Palm Trees in Alaska

When working with business owners to improve their hiring process, I often use the analogy of the palm tree. The palm tree thrives in warm humid weather, but if transplanted to the cold environment of Alaska it will die. Similarly, there are candidates that may have all the right skills but aren’t a good fit for your company culture.

When you focus on the skills, experience, and knowledge of an employee but don’t uncover the behaviors and personal values that have made them successful in the past along, it is a recipe for failure. The cost of a bad hire can be in excess of $25,000 including lost productivity.

When I ran a technology and project management consulting firm, I made this mistake and it was painful to the organization. We were growing rapidly, and felt it was important to get some “pedigree” consultants from larger consulting firms. What we didn’t understand was we were hiring palm trees for Alaska. These consultants had been successful in large organizations, but they had trouble adapting to a rapidly growing, nimble organization. While successful in the past, they were not performing to their potential based on their past performance. We quickly realized that we needed to adjust our hiring practices to ensure our culture and values fit with future applicants’ values.

As a leadership team we used this 3-step process to increase our hiring success rate and saved ourselves time and money and kept us on our growth protectory.

  1. Define behaviors that support company values
  2. Create a consistent hiring process
  3. Use assessments to bring data into process

Values and Behaviors

Company values are your company’s DNA. They are the beliefs and principles that drive your decision making and actions for your business, and your values impact the experience your employees, customers, and partners will have with your company.

I have rarely worked with a company who didn’t have core values that were documented, yet many hadn’t defined the behaviors and actions that supported their specific values. Values are abstract while behaviors can be observed and can be explained with more clarity.

For example, Excellence, this value can mean something different from one person to another. But when defined with behaviors such as: go the extra mile for customers and employees, deliver consistent results, and/or continuously develop skills and knowledge, it becomes a lot clearer.

Behaviors are used to create behavioral interview questions that will be part of your consistent hiring process.

Hiring Process Consistency 

I have yet to work with a company of less than 75 employees who had a consistent hiring process. What I have found were pockets of best practices used by one manager or in a department, but the best practices weren’t being used consistently. Generally, this occurs because HR is generally viewed as a tactical resource and not a strategic partner so there is no one focused on talent strategy.

Process consistency will provide you with more reliable hiring results. If your team isn’t getting the results you need to be successful, you need to find the root cause of the problem. Start the process by analyzing who in the company is making better hires than others and uncover what steps, best practices, they are using that should be incorporated company wide.

Assessments Decrease Risk 

Being part of the insurance industry, you know the importance of managing risk and hiring assessments are a method for reducing the risk of making poor hiring decisions.

When you use validated behavioral hiring assessments, you gain an understanding of the behaviors an applicant would naturally bring to your team and you minimize your hiring biases.

I recommend that you use an assessment prior to the final round of interviews. The results will help you form additional questions that you can use to make your final decision. Remember to use an assessment that is validated for hiring. This means it has been scientifically shown to consistently predict future behaviors. Some of the most common assessments like Myers Briggs and DiSC, while good for team building and development, are not validated for hiring.

Are you ready to follow this 3 step process to improve your hiring results, increase employee retention, and productivity?

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