Friday, September 14, 2018

Happy Employees - Part Two

Last time (see Part One) I mentioned that you should create job descriptions that encourage the habits that allow people to excel and enjoy their jobs. People seek challenges. And they excel when the challenges have clear goals and good feedback mechanisms.

This SOP on employee reviews gives a good example of creating clear goals and feedback.

The piece of the puzzle you need to put together is to make sure that the people you hire are a good fit for the kind of work they're doing. After all, we all do very similar jobs. But you always excel at those things you enjoy the most.

I love the DiSC model for personality profiles. But there are plenty of others as well. While none of them is perfectly accurate, they can give you some insights into what prospective employees do well at. Let's look at three examples.

Employee One loves detail work. She loves to dig into numbers and lists and complex puzzles. She gets lost in her work when she's trying to piece together a big, messy project. She is happy when the bank accounts balance to the penny and everyone files their paperwork on time. Someone who begrudgingly pays attention to details would go insane with activities that make her happy.

Employee Two loves to follow rules. He never skips through the morning routine. You can rely on him to actually test every backup and look at every orange light in a monitoring board. He never lets it pass when a client casually mentions that a printer jammed two weeks ago. He might never get his time card in on time, but the clients love him because he's happiest when everything is done the "right" way.

Employee Three loves conquering monsters. He volunteers to take on impossible jobs. He learns the latest technology first. He will be the one to volunteer to drive four hours in an emergency. When the whole team is working on a project, he'll complete more tasks than anyone - every time. Most technicians are exhausted just thinking about keeping up with him. But he's bored to tears when he has to sit in a cubicle and check boxes.

You've probably met these three in some form. And you recognize both the upside and downside of each. Employee One will follow a process perfectly but resists changes in her environment. Employee Two execute checklists perfectly, but hates taking on new tasks. Employee Three never turns down a challenge - except doing the "boring" parts of his job.

In the excellent book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the experience of getting so lost in your work that you lose track of time. People absorbed in their work stop hearing and seeing the world around them. They are hyper-focused and productive.

Some people refer to this as being "in the zone." When you can focus like a laser beam on the things you love doing, you do better work. You also get more accomplished, and you feel like a total winner when you're done. THAT is a great combination.

So, once you've created great jobs with challenges, goals, and feedback, the next challenge is to find the right people for each of those jobs. Don't gloss over the statements above where I point out that each of the three personality types would hate each others' job!

Another great book is Jim Collins' masterpiece, Good to Great. A great read, and a great audio book.

In Good to Great, Collins argues that you need to get the right people on the bus. In other words, hire good people. And then you need to make sure they're in the right seats. That is, make sure each of them is in the right role based on their personality and talents.

Warning: This includes YOU. If you hate dealing with finances, don't be the finance person. If you hate customer relations, don't be the CR manager. You need to excel at your job, just as your employees excel at theirs.

Getting the right people on the bus is easier (but still not easy) if you use personality profiles. But you can't be lazy. You also need to work on your interview skills or hire a human resources (HR) consultant to help you.

In my experience, the most powerful questions begin with the words, "Tell me about a time . . .." Such questions are open-ended, so they can't say yes or no. And if you're digging into a specific personality trait, this is their chance to tell you a story that illustrates that.

It's not fair to say that people lie in job interviews. But they want to come across as strong as possible. So if you want to know if they're detail oriented, they'll say "yes" and try to please you.

As a rule, people looking for a job want to appear competent and a good fit. So they may be blinded to the fact that getting a job you hate is 1% good (you got a job) and 99% bad (you hate it).

  • So . . . Tell me about a time when you had a bad client experience. How did you handle that?
  • Tell me about a time when you were handed a huge, overwhelming job that was over your head.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with another technician you didn't like.
  • Tell me what your perfect work week looks like.

One of my favorite employees over the years is Lana. She was an administrative assistant who worked in two of my companies at the same time (20 hours each). Whenever I gave her a task, she added it to her daily list and executed is perfectly. When she left, I literally found her drawer full of daily task lists. She printed one out every day and checked through them methodically.

What made her such a great fit is that she honestly loved her job. She was in the "Flow" every day. She lost herself in detailed work I could never do - and certainly would not do well. She was the perfect fit for that job. Doing it right, doing it well, and doing it one second faster than yesterday made her happy.

- - - - -

Hiring is an inexact science. You can use profiles and other tools to try to find the best fit. But sometimes you hire people who don't work out. And sometimes you put the right people in the wrong seats.

As a result, you have to keep working at it and fine-tuning it.

In Part Three of this series, I'll look at creating the culture that makes good employ relations a regular part of your workplace.


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