What’s the secret ingredient for a roaring fire in your fireplace—the kind of fire that comforts you for hours on a bone-chilling night? Is it the aging of your wood, the choice of oak over birch, or the ratio of kindling to logs? While all these considerations are important, the crucial ingredient is attention. How consistently you tend the flames determines their ultimate shape and intensity.
We think of the fireplace image when clients ask, “When is it safe to hire again and what should I be thinking about when I do hire?” Their concern is timely. As we continue to deal with volatility and gradually move into a period of new growth, companies are naturally cautious about planning for additional salaries.
The questions they may forget to ask, however, are: “Where are we heading? What will be the shape of our business in 6 months, next year and in 2 years? Who are the people we need now to get there? Do we have the right ones and are they in the right roles? Are we ‘stoking the embers’ enough to meet our future goals?”
Just as manufacturers buy raw materials with an eye toward current business conditions and future opportunities, large and small organizations should be forward thinking when they evaluate investments in their people. Consider the following as you develop a hiring framework:
- What is the current state of our employment situation? Are we fully staffed or are our people approaching burnout? What people do we need to take care of our key focus areas? Take the temperature of your organization.
- Are market conditions changing or customer expectations changing requiring your employees to respond in new or unique ways? What resources do you have or will you need to have in place—in sales, customer service, manufacturing, and logistics to deal with the change?
- To what extent can your current workforce stretch to meet those demands?
- Will key people be able to hit the ground running when demand increases? What is the optimal lead time for hiring to enable these people to succeed?
Companies need to be able to accept the risk of making reasonable predictions about their growth, and continually plan for the people who will help them sustain those expectations. This requires expertise in understanding the motives and drives of individuals who will be most successful in key roles.
What you need from employees will likely change as the business environment evolves. Kindred Healthcare’s Hospital Division provides an excellent illustration. Kindred Healthcare has achieved an enviable reputation as the largest long-term acute care hospital provider in the United States and has been one of Fortune Magazine’s Most Admired Companies for several years running. At a point when it needed to increase its sales staff and lower turnover, Kindred’s hospitals took a renewed look at its people. Management realized it needed different kinds of individuals to rise to the next plateau.
In its high-growth stage, the company had sought out employees who could sustain a fast pace. In a new expansion phase, it needed people who could think strategically, marshal teams together and communicate effectively. The company began building behavioral profiles of ideal candidates, with emphasis on strategic thinking and the ability to collaborate and build relationships. The key was to understand the underlying motives and attributes that contribute to strategic thinking and the ability to effectively leverage working relationships. They were able to do this with the use of a scientifically validated assessment. Kindred employed the Predictive Index®. Applicants for these positions completed Predictive Index Surveys so Kindred’s hospitals could compare them with the behavioral benchmarks. Among resulting benefits: improved employee retention, better understanding of how to bring out the best in individual employees, more powerful teams as the company moved ahead and millions of dollars in savings.
If, like Kindred’s hospitals, you envision expansion opportunities or are dealing with change, take a renewed look at your people. In addition to hiring, should you be redesigning specific positions to gain more from your existing people? Should you shift people into new roles—particularly at the senior level? Are your current leaders able to capitalize on the new opportunities at hand?
This is a particularly important consideration if your organization is emerging from a hiring freeze or a period of downsizing. Companies in those situations often give their remaining employees additional responsibilities without fully considering whether this will improve or reduce their ability to succeed. For example, after layoffs, businesses may simply shift the responsibilities of terminated employees to those closest to them.
Now is the time to reevaluate these assignments—and remove the burden from those individuals who will gain new energy and improve performance when their jobs fit their “workplace personalities” once more. Studies and results like those experienced by Kindred have demonstrated that the better a person’s motives and drives are aligned with the role, the greater the performance, the higher the engagement and the stronger the business outcomes.
No matter what the season—or the current economic barometer—companies should fan the flames of growth through their people. Spark existing employees’ productivity by matching them with jobs that fit. Understand where your next opportunities lie, and in what areas you should be staffing—or realigning—now to prepare. What behavioral strengths will individuals need to succeed in these key positions—and to fire up your success? For blazing growth, a continual look at employee fit and impact on performance is essential.
Article by Jeanne Ward.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.