Hiring new employees is always a gamble, regardless of how much experience you have recruiting and screening people. However, hiring smarter can be as easy as involving existing workers in the decision-making process. Here's why.
Employee participation helps shop owners and managers four ways. First, several heads are better than one. Your workers may sense a potential problem with the prospective hire that you completely overlooked. This is particularly true with intangible factors such as personal chemistry and teamwork skills.
Second, your workers usually understand the job requirements better than you do because they've probably done the chores the new worker's expected to do. They have more insight into the prospect's ability to do the work correctly.
Third, involving your crew in the hiring decision boosts morale and loyalty by giving them a larger stake in the operation of the business.
Fourth—and possibly most important—your staff's participation may prevent that common and disastrous managerial blunder: Namely, hiring yourself!
Mr. S, an aggressive but progressive shop owner I know in southern Illinois, described the impact of employee involvement. Besides being deeply involved in his trade association, he's a training advocate who spends a sizable sum on business and technical training for himself and his staff.
``Good business courses teach you that like personalities clash. Seminars on hiring and firing caution you to fight the urge to hire people like yourself,'' he said. ``So what happens? You realize one day you've made the very mistake they said you would: You hired yourself.''
If it's not obvious to you, ``hiring yourself'' is a conflict waiting to happen because like forces repel each other. This means if your personalities are too similar, you'll fight like cats and dogs! On the other hand, opposites attract!
According to Mr. S, his confidence in his techs' input already was skyrocketing. For example, instead of taking sole responsibility for equipment purchases as he always had, he delegated the equipment review process to his techs. Mr. S readily admits their evaluations saved him thousands of dollars by steering him away from bad purchases.
So the next time he had to hire another tech, he told the staff they were going to help screen the applicants for the job. They eagerly accepted this new challenge—just as he predicted they would.
He tactfully told applicants that because he no longer worked in the shop full time, his technical knowledge was not quite up to par. Therefore, the interview process at his business included an informal, tech-to-tech chat with the workers out in the bays.
The results were revealing and rewarding. For example, he underestimated his own staff's knowledge of team chemistry. They recognized both verbal and non-verbal clues from applicants that indicated a misfit or mismatch. This included flagging fellows who behaved too much like their boss!
Challenging the staff to help evaluate applicants also forced them to unconsciously identify their personal and professional priorities, such as integrity, candor, flexibility and a sense of humor. Prior to the evaluations, workers had never expressed these feelings. But they came to light the moment Mr. S asked his guys why an applicant got the ``thumbs up'' or ``thumbs down.''
Any successful leader will tell you that expressing these virtues out loud validates and reinforces their value. It's human nature—the concept isn't valid or true until it comes out of the person's mouth.
``I might scream about the importance of teamwork, and they'd just look at me. But the moment they themselves say teamwork is important to the success of the shop, suddenly the concept is true and valid. I can look them in the eye and remind them, `You said it yourself','' he explained.
What's more, sharing responsibility for the decision nets a better hire as well as improving morale, Mr. S emphasized. ``When I had sole responsibility for hiring, morale soured when I made a bad choice. Their body language said, `Why on earth did he hire that guy?''' Mr. S said.
But once the staff realized they would share responsibility for hiring, morale picked up and workers approached it very seriously. ``I reminded them that they have to work with the individual,'' he said, ``so choose the person who fits our operation best. And if you make a lousy choice, you have yourselves to blame!''
Last but not least, sharing responsibility for the decision motivates workers to help new hires adapt to their new environment.