RecruitCon 2018 Keynote Bob Kelleher Shares 10 Tips for Hiring the B.E.S.T Workers

Is your company experiencing high turnover rates? Are you struggling to keep top talent engaged? Most companies tend to blame turnover on engagement, but they don’t have an engagement issue; they have a HIRING issue.   Does this sound like your organization?

  • You have high voluntary turnover.
  • You have trouble keeping your employees engaged.
  • Customer satisfaction is suffering.
  • Employees don’t seem to be “aligned” with leadership.

If so, you might have an employee engagement issue. Or worse, an employee disengagement issue.   Is the cause your culture? Your leadership?  Or is it a hiring issue?  You simply might be hiring the wrong employees for your culture.

When I start working with a new client, it is usually because of a lack of employee engagement or a high rate of voluntary employee turnover.  After evaluating the culture, I often conclude that the issue is more about whom they’re hiring, and less about how engaged they are.

Organizations need to understand the types of people that succeed in their culture. Unfortunately, many haven’t crystallized their employment brand, so they struggle with understanding whom they should hire. They focus on hiring “skills” to do a job.

Alternatively, organizations need to be asking, “Why do people work here?” “What are the behaviors and traits that are shared by our top employees?” and “How do we find and hire people with these same behaviors traits?”

Read on to learn how to focus on the B.E.S.T profile of staff selection and hiring. The E and S are important (Education and Skills), but successful companies focus on the B and T (Behaviors and Traits), which truly define success.

Leveraging the BEST Profile in Your Hiring and Promotions

After spending over 30 years in Human Resources and participating in countless retention and succession planning initiatives, I’ve come to the conclusion that employees are promoted for possessing and focusing on specific Behaviors and Traits—those that define High Performance.  And although Education and Skills are important, it is often the intangibles that get people “promoted in the workplace.

In some ways, you’re expected to have the education and skills “to do the job,” or you wouldn’t be in the job in the first place.  But, if you ask your hotel general managers—or front desk managers or catering supervisors—to reflect on their top employees (specifically, the 10% of everyone who ever worked for them) and define what made them stand out, chances are they will outline a common set of behaviors and traits that these individuals possess.  Education and Skills are similar to having “Jacks or better”— you need them just to stay in the poker game!

The most engaged employees are engaged because of an inherent set of behaviors and traits they possess, and not because of their skill set or degrees they might hold.  But, is your hotel getting at what these behaviors and traits are?

What I have often found quite interesting is the effect Behaviors and Traits have on the opposite side of the employment spectrum—getting fired or laid off.  From my experience, employees get “fired” or are the first to be downsized because they possess certain Behaviors and Traits—in this case, those that define low performance.

When I’ve asked a group of hotel executives if they’ve ever “fired” an accountant because he or she couldn’t “add,” or if they ever fired an interior designer because he or she couldn’t “design,” or if they ever fired a sales manager because he or she couldn’t “sell,” the answer is often a resounding “no.”  But, if you ask the same audience if they’ve ever fired an accountant, designer, or salesperson because of a certain behavior or trait,  the heads shake in a definitive “Yes!”

Although one needs to be sensitive to one’s culture or a specific job, your hiring managers should be looking to hire or promote those individuals who define the following Behaviors and Traits:

High performing behaviors and traits:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Solution-oriented
  • Team first
  • Selfless
  • Optimism
  • Quest for learning
  • Ask “Why not” (rather than “That won’t work.”)
  • Pass along credit—accept blame
  • Above and beyond persona

Conversely, as part of your employee selection process, you must avoid selecting individuals who possess the following Behaviors and Traits:

Low performing behaviors and traits:

  • Negativity
  • History of attendance issues and absenteeism
  • Pessimism
  • “Me” first attitude
  • Egocentric
  • Accept credit/pass along blame
  • Focus on monetary worth (“I’m not being paid to do that.”)

Over the years, I’ve often been amazed at the misguided focus of hiring managers—too much emphasis is placed on education and skills, and not nearly enough emphasis is placed on one’s behaviors and traits.

We all know that we can add to our Education and improve our Skills. I also believe with focus, employees can both modify their behaviors and adopt high performing traits.  Based on my experience, those who model the high performing traits listed above will accelerate their career progression, while those that model the low performing behaviors and traits, will be “the first to go.”

The Golden 10—Ten Hiring (and Selection) Best Practices:

  1. Be proactive and not reactive in your hiring practices.  Successful organizations are always interviewing potential candidates, even if there are no current openings.  Don’t wait for someone to quit for beginning the recruitment process.
  2. Résumés provide pertinent information on Skills and Education.  However, before you get too excited with a candidate’s résumé, remember that they rarely provide insight on a candidate’s Behaviors and Traits.
  3. Include behavioral-based interview questions in your hiring process. 
  4. Conduct a “Who Succeeds Here” workshop with your department managers. Using a flip chart, list the top 20 employees of your organization (at least those not in the room).  Determine their shared behaviors and traits. You have now taken a giant step in defining the specific behaviors and traits that define success in your organization and can start developing interview questions to discover candidates with similar attributes.
  5. Give extra consideration to employee referrals, especially referrals from your top employees.
  6. Treat your candidates like gold during the interview and selection process.  Organizations need to “sell” why they’re a great employer.  Even if you don’t hire them, they will remember you and your organization favorably.   Building “brand ambassadors” is increasingly important in this era of social media.
  7. Include a team of people in the selection process, in particular, people who are outside of the hiring department.   And remember, hiring is not a democracy and should not result in a “vote.”  The hiring manager should have final say.
  8. Hire easy, live hard. Hire hard, live easy.  Selecting the right candidate should take time.  Managers will pay dearly over the long term for quick and shoddy hiring decisions.  Diligence in your employee selection pays dividends over time.
  9. Adopt the “Rule of Threes” in your hiring.  Interview at least three candidates for every opening.
  10. Never settle for an employment agency’s reference.  They are too vested in their candidate getting the job.  HR or hiring personnel should always conduct references.

Bob Kelleher is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and consultant, and he travels the globe sharing his insights on employee engagement, leadership, and workforce trends. Kelleher is the author of the best-selling books, LOUDER THAN WORDS: 10 Practical Employee Engagement Steps That Drive Results; CREATIVESHIP, A Novel for Evolving Leaders; EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT for Dummies; and the just released I-Engage, Your Personal Engagement RoadmapHe can be seen or heard on national media (most recently on CNBC, CBS, NBC News, Business Week, Forbes, and Fortune), and he is a frequent guest writer and contributing editor on many national publications.

Kelleher is a frequent conference keynote speaker, including giving talks throughout the United States and Canada, as well as talks in China, Japan, Europe, South America, Mexico, and the Middle East.  He has also presented to the leadership teams of many of the world’s top companies, including Prudential, Lockheed Martin, Ceridian, Dana Farber, Cumberland Farms, Gulf, TJX, The Cheesecake Factory, Abbott Labs, Amica, Fidelity, Dale Carnegie, SilkRoad, Covidien, Millipore, amongst many others.  He is also the founder and president of The Employee Engagement Group, a global survey, products, and consulting firm working with leadership teams to enhance their leadership and employee engagement effectiveness.

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