In his book “Breakthrough Company,” Keith MacFarland says having the right people is the number one factor in determining a business’s success. Having personally grown several companies, I can attest to the importance of attracting and retaining high-quality employees. So, what brings great people in and keeps them around? Happiness. Employees who find happiness in their work will outperform unhappy “rock stars” every time.
Below are my 8 steps to hiring happy employees.
Be clear in explaining what your business is about, both internally and publicly. Explain your company history, detail your strategy for achieving that mission, and share the values you prize to reach that goal. At GiftCards.com, for example, we list our “Make ‘em smile : )” mission on our website and in our internal documents. Our values are SMILE: Sincerity, Modesty, Integrity, Loyalty, and Equality. The mission and the easy-to-remember acronym (thanks, Carlos) make it clear to prospective employees that we want to bring happiness to our customers. Since prospective candidates will review your website, include this information in your About Us page.
Be aggressive about setting and managing expectations; don’t undersell the responsibility of the position or over promise on benefits and opportunities. While being honest about the limits of the opportunity might cause a truly excellent candidate might walk out the door, letting a big fish slip away is better than trapping one in a small pond. Conversely, if you need ten years of experience, don’t accept three. Hiring is too important of a decision to bargain down on.
Cross-reference the salary being offered with competitive rates in your area. Sites like Salary.com are a good reference point. Since candidates will likely check the same sources, be prepared to justify a lower (or higher) salary. My rule of thumb is to pay within the top 25 percent for that position. Paying competitively nets competitive applicants.
Leverage as many channels as possible to find applicants. Craigslist, CareerBuilder and Linkedin are great options, but don’t forget that some of the best sources for applicants are the employees you already have. Offer referral bonuses, promote application opportunities internally and make all employees aware of any new positions as they become available. Lastly, add career opportunities to your website. The higher the number of applicants, the higher the likelihood of finding the right one.
When pruning your list of candidates, be smart. Use technology like Skype to hold quick, informal interviews. Have top candidates come into the office for face-to-face interviews or schedule longer, second-round Skype interviews. Include multiple team members in the screening process. Having a few extra heads in the room prevents hiring bias and is a good way to see if the candidate is a good cultural fit for the company. If the hiring manager and HR representative are the only employees involved in interviews, the candidates that end up being selected will be just like them; you need a diversity of opinion to create a diverse workplace. After the interview, poll everyone involved. Did the candidate exemplify one or more of your company values? Did he or she seem enthusiastic about the mission? Could you envision working with this person?
According to research by Leadership IQ, 46% of new hires will fail within the first 18 months; in 89% of these failures, the root cause is attitude, not a lack of ability. Administering a personality test can offer a quantitative spin on your profile of the prospective employee. Wonderlic is a free personality tool we’ve used successfully to objectively vet a candidate’s personality. Background checks are another important step to uncover underlying issues that might impact an applicant’s ability to perform.
At this point in the hiring process, you should be down to two or three highly qualified employees. Now, the most difficult part of the decision making process begins. How do you choose the right one? My advice is to choose the candidate who wants the job more and who wants to learn. To have a happy employee, you need someone who will not only excel at the position, but who wants to be in the position. A less-talented prospect who is invested in the opportunity and is eager to rise to the challenge will be a happier employee than one who knows everything and could take or leave the position.
Just like the customer relationship doesn’t end at the sale, the hiring process doesn’t stop on the first day of work. Having brought in a talented, driven individual, you must now provide a nurturing and challenging workplace that rewards their dedication. Check in with new hires fast and frequently, making sure that they’re fitting in with your mission and that their expectations are being met as well. If there is a disconnect, discuss the problems and offer assistance. Sometimes, this might include offering to let someone leave on good terms. This might seem counter-intuitive after you’ve gone through the effort and cost of hiring, but giving an unhappy new hire the room to explore that decision honestly can let them really evaluate where they will be happiest, even if it isn’t under your roof. This also keeps them from spreading a negative attitude to those they work with; as the saying goes, a rotten apple can spoil the whole bushel. After all, you’ve promised to every hire before this new employee that you would provide them a happy workplace; sometimes keeping that promise means letting someone new go.
Hiring happy employees is fundamentally vital to the success of a company. Achieving a workplace full of happy employees takes a thoughtful hiring process, on-going communication and an open mind to the changing needs of the people in your organization. Remember to qualify quickly and smartly, compliment your qualitative thoughts quantitatively, pick the candidate who wants it more, and that the hiring process doesn’t end on the first day. Follow these steps and you won’t just build a workforce; you’ll make ‘em smile, too.
~~ Jason Wolfe