So you think you ‘re a pretty good judge of character, eh? You reckon you can pick staff by intuition and a ten minute chat. The following is addressed to those of you feel you are, and also those of you who have staff turnover in excess of 50 percent per year; i.e. your staff stay less than two years average — and don’t think I’m just referring to permanent staff; I mean any staff turnover in excess of this figure.
I can almost hear some of your brain cells manufacturing outrage right now. I can hear the argument forming as it has done so many times in the past. ‘But casuals are different; they’re inherently unstable; they have no commitment . . . it’s the nature of the industry.’ I’ve heard it all hundreds of times before.
Take a lesson from the fast food industry
I came from the fast food industry many years ago. They know how to recruit. Go into a McDonalds store on a Sunday night and have a look. You ‘ll see a bunch of motivated kids ‘grinding it out’ (the words of Ray Kroc, their founder). Go up to the counter and order. They’ll suggestive sell to you every time. ‘Would you like fries or a drink with that, Sir?’ They never miss. Their quality is absolutely consistent. Can you get your staff to do that?
They get this standard of performance and they get long service out of their casuals. Their system monitors staff turnover and store managers who fail to keep stable ‘crews’ get counselling and training. I know this because I have helped train their senior management in staff turnover reduction techniques.
Who´s needs drive staff stability?
It all starts by understanding the recruitment process properly. If you haven’t been trained in recruitment and selection you are more than likely to recruit to satisfy your own needs. Sounds fair, doesn’t it? After all, you are the one needing the staff member. The problem is, people apply for jobs to meet their needs; not yours. It doesn’t matter how good they may be for the job; if the job doesn’t suit them, they’ll leave.
Be very careful of students
Take a student for instance — a university or college student. What is their main priority? Your job or their future? Obviously their future, i.e., passing exams and establishing relationships come first. Your job is a means to an end, but that doesn’t mean they won’t apply themselves if they enjoy it and it doesn’t interfere with their needs.
They may only want two shifts a week to provide them with a little money for social activities or transport. They accept the job on this basis. Down the track a little you become short staffed so you ask them to work extra shifts to help out. The job begins to interfere with their social life or their study. They quit, giving you some excuse.
Perhaps they may have been a bad bet from the beginning — like a year 12 secondary student who is not applying themselves to study. If they fail to achieve a good result they won’t get into university so they will get a full time job and quit your casual job after less than a year.
They could also be in the first year of one of the high failure courses like Law or Medicine. Law has a 60 percent drop-out rate after first year. If they fail they will also get a full time job. Final year is worse. When they finish their courses, they’ll either nick off to Europe or look for a more challenging full time position.
Staff turnover can be greatly reduced.
This sort of turnover is predictable and avoidable, if you know what to look for and what questions to ask in an interview. Your first task is to establish what they’re looking for — what are their needs? After all, how can you keep them stable if they’re not happy? The natural tendency is to concentrate on a whole series of questions to establish if they are what you want. Concentrate on their needs first. It’s amazing how many people scrub themselves out of a job at this point.
You also need to remember that they will tend to tell you what they think you want to hear, in order to get a job. It helps if you know how to establish the true situation. For instance, if you are looking for a team player rather than an individualist, have a look at their hobbies or interests. If you see reading, windsurfing and pottery, or other lone pursuits, beware. If they’ve listed cricket, football and debating, you’d be pretty safe; these are all sociable activities.
Carefully cross check what they are telling you
I recently had a young gentleman apply for a bar supervisor’s job at one of my client’s restaurants. He listed wine collecting and computers as his main interests. I asked him some basic questions: ‘How many bottles of wine do you have in your collection? ‘Answer: ‘Eleven’. ‘OK’, I said, ‘That’s not much of a collection, let’s see how much you know about wine. Name three top quality red wines produced in Australia? ‘. . . silence, then: ‘Ahh . . . I don’t know if I can answer that; but I’m really interested in wine.’ Questions about computer skills yielded similar unhelpful responses.
I could write volumes on the subject of selection techniques. It took me about ten years of constant recruitment to even begin to become good at it. I tell all my management students that this is the primary skill. If you can get good people, they will run your business better than you can. The strange irony is that this is the most poorly attended of all our training courses, yet it is the skill I think is most important to master, but which is most often lacking.
It boils down to human arrogance. A lot of people feel they are great drivers, great lovers and great judges of character. Most of us are none of the above.