I didn’t start making any real money until I got into remediation work, does that mean that my wife is a mold digger?
Would anyone other than a property restoration professional think this was funny? How did you get into water damage mitigation and microbial growth (the four letter word – mold) remediation or bio hazard (crime scene) clean up? I answered job posting in the local newspaper, when that was still a thing, for carpet cleaning at a time when the job market was thin and I wanted any job that would 1) get me away from my current employment and 2) allow me some flexibility to go to night school. In my initial interview I expressed that I was studying for a degree in criminal justice and the owner of the local franchise restoration company told me, “You would be great for our mold division.” Not having any idea what that was, I
replied, “Why yes. Yes I would.”
I have had many people over the years ask, what is a mold remediation division? It may be difficult for many to imagine but there was a time when insurance companies were paying on mold claims and there was plenty of work. Our organization had a good section of the local market, something that many franchises are no longer allowed to do, and our team was knocking out projects. In my professional pursuits doors were not opening in the path that I anticipated heading down while doors were opening in this new profession that only months before I did not know even existed. Sometimes we can be slow to recognize the clear turns that our journey is taking, but thankfully I was able to see a real opportunity to grow thanks to good leadership and support from my family.
I always tell new recruits – if you are honest, hard working and willing to learn, we can teach you to be productive in our industry (see article Hiring, 3 Character Keys). How do I know this? Because this is exactly what I brought to the table and was fortunate enough to have good leaders who were willing to teach me the skills necessary to succeed as well as provide opportunities for me to grow in the property restoration profession. Good leaders are a blessing to their organizations and their employees, if you are in leadership you have the privilege and the responsibility to keep those torches burning – whether you were provided with good examples by good leaders or if you had to carve your own path.
Hiring is one of the most important aspects of a leader’s job as an individual as well as an essential mechanism for any organization to achieve consistent pursuit of excellence. While there are many systems which proclaim their ability to weed out the bad eggs, there are plenty of companies large and small that find themselves in a cycle of hiring stinkers. Thankfully companies such as Zappos, which are touted for their exemplary cultures, have had to learn many of their lessons the hard way (like the rest of us), as “CEO Tony Hseih once estimated that bad hires had cost the company well over $100 million (Fatemi, 2016).” This same Forbes article notes, “According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the price of a bad hire is at least 30 percent of the employee's first-year earnings.” You may recover from the waste in financial resource but think of how much time and stress compounds the pain of those failed hires. This reality calls for more intentionality in developing a system that attracts, acquires and retains good candidates for your culture, values and systems.
Understanding your own values helps guide your process for acquiring talent.
While many of those in leadership shoot from the hip and trust their gut, the risk outweighs the reward when your hiring mechanism hasn’t evolved since the days when you entered your given profession. Bad habits consistently produce bad results, yet the nuances and systems proposed by many of the top authors and business minds are often more cumbersome and costly than a bad decision, which is why many of those in leadership avoid these complex mechanisms. Organizational Physics author, Lex Sisney, wrote a follow up to his scientific approach to business and shares a less complex solution in the aptly titled How to Think About Hiring: Play Smarter to Win the Talent Game, “Consistently great teams don’t scout and hire for talent. They scout and hire for talent that is a supreme fit for their system. They always think about building a team with a strong collective identity at a fair price instead of just collecting individual talent at any price.” To make significant changes you will need to adjust both how you think about as well as how you approach hiring, but a good system does not have to be as complex as an NFL draft board.
Narrowing your focus helps guide your system for acquiring talent.
In our humble opinion, it has consistently been a positive experience in service based industries to hire candidates with minimal direct experience rather than seeking experienced employees from competitors. The reason we like to find new hires that don’t have direct prior experience in our industry is that they also don’t have the bad habits or the pessimism of being burned by a competitor in our market space, which unfortunately happens all too often. Benjamin Franklin spoke accurately when he said, “It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them,” which we covered previously in our article on attracting talent. This does not mean that we don’t look for relevant or transferable experience such as customer service, sales and/or comparable skills, but we don’t find much success in recruiting from the castaways of our competitors. This is a mindset where our leadership team has committed to training hires to learn both our culture and values as well as the skills required to succeed in our profession.
To a fault, we will always express multiple times to a candidate throughout the hiring process that we are able to teach them the professional skills that are necessary to succeed with our organization but the three things that we need them to bring to the table are 1) be honest, 2) be hard working and 3) be willing to learn. Of all the things we can teach a potential candidate, we cannot change their character or their core values, so we need them to bring the three principles of being honest, hard-working and willing to learn to the table. If a candidate will bring these three things with 100% effort than we can develop them into a productive service representative of our organization, if they have intelligence and a core commitment to excellence than we can make them very successful (as they have the potential to succeed in anything they put their effort into). When you as a leader as well as collectively as an organization understand your values it creates a focus on what values you are looking for in candidates. As with the regular daily tasks of employment, clarifying what you as an organization bring to the table and what you need from a candidate in order for them to embrace the vision for your team will create a more consistent path to development of new hires as well as the upholding of the existing culture. As there is parity in the NFL, the margins of success and failure are often very thin, which means that simple changes have the potential to produce sustainable positive changes.
