HIRING in the New World of Work

Written by Jeannette L. Seibly & John W. Howard, PhD

As businesses move into the New World of Work, the challenge has been–and continues to be–our hiring practices!  With the economy finally moving forward and all four generations of workers in the workplace at the same time, it’s imperative that your hiring systems and tools be updated, and represent the best practices available.

Unfortunately, many still endorse some of our old stereotypes about age and work. Consider these stereotypes:

  • Younger workers have more energy than older workers!  (Energy in the workplace has been measured across a broad sample of the workforce, and turns out to be a stable characteristic of individuals, and independent of age.)
  • Older workers are more prone to take time-off, perhaps due to personal, medical or other needs.  (Again, not true – studies have shown just the opposite to be true. Older workers are less prone to take time off, for whatever reasons!)
  • Older workers can’t or won’t learn new skills. (Those over 50 are proving their ability to learn new skills by becoming the fastest growing group of Internet users!)

It’s time to transform our old thought processes and discard some of these conscious and unconscious myths.  Remember, neither conscious nor unconscious discrimination is legally defensible!

Myth #1:           We can hire anyone to do anything.

Perhaps because of our egalitarian underpinnings, we believe in the illusion that we can coach, train and motivate anyone to do anything (despite ample and personal experience to the contrary). Before investing in training, it’s wise to measure and understand whether your candidate for training—including candidates for a new job—has what the astronauts called, “The right stuff.”

Try as you might, train as hard as you know how—you will not succeed in teaching pigs to fly; they simply lack the “right stuff” (namely, wings!)  No matter how motivated the trainer and the pigs, eventually such an effort will just irritate all concerned.

Myth #2:           I’ve always relied on my gut.

While using your “gut” or “intuition” can feel like the right thing to do, it’s far from statistically accurate, and not legally defensible.  Ultimately, our gut feelings are based upon past experiences; we may be trying not to hire the same (unsuitable) person we did before, or trying find someone as great as the person that just left for a better job. Unfortunately, the evidence is compelling that our intuition doesn’t do a very good job of it. People are like icebergs: You only see the tip, the part they wish to show.  You can’t see the 75% that is covered up that will make or break their success in our business.

We rely on our intuition to evaluate interviews, and then base the hiring decision on that evaluation. A study at the University of Michigan concluded that interviews only improved your chances of making a good hire by 2%!

Myth #3:          We simply hire and fire until we find the “right one.”

In the meantime, the other “right” ones have left!   The cost of finding great talent has gone up, quality and customer relations have declined, and your bottom line has been severely impacted!  It’s time to great real about finding the right person for the right job, and help your company accelerate its growth. A detailed analysis of a motel’s operations in a mid-sized American city demonstrated that a “wrong’ hire cost the company $7,200 from the bottom line.

Myth #4:          Any assessment tool will do.

Why don’t more of us use scientific assessments to improve our hiring (and reduce failures and turnover)? Part of the answer lies in lack of education on what is, and how to use, qualified scientific assessment tools.  While the Department of Labor’s recommendations are clear regarding pre-employment tests and tools, many employers disregard common sense and rely upon assessments that don’t comply with employment laws. These compound your risks, rather than reducing them.

While part of our reluctance lies in spending any money to improve our antiquated hiring processes (after all, “Bad hiring decisions” almost never appears as a line item on an accounting document). We argue it will take too much time and energy “to make any changes right now.”  When you recognize that the costs of hiring mistakes are killing you, that you can change course, and that the rewards are well worth the trouble, you’ll change.  Will you change, though, in time to save your company’s opportunities to enjoy great talent, bottom line, customers and reputation in the marketplace?

Myth #5:          We’re already doing the best we can.

 Part of the problem of poor hiring lies with inadequate tools and systems: One comprehensive study of the hiring process indicated that, if an interview is your only tool, you have only a 14% chance of making a good hire. Add good reference checking (and we all know how difficult that can be), it may raise your success ratio to 26%. If your goal is to beat one out of four odds, you need better tools!

Fortunately, the science of assessments has produced increasingly useful tools to add to the art of hiring. While no assessment, or even a combination of assessments, guarantees success, the same study showed that use of personality, abilities, interests, and job matching measures can raise your success rate to 75% or better. Equally important, valid assessment tools in all of those areas can be applied for well below 1% of the projected cost of a bad hire.

Also, using on-line applicant tracking systems not only turns your hiring process “green”, it expands your applicant pool (making it easier to find the right candidates), saves overworked HR people a great deal of time and energy, and helps avoid hiring someone who looks and talks a great game, but can’t play it to win for your business.

© Jeannette L. Seibly and John W. Howard, 2009

Jeannette Seibly, Principal of SeibCo — your partner in developing work and career strategies for selection, results and growth, We improve your bottom line!   Contact SeibCo, LLC @ 303-660-6388, OR JLSeibly@comcast.net  Jeannette is also the author of “Hiring Amazing Employees.”

John W. Howard, Ph.D., owner of Performance Resources, Inc. helps businesses of all sizes increase their profits by reducing their people costs. His clients hire better, fire less, manage better, and keep their top performers. He may be reached at 435.654-5342, OR JWH@prol.ws

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