Wrongheaded, even crazy, HR advice tends to be delivered emphatically, as if passed down from Moses, but that doesn’t make it any truer for the delivery.
Misinformation–myths–about how to hire (or “select," which is the term I prefer) and treat employees can destroy your attempts at building a rich and sustainable corporate culture and can make a hash of your leadership. Here are four of them in particular that I urge you to reject:
1. Snappy but utterly insane advice like “hire slowly, fire quickly.” Try this sometime. Or better, don’t. "Hire slowly" certainly has its good points, but "fire quickly" applied to those who aren't immediately successful means you're throwing away human potential in a way that is completely cruel: a blip on a resume and wasted resources for your company, not to mention the shockwaves felt by those left un-fired. In my experience great companies certainly don't ignore the failures of initially unsuccessful employees, but they engage in the more difficult "coach quickly," "make adjustments quickly," and "amp up the training" rather than the kneejerkish "fire quickly."
2. Advice like, “Go on your gut.” If people went on their guts, they wouldn’t hire, well, let’s see: people of different ethnicities, people of different ages, people of different religious backgrounds, single people for the CEO job. And no way in Helsinki would they hire tattooed, pierced, possibly hoodied Millennials, no matter how great their potential.
3. Advice like, “Turnover is inevitable. You can manage this fact, but you’ll never transform it.” (This is especially dangerous advice to take as gospel when employing younger workers (millennials), since it fits with the generational assumption — to some extent true — that millennials don’t expect to work with you forever. If you consider anyone disposable, you increase the chances they'll live up to/down to your expectations. )
4. Advice like, “You can’t work successfully with a union:” Clearly, people who say this ignore companies like Southwest Airlines — the most unionized airline in a unionized industry—who have great employee relations, with management actually striving to learn from the “other side” at each negotiation, Fairmont Hotels, Host Marriott… The incoming workforce of Millennials, by the way, are the most pro-union generation in quite some time. Even if it is largely theoretical for them, the anti-union rhetoric isn’t going to win you points with them.
Six Guiding Principles
Fortunately, there are tested approaches, antithetical to all this idiocy, that help companies thrive every day, while the naysayers nay. The model I use in my corporate culture consulting draws not only from my own experience but from the model of superior service-focused companies like Mayo Clinic, Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, USAA Insurance, Marriott, Auberge Resorts and others, as well as the work of a few true visionaries in the field include the creators of the Ritz-Carlton Hotels And Resorts and the work of Brad Black of HUMANeX Ventures.
1. Hiring — “selecting” – employees has to be systematic. Your approach to whom you select to work in your company, and in which position you place them, needs to be based on science, not on hunches, politics, whims.
[Quick Refresher: Here, speaking broadly, are the underlying personality traits that make for a great customer-facing employee. They spell “WETCO”):
• W is for Warmth: Simple human kindness
• E is for Empathy: The ability to sense what another person is feeling
• T is for Teamwork: An inclination toward ‘‘Let’s work together to make this happen’’ and against ‘‘I’d rather do it all myself"
• C is for Conscientiousness: Detail orientation, including an ability and willingness to follow through to completion
• O is for Optimism: The ability to bounce back and to not internalize challenges. Optimism is a necessity in customer-facing positions.
Similarly, your approach to getting recruits from whom to choose needs to be relentlessly systematic: As Brad Black puts it, "ABS: Always Be Scouting";This allows you ultimately to be able to choose from perhaps the top 1% rather than forced to make do with the top 10% of those who apply.
2. You need an integrated approach to employee development: Great hiring is never enough. In everything else related to employees, you need to be systematic. You need a system of HR. Not just in hiring, but in reviewing your talent for advancement (and lateral moves): you need an integrated approach
3. Go overboard with the onboard: Onboarding—orientation and the first weeks of employment— matters. Make sure employees are welcomed, and oriented by a power in the organization, and onboarded by the team they will be working with.
4. Employees need design input and performance leeway: Employees need to have input into the design of, and leeway in the performance of, their work — and you as an employer need them to have this input and leeway. (Fill this in with info from high-tech high-touch on both a) design input and b) autonomy
5. Employees need a purpose to their work – and you as a leader need them to have a purpose, in order to get the most out of them.
6. Employees are an asset, not just an expense. Don’t just hire and then try to minimize turnover. Select and then maximize potential of your asset. It requires more forethought and dedication, but ultimately it's vastly more effective and sustainable.