Debbie McGrath Debbie McGrath

Three Out of Four Hires Fail—Here are Tips for Beating the Odds

June 1, 2013

Posted to by Sharyn Orr Maldonado, director of human resources, Petra Risk Solutions

Baseball Hall-of-Famer Ted Williams famously said that baseball is “the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of 10 and be considered a good performer.”

Maybe not the only one; the same could be said for hiring.

Hiring and retaining the best people is one of the most critical jobs the owner or manager of a company has. In surveys, most rate their success at about one excellent hire out of four. The other three either weren’t a good fit or didn’t have the abilities that their training or resume indicated.

That’s a huge problem. As Jim Collins wrote in his indispensable management book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, getting the “right people on the bus and the right people in the right seats” is the most essential task in business. You can’t train your out of a bad hire, either.

The worst part? While good hires energize those around them, bad hires become energy drains. Bad hires dampen productivity and suck up management time and attention.

Often, it’s not skills or credentials that predict success. What really matters is whether the prospective candidate fits the job. Do they have characteristics that match those of your top performers? It sounds a bit squishy, and yes, hiring may be part art, but it’s also a science. You can assign metrics to the characteristics that make a difference in performance and better predict candidates’ success.

Here are five suggestions to help you hire and retain top performers.

1) Use a structured hiring process that goes beyond resumes and interviews.

We begin by determining the applicant’s basic employability characteristics: integrity, reliability, work ethic, and attitude toward drugs. This assessment helps screen out people who are not likely to perform well or fit our performance culture.

2) Gain an objective understanding of your best people.

We use a normative assessment that measures learning ability, occupational interests and behavioral characteristics. Our top performers embody what success looks like, so we ask them to take the assessment to help us develop a performance model—a benchmark—for that position. The questionnaire reveals personality traits as well as language and math aptitude. We look for a close match between the applicants’ scores and the performance benchmark. You can use the information to coach employees, as well as for promotion and redeployment decisions.

3) Develop customized performance models.

One size does not fit all. Slight differences in the model may have a big impact on performance. Start with critical or problem positions where productivity or turnover may be an issue. Be certain that your performance metrics are objective and clearly identified so you can differentiate between top and bottom performers. The model that derives from this process will help you improve performance in all of your positions.

4) Have the supervisors take the assessment.

This , they can better understand themselves and their direct reports, and coach them toward increased productivity. The reports give supervisors a “user’s manual” for each direct report that shows challenge areas, how to motivate them and how to get better performance.

5) Repeat for every hire, for every position.

More input will produce better benchmarking. If this sounds like reverse engineering, it is. This method has proved to be highly reliable, helping achieve good hires three times out of four.

One thing is clear: If you don’t start out with the right person, nothing else you do will turn out well. A bad hire never works out for anybody. There’s no crying in baseball, and there should be less of it in hiring.

The Proper Ratio of Recognition to Constructive Criticism

Posted to by Derek Irvine, vice president, Globoforce 

We all know the compliment-criticism sandwich is a bad idea, as it sends employees confusing mixed messages (“Am I doing a good job or not?”). We also all know that constructive criticism is important, otherwise how could we improve or know where to focus our self-improvement efforts?

So what is the right ratio of constructive criticism to praise and recognition? It’s certainly not 1:1 or even 2:1. The proper ratio, according to research reported in Harvard Business Review, is nearly 6:1 praise to criticism. The research measured the effectiveness of strategic business-unit leadership teams using the “financial performance, customer satisfaction ratings, and 360-deg. feedback ratings of the team members.” The leading determining factor between the least-successful teams and the most successful: the ratio of positive comments to negative comments. From the research: “The average ratio for the highest-performing teams was 5.6 (that is, nearly six positive comments for every negative one). The medium-performance teams averaged 1.9 (almost twice as many positive comments than negative ones). But the average for the low-performing teams, at 0.36 to 1, was almost three negative comments for every positive one.”

That doesn’t mean negative feedback doesn’t play an important role. As the article says:

“Negative feedback is important when we’re heading over a cliff to warn us that we’d really better stop doing something horrible or start doing something we’re not doing right a. But even the most well-intentioned criticism can rupture relationships and undermine self-confidence and initiative. It can change behavior, certainly, but it doesn’t cause people to put forth their best efforts.”

Negative feedback resets direction, but it does not inspire or motivate to greater success. If that’s your goal, then you’d best incorporate positive feedback, praise and appreciation into your communications with your team.

“Only positive feedback can motivate people to continue doing what they’re doing well,” the article notes, “and do it with more vigor, determination and creativity. Perhaps that’s why we have found with the vast majority of the leaders in our database, who have no outstanding weaknesses, that positive feedback is what motivates them to continue improvement.”

In other words, how do you keep motivating your top performers who already are great and don’t need correction? Positive feedback. MF
Industry-Related Terms: Model
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms

Technologies: Management


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