Hiring managers often make the mistake of hiring the best applicants instead of the candidates who in the end make the best employees.
By Mel Kleiman
Six years ago, Convenience Store Decisions published an article I wrote that began: “Just two short years ago, anyone who wanted a frontline, hourly worker’s job only had to have a pulse to get hired. Now, we are faced with staggering unemployment as well as a record level of hourly employee job dissatisfaction.”
It went on to enumerate the 10 main ways hourly employee hiring and retention had been affected by the recession and recommend steps employers could take to deal with the situation in 2010.
Now, the workforce pendulum has swung back once again.
Unemployment was just 4.9% this past July (the second lowest month on record since June 2014) and, as of this writing, there are 173,473 hourly jobs available on Indeed.com alone. As for job satisfaction, according to a report from the Conference Board, slightly less than half of U.S. workers said they felt satisfied with their jobs—the happiest they’ve been in a decade. (Though that may sound like good news, it still means more than half of your employees may be looking for greener pastures.)
No matter which direction the pendulum swings, however, one thing remains unchanged; hiring managers still make the mistake of hiring the best applicants rather than the people who will be the best employees. In the c-store world specifically, people are often hired for what they know and most bad hires can be traced back to a decision to hire someone for their experience instead of for their attitude and talents.
Since we need to identify the causes of a problem in order to solve it, let’s take a look at the current workforce scene and suggest some remedies.
Everyone who wants to work is working. Low unemployment numbers mean all the best folks are already working and that many of the job applicants you do attract are probably unemployed and/or of mediocre quality at best. The only way to recruit quality people then is to proactively go after those who are employed.
Your competition is actively recruiting your people on a daily basis. With the advent of job boards, employees need to make little or no effort to find a new and/or better job. They only have to register with any site and they’ll get daily emails detailing all new, relevant, local openings. On top of this, folks who find employment through job boards frequently fail to unsubscribe, so even new hires who are not looking are being tempted daily. And, of course, those who are dissatisfied and looking make it a point to subscribe to these sites.
Loyalty is a thing of the past. A recent Careerbuilders’ survey reported new hires start looking for a new job within 90 days of starting. According to a Wall Street Journal article, the median job tenure for workers aged 20-24 was shorter than 16 months in 2015. For those aged 25-34, it was three years, according to the BLS, still far short of the 5.5-year median tenure for all workers aged 25 and older. (A recent social media trend has been posts entitled “My First Seven Jobs”— and they’re written by 30-somethings).
While the best new hires come from employee referrals, most referral programs don’t work. If you already have a program and it’s not yielding the results you need, it’s probably because you defer the referring employee’s reward until the new hire has been on the job 60+ days and then you just quietly add the cash award to the employee’s regular paycheck.
Because behavior that you’d like to see repeated must be rewarded immediately, what you should do on the new hire’s first day is gather everyone for introductions and say: “This is our new co-worker, Jake, and I know he’s going to be a real asset to our team because he was referred by Michele. Michele, thank you. Here’s your employee referral reward.”
If you balk at this, consider the fact that you don’t pay a job board, recruiter or newspaper only after your new hire has a certain tenure; you pay them up front—in spite of the fact that new hires from these sources are not as likely as referrals to work out well.
Most applicants are better at interviewing than the interviewers. In response to a recent poll that asked: “Have all of your firm’s hiring managers been trained in best practice interviewing techniques,” more than 50% of the respondents said “no” and another 20% said “don’t know.”
If common sense tells us we should not let an untrained person get behind the wheel of a car, why do so many c-store organizations let those who make the most important decision any business ever makes—who gets hired—do it without the benefit of best-practice training?
The pendulum will inevitably swing back again, but the practices and principles of successful employee recruiting, selection, engagement and retention remain the same.
Mel Kleiman is the president of Humetrics and an internationally recognized speaker, consultant and author on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees and their managers. For more information, call (713) 771-4401, email [email protected] or visit www.humetrics.com to subscribe to his blog and monthly Hiring Hints.