Every manager depends on good people

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 March, 2007, 12:00am

make the right move - week 5

Talent: A capacity for achievement or success; ability

UNLESS A MANAGER knows how to recruit the right people and hold on to them, his or her chances of success are limited. Instead, there is likely to be a constant cycle of recruitment, training and fighting fires, which is inefficient, time-consuming and expensive.

If you want to avoid those problems, your priority must be to put the right people in the right jobs. This might sound obvious, but it's surprising how often people end up in roles for which they have no real aptitude or inclination.

The second stage is to make each job interesting and attractive enough to make employees want to stay.

Here are some recommended steps:

Clarify job roles

When hiring, the starting point for effective selection is a sensible job description. This should define the purpose of the position, as well as the main duties, deliverables and expected outcomes. It should outline the skills, competencies and knowledge required for success in the role, and make plain what sets the star performers apart.

Recognise that there are usually some less obvious cultural or personality factors to take into account. For example, although it is almost a natural reflex for companies to emphasise the need for team players, many roles require people who are content to operate more or less independently.

After that, decide on the minimum requirements for success in each position. With these points as selection criteria, it will be easier to evaluate candidates objectively, and compare like with like. A well-structured approach also makes it possible to explore each candidate's background thoroughly and assess them in the same critical areas.

Enhance selection skills

To hire the right people, you may need to improve your own interview skills. This means not just putting the questions, but also listening intently, probing where necessary, and taking notes along the way. If you want to see whether a candidate can really do the job, avoid making decisions based on a gut feeling or initial impressions. Find out what motivates the applicants and look for clues to future performance in what they say about previous achievements or experiences. Ask for examples and ask questions that encourage reflection and give the chance to show imagination.

Define realistic expectations

Before making a job offer, make sure the candidate has a solid understanding of what is expected. Be honest about the challenges ahead and give the prospective employee a realistic impression. It is much better to do this during the selection process, rather than keeping back a few 'surprises' until someone is about to sign a contract. You can also invite candidates to meet current staff, or even let them spend some time 'on the job' before committing themselves.

Help new recruits find their feet

For anyone, the first weeks in a new job are among the most critical. This is when lasting impressions are formed and territory is marked out. If new recruits feel lost or that they don't really fit in, they will already be thinking about moving on. To avoid this, do all you can to make new joiners feel welcome and part of the team.

Ensure that they have everything they need to perform effectively, and explain the main workplace rules and procedures.

To be methodical, prepare an induction checklist and make sure that the necessary 'tools' are ready in advance. These include a clean desk, a functioning computer, name cards and stationery. Also, introduce a new recruit to colleagues and contacts as soon as possible. Even if it is not company policy, consider assigning a mentor or buddy to help with the settling in process.

After taking care of the basics, turn your attention to training and development needs. Initially, this may mean arranging a course on the in-house IT system, but should also entail setting out a programme for both personal and professional development.

Prevent turnover

Nowadays, a key priority for most managers is to keep employees committed and engaged, thereby reducing the likelihood of staff turnover. Bosses sometimes forget how difficult it is to change a person's mind once they have decided to leave, so it's important to spot the warning signs and take preventive action.

The usual signals include lower productivity, secretive behaviour and moodiness. When you detect any of these, point out tactfully what you have noticed and aim to discuss the issue.

The best way of preventing staff discontent is to chat to team members informally, share their concerns and show that you take them seriously. Also, don't be afraid to ask for feedback on your own style of management. Managers need to learn too, and their subordinates probably know as well as anyone where adjustments are needed.

Also, keep up to date with market trends in pay and benefits, so that your terms and offers to candidates are broadly competitive. If the problem of high turnover persists, ask people what's wrong and listen to their answers. For example, some companies consistently lose staff simply because their IT systems are incompatible, meaning that staff end up frustrated or having to duplicate work.

Finally, research has shown the benefits of conducting 'stay' interviews regularly. These give managers the opportunity to discuss commitment and future prospects, as well as the activities and rewards, which play a part in each person's decision to stay.

Article sponsored by Drake International, Hong Kong - a leading supplier of permanent and contract recruitment, human capital management and leadership consulting services

Become a model manager

We all know there are certain managers everyone wants to work for. To be like them, you need to:

Be a champion Become known as a manager who supports development; put staff forward for courses and give them exposure to strategic or cross-functional projects.

Be human You don't need to be everyone's friend, but you do need to treat your staff well. Get to know their individual interests and show respect for their problems and concerns.

Involve your team Focusing only on routine tasks can leave employees feeling stale and irrelevant. Therefore, get your team involved in decisions and brainstorming sessions.

Build trust If staff make mistakes, you should offer support and help them learn from the experience. Also, they should know that you will be fair and will maintain confidences.

Be consistent Studies have shown that employees dislike managers who keep changing their mind. Plan carefully to avoid backtracking or unnecessary changes.

Make time for your team There's nothing worse than a manager who is never there. If your job is to look after a team, set aside time to deal with the personnel issues.