Hire to win

Feb. 1, 2015

Building the team that will support your succession planning.

How will your business perform 20 years from now? Although most water treatment dealers might not realize it, the answer to that question heavily depends on the employees you have hired — and even the candidates that you let slip away during the interview process. As the U.S. slowly removes itself from one of the worst economic setbacks in recent history, many water treatment dealers will be looking to add staff.

Several economists predict that the U.S. economy will likely grow by more than three percent in 2015. Additionally, in 2014, U.S. businesses added three million new jobs — the most since 1999 —and experts predict that this trend will continue in 2015.

Hiring is one of the most important and impactful aspects of a manager’s or owner’s job. We recently spoke with hiring expert and Executive Coach for the Middle Market Stacy Feiner, PsyD, on the topics of interviewing, hiring and retaining.

The interview: A good first impression by all

Most people, including many hiring managers, simply view hiring as a short-term fix to fill an open position at the company. But, your hiring decisions today and in the past will directly impact your company in the years ahead.

“Recruiting and hiring fall under and are aspects of talent acquisition,” explains Dr. Feiner, adding that hiring is directly related to a business’ succession planning in the big picture. A common pitfall, which many hiring managers and business owners fall into, is viewing the practice of hiring “in a vacuum” and separate from planning for future growth.

So, what are the best practices? How can a manager or committee ensure success in hiring? Some may be surprised to learn that it is the actions and behavior of the hiring manager and committee that bear half of the onus during the interview process.    

“You have to realize that hiring is about 50 percent of your company — how your company performs during the hiring process — and it is 50 percent about the candidate,” asserts Dr. Feiner. In order to ensure that you are filling the pipeline with quality candidates, your company must be clear about its goals and expectations for the position from the onset.

A good hiring manager also knows to involve others at the company who will be directly working with or affected by a new hire. Furthermore, it is very important for the hiring manager to do good due diligence. This involves calling references, performing background checks and thoroughly vetting the candidate.

“The interview process should also include a group of people — what I like to call a hiring committee — and a series of questions,” says Dr. Feiner. Those important internal questions can include:

  • Can the person function well in the role?
  • Do they have the attitude or leadership qualities that will match the company’s culture?
  • Do they have potential to grow?

“But, remember, growing relates to succession planning,” continues Dr. Feiner. “It’s important to hire with the goal of moving people through the organization. I have designed a platform called ‘Strategic Talent Management,’ which is a guide for managing talent from the time you hire it, develop it and then deploy it. All of these things are connected and they need to be viewed that way from the beginning.”

When to hire and when to promote

Why did you decide to open up a water treatment business? For many local and franchise business owners, part of the reason was to provide jobs and support the community. Many business owners gain job satisfaction when they are able to provide an employee with a stable, satisfying career. Moreover, retaining motivated and loyal employees also provides the business with several paybacks.

“These [current] employees are known entities and you already know how they fit in the company’s culture. They also have institutional knowledge that may be invaluable to the business. Developing talent and promoting can present less risk than hiring from the outside, but it is still important to have a good mix,” adds Dr. Feiner. A good rule of thumb, she says, is having a 70-30 or 60-40 percent split, depending on the company. “Therefore, 70 percent of your positions are filled internally and 30 percent are filled with external talent.”

Another common pitfall managers fall into is believing the hiring process is over after the position is filled. In fact, good hiring continues until that employee is no longer with the company. If you have hired correctly, those employees will eventually need to be interviewed again … for a promotion. But, how can managers be sure when the best time to promote is?

According to Dr. Feiner, there are a number of ways to assess talent for a promotion. “However, the most effective ways are to have thoughtful conversations, provide clear objectives and good instructions, require feedback and set the goals and expectations for the new position,” she explains, adding another step after the promotion, which is providing proper training for that employee.

Training as motivation

In addition to specific company training, there are industry-related training tools employers can provide to new hires and existing employees. The Water Quality Association (WQA), for instance, offers technical certification and sales training specifically for point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) water treatment dealers. For more information on these educational materials and programs, please visit www.wqa.org.   

While training is important for the overall company’s performance, it also helps to keep employees motivated and satisfies their need for learning, in addition to elevating their status and value within the company. Engaging employees is another way to ensure sound hiring and retaining practices. After hiring, notes Dr. Feiner, managers must consider the following to gauge their “employee engagement” level:  

  • Does the employee have clear goals and objectives?
  • Does the employee feel that he or she has the tools to accomplish those goals and objectives?
  • Does the employee feel valued and that there is potential for growth?
  • Does the employee feel appreciated?

“If employees can answer ‘yes’ to those questions, then the business owner can feel confident that employees are engaged, productive and representing the company well,” concludes Dr. Feiner.   

The cost of improper hiring

As mentioned, for various reasons, managers sometimes approach hiring incorrectly. However, after considering such factors as time, materials, job posting fees, impact on company culture and lost opportunity, the cost of an improper hire adds up.

“Another rule of thumb is that when you make a poor hiring decision, the cost of hiring the wrong person for the job can be upward of 10 times that person’s salary,” educates Dr. Feiner.

Long-standing businesses understand that this scenario can occur so it is important to recognize issues early and then minimize risk. Oftentimes, business owners err on the side of giving a poor performer too much time to work out any issues related to effectively performing their job responsibilities. Instead, managers should have clear fact-based, data-driven discussions with these employees and then act swiftly when expectations are not met.

“And, despite what some managers might think, this does not have to be a tough conversation,” explains Dr. Feiner. “Simply explain what you are noticing wrong and in which specific areas the employee is underperforming. Most importantly, set a timeframe with the employee to give yourself and the employee time to resolve the issues.”

However, in most cases, you can minimize risk in hiring through due diligence during the interview process. Retaining quality employees, similar to interviewing, is a 50-50 partnership with the employee and the company. As your company looks to add new employees this year, remember that the hiring manager represents your company’s culture and affects how new employees will perform from the very first point of contact.  

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