Employ Carefully

Many business leaders are truly overwhelmed as they are desperately trying to fill various vacant positions. The level of vacant positions is often leading to an increasing burden on existing staff members, creating the potential for dissatisfaction, burnout and hence even more vacancies. Yet the temptation to just employ anyone willing to take the job should be balanced against the many potential negative consequences of employing the wrong person.

So at the both ends of the spectrum, which are both harmful to the business, is one hand not employing anyone to fill a vacancy or at the other end is employing “just anyone”.

This brings about the legitimate question. How can business leaders or managers know whether it’s better to take a chance on a non-ideal candidate or keep a position vacant until they’re able to find a better one? Research indicates that the following four traits have the biggest impact on teams and their performance, being even more determining that actually technical skills. There are the four traits:-

  • Reliability: Let us first try to make sure that you do not to do the common mistake that many managers do, by mixing reliability with flexibility. Flexibility is predictable and thus easier to manage than unreliability (e.g. frequently missing to turn up at work or failing to complete tasks on time). During the recruitment process, job applicants are very willing to express and make flexibility-related requests, but it is very unlikely that they will reveal reliability issues. So as an interviewer it is important that you brush up on your reference-checking skills to try to screen out unreliable workers. Second, it’s important to revisit your interview questions to include behavioral questions that might provide clues — for example, “Tell me about a time when you faced unexpected events and how you managed them.” We all have unexpected situations come up, but in general, adaptable and resilient individuals are more likely to be reliable.
  • Plug & Play : It is obvious that employing persons that have the required competence for the job is the preferred option. If your employees are already overworked, employing someone with minimal competence that requires extensive training will likely burden further your other employees. You should never forget that training is expensive and time consuming. However, beyond the task-specific skills, it is important that you look for candidates with a growth mindset. People with this mindset are those that are ready to commit to the effort needed to widen their knowledge and develop new abilities. In an interview this can be assessed by asking the right questions, like for example – “Describe a situation when you did not perform well. If you faced that situation again tomorrow, what would you do differently?”
  • Positive attitude: Just like a virus, emotions are contagious. One negative individual can “infect” others, bringing the whole team down and making the already challenging workload even harder. Your business does not need all the wasted energy and time, when many employees start avoiding working with someone who is always negative and unliked by the vast majority. The end result is a general sense (some would say even a culture) where people get so “infected” by this negativity that they end up not doing any extra effort with an overall decline in performance.
  • Good communication: Being able to communicate well with colleagues is important in any work environment. However in today’s world, where various people have an element of working from home, having proper and refined communication skills is even more important. Managers can assess basic communication skills during an interview by looking for a variety of factors, including the clarity and coherence of responses. Managers could also consider asking the candidate about their preferred communication medium and favorite tips/tricks for being an effective communicator. If the responses from the job applicant is that he/she hates email and that they have a cardinal rule of never ever to call anyone after 5 p.m – you may wish to keep looking.

One may ask – Ok, but if I cannot find any job applicant that fits the bill and scores against the above four traits, how can I support my overstretched team?

First, communicate to your employees that the challenge is temporary and that you’re trying to employ good team members for them. Many employees would prefer to work a little extra for several weeks rather than deal with a bad team member for the longer term. You may also consider asking your employees to help you in the employment process, with an employee referral program. It’s also critical to attend to your team members. Consider strategies to manage burnout and boost retention. Your current employees need respect, attention, rewards and engagement.

If it might take a while to find the right “somebody,” consider whether you should look for someone in a different position to take some of the pressure off your team. Could you maybe give opportunities to present staff members to fill in higher roles, whilst you look to filling, with new staff members, lower roles who need less skills and experience?

Also you might need to think outside the box. Could it be that an investment in a technology based solution, even maybe AI based, could help your present team members perform better without getting worn out.

At the end of the day, if you don’t have any applicants who are likely to be reliable and possess a growth mindset, positive attitude and decent communication skills, employing nobody is probably better to just employing somebody. In the meantime, consider how you can support your current employees and whether filling a different position may be a better approach.

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