t know how to determine the ‘qualities’ we are looking for by looking at an application or resume’. So we’ll have to do the best we can with what we have, mmkay?

Applications will vary from workplace to workplace, and they generally require the same information. Work history is probably the most relevant to our purposes, however some companies ask additional questions, and answers to those can also be very telling. We would love to see that our applicant worked for several years at each job, with a progression from team member, to perhaps supervisor or equivalent, with appropriate pay increases. We would love to see that. Did I mention how much we’d love to see that? More and more however, we see our applicants moving from job to job with increasing frequency. A few months here, perhaps a year there, then nothing, then 13 months over there… I don’t know if it will serve us to have hard and fast rules with this generation, and I still judge applicants with too many jobs in too short a time frame harshly. Very short times in a job, weeks or a couple of months, stands out like a sore thumb, and I will generally pass on those applicants.

That said, I listened to an episode of the Freakonomics podcast about quitting. Quit early and often was pretty much what I got out of it… don’t be afraid to quit. We generally know right away if a choice was not a great choice, and yet many of us were raised to believe that quitting was not OK. Stick it out. Don’t quit. Quitters never win and winners never quit, right? Maybe not. Looking back at all of the crappy jobs (and crappy bosses) I had when I was younger I find myself thinking perhaps I should have quit them and found something better. I don’t pretend to know the better choice, and I am having a more difficult time thinking ill of people who will not put up with poor working conditions or a bad boss.

I will also look at whether applicant lives to see how long a commute they would have if we hired them. Remember, we are hiring for our hourly job. These people will be making between minimum wage and what, low teens for very experience workers? It’s tough to live on wages that low, never mind traveling an hour or more each way. In my experience, when we have a long commute, we find it easier to make the decision to leave a job when we experience some hardship. A long commute might not be a deal breaker, and it is a possible red flag, and worth looking into. How long was the commute to their previous jobs? Why did they leave there again?

I think that’s all for today…

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