For the past 30 years–the dawn of the modern management era–the best managers have done a few things consistently well to hire great people. All managers should adopt these best practices as their own.
In 1997, I wrote a book based on what I observed the best managers did to attract, assess, recruit, manage and develop the people they hired. This collective process eventually became known as Performance-based Hiring. Not surprisingly, the process mapped closely to Gallup’s 1999 Q12 list of factors that maximized employee satisfaction and performance. Somewhat surprising, in 2012, Google announced with much fanfare the results of their Project Oxygen which pretty much “rediscovered” what the world’s best managers already knew.
I’m continually surprised that more companies and hiring managers don’t follow the proven findings. So, for those who might have missed the big points, here’s a recap.
1. Clarify job expectations up front.
A list of required skills, experiences, academic needs and industry background is not a job description; it’s a person description. In combination with their employer branding program, companies still use these job descriptions as their primary recruitment advertising effort. Not surprising, the best people with these skills are not interested unless they have an economic need to apply. Worse, high performers, the best diverse candidates, returning military veterans and non-traditional candidates have a different mix of skills and experiences and as a result are excluded long before they’re ever considered. A results-based job description that details on-the-job success eliminates this serious problem. Since we promote people based on their performance, it seems logical that we should hire them the same way.
2. Hire people based on their ability and motivation to do the work described.
Motivation to do the actual work required is based on a number of factors; ability is just one of them. More important is hiring people who actually find the work intrinsically motivating. This relates to Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow. Equally important are the circumstances or environment in which the work is done. This relates to the quality of the manager, the pace and culture of the company, and the resources available. Collectively, these factors determine on-the-job motivation. In our interview training programs, we emphasize the importance of avoiding hiring people who have not demonstrated a high degree of motivation and initiative to do the actual work required. This ensures hiring people who are motivated to do the work for long-term career reasons, not short-term economic ones.
3. Clarify and prioritize the performance objectives for the job during the onboarding period.
Why wait until the person is hired before job expectations are clarified? Creating aperformance-based job description when the requisition is opened doesn’t take any extra work, it’s just done sooner than in the typical performance management process. During onboarding, the six to eight performance objectives need to be clarified and prioritized to ensure the new hire is on the right path from the start. None of the objectives should come as a surprise to the new hire since they were described during the interview process as part of the most significant accomplishment question. If any big performance objectives are a surprise, it indicates a fundamental flaw in the company’s hiring process. As a result, it’s problematic whether the person will be successful.
4. Hiring managers need to take responsibility for ensuring their new hire’s success.
Since hiring great people is the most important task of managers, it seems logical that they should be evaluated, rewarded and promoted based on how well they do it. As part of this, managers should be charged with the task of training and developing their people and assigning them tasks that bring out their best qualities. This is especially important if the people they’re hiring are high on potential but light on a few skills.
Long before I got into the business of recruiting and hiring great people, there were always great managers. It’s surprising we still need constant reminders of what it takes to become one. The companies that have created a results-oriented culturehave embedded these four principles, the Gallup Q12, Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational Leadership model and Google’s Project Oxygen into their day-to-day activities. It’s apparent that creating this type of culture is what the world’s best leaders actually do. The result is great managers.