What have you learned about hiring that has helped you to be successful?
Fatemi, F. (2016, September 28) The true cost of a bad hire – it’s more than you think. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/falonfatemi/2016/09/28/the-true-cost-of-a-bad-hire-its-more-than-you-think/#67700bc44aa4
Sisney, L. (2013, December 6) How to hire like the NFL’s best teams. http://organizationalphysics.com/2013/12/06/how-to-hire-like-the-nfls-best-teams/
We have had several discussions in our teams about how we continue to attract, develop and keep good talent so that our organization can thrive. People are the ingredient X that will either propel your team or sink the ship. When you have been able to identify motivated individuals who bring new perspectives into your company the first thing you should ask as a leadership team is how to we find more of these caliber of people?
In our setting, our work experience is primarily in the construction / property restoration industry which involves manual labor, skilled services and the ability to adapt to new situations with care. Like most sectors, the common practice is to attempt to find employees who have existing skills and incorporate them into the organization. We have often found that hiring those who have been trained by others can be as much of a project, if not more, than training someone from the ground up. In many ways it is easier as well as more beneficial in the long run to train someone who has little specific work experience but who will be a blank slate for your culture and develop their good habits over time than it is to try to break an individual of their bad habits. The time spent in training can yield great and lasting results in employees who are eager to make a difference with the disciplines and values that matter to your organization.
It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them. - Benjamin Franklin
If you aren't familiar with property restoration which includes water and fire related damages to structures, our industry is a dynamic blend of manual labor that is service based which requires technical knowledge, industrial skills and people intelligence. Our technicians have to learn have to deal with messy situations with a smile while relaying data in several forms about the work they perform. When we sat down to attempt to analyze where our best performers were coming from we had trouble nailing down specific traits as so many have come from diverse backgrounds. We have hired people with no prior experience who have transitioned from fast food service, baking, auto service, cleaning, agriculture and milling, each has some transitional skills but not directly related to the work we do. As noted, the blank slates of those with no direct experience but also none of the industry related bad habits or short cuts have been some of the best additions to our team.
Fresh perspectives and inquisitive minds are valuable. People who ask, "Why do you do it that way," are in the right frame of mind, the question is will they receive the information when you have a sound reason as well as be willing to be a responsible party to change if something needs to be fixed? For our team one thing that seems to be a common trait is a bit of a chip on the shoulder, the idea that individuals have great potential and are just looking for the right opportunity that others may not have given them. To be clear, we are not looking for individuals who are angry at the world, the chip we are looking for is those who have that innate sense that they want to make a difference, they express this in different ways but it is noticeable if you are looking for it.
Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws. - Plato
We feel that we can teach anyone the skills of our trade, but there are three things that we tell every potential hire that walks through the door that we need from them. There are three traits that we cannot train or provide an individual, we need you to be honest, hard working and willing to learn. Those things sound simple enough, but if a potential hire is missing any one of those elements they will not be a long term contributor to the culture that we have built nor will they be a value to our clients. These are also three traits that a person either brings to the table or they don't, they cannot be given to someone. We will elaborate on these three foundational character traits in upcoming articles.
Where have you found some of your best hires? What do you look for when interviewing a potential addition to your team?
Connect. Collaborate. Conquer.
In business there are rituals that neither management nor employees enjoy and yet they are widely practiced because a) it’s what everyone else is doing, b) we’re required to do it by the unwritten codes of business handed down from our ancestors and/or c) leadership is unwilling to admit that something needs to change. Enjoy our fun video that reviews the tried-and-failing process of annual employee reviews as acted out by children.
If you do not recognize a need to evaluate and improve your processes, you are probably right – everything is fine and you are going to be awesome (sarcasm). But, if you recognize that there are always areas that can improve, you may start by relieving the additional strain on managers as well as the deflating of employee morale that is often tied to the annual employee review as currently practiced.
There are plenty of examples of what isn’t working, please tell us what you have been trying and what is working with improving employee engagement. Please help up gather some data on process improvement by taking our brief survey HERE. Keep doing good things.
Thoughts on personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a contractor, author, and host of The DYOJO Podcast. The goal of The DYOJO is to help growth-minded restoration professionals shorten their DANG learning curve for personal and professional development. You can watch The DYOJO Podcast on YouTube on Thursdays or listen on your favorite podcast platform.