He had many years of experience as the successful owner/manager of a fine firm, yet he had a problem. “It’s not that I hire the wrong people,” he said to me. “It’s that I keep the wrong people too long.”
To coin a phrase, “He ain’t the only one!” Were a long-tenured owner/manager to add up his cumulative costs over his time in business, putting aside only commissions paid to consultants, it is probable that his highest expenditure would be not rent, not phone, not furniture. Rather, it would be the lost draws, social security, unemployment payments, phone, and business costs associated with ultimately unsuccessful consultants!
Moreover, in addition to tangible costs, that owner would have such items as time, emotional drain on both manager and office, lost deals (not always known), negative client reactions to a poor consultant, the fact that another person on the same desk could have been doing much better, candidates not recruited who might have been placed by someone else in the office. . . The expense of an unsuccessful consultant is truly staggering.
As our market continues to improve and we add to staff, we can expect a spate of tests, services, and consultants purporting to improve your odds in the selection of new employees. Bad idea. For some years, heavy testing was in vogue amongst many major corporations. Huge amounts were spent in an attempt to arrive at a formula or test which predicted success. Consistently poor or mediocre results have cause most of these firms to drop the testing programs. They have been weighed extensively and found wanting. Thirty-five years ago, Charles B. Roth, one of America’s finest sales trainers and business authors, wrote, “The weakness of aptitude tests lies in the fact that they can’t tell much about intention; the important thing is a man’s willingness to throw himself whole-heartedly into the job.” This statement remains as true today as the day it was written.
What, then, is the answer? Given the assumption that the selection process and the initial training must both be as excellent as possible, what else can be done to prevent “keeping the wrong people too long?”
I believe that rigid adherence to a system of progressive and quantifiable steps of elimination will help any organization. The earlier an individual who lacks the necessary ingredients for success can be identified and eliminated, the more we can concentrate our time and money on those who deserve it and the greater our profits.
Following are some ideas to consider accomplishing just that:
Perhaps the key factor involved in success in our business is a willingness to learn. Regardless of talent or even background, this business must be learned by serious study. The reason the “born salesman” is so seldom successful in search and recruiting is the long learning curve involved; a glib consultant unwilling to work hard to learn tends to be a “shooting star” of short duration.
Specific questions should be asked about this when checking references. However, beyond this, there is a simple way of testing for this vital quality. Give the prospective consultant a book on this industry to read, and see how enthusiastically he or she dives into it. A person determined to succeed will absorb the book rapidly, read some chapters twice, and come back with questions. A future failure will probably read very little.
There are several excellent books out on this industry now, the most recent being Larry Nobles’ well-written comprehensive work, “Search and Placement! A Handbook for Success” (www.larrynobles.com). Its obvious use is as a training manual and reference guide for every consultant. However, it will be found to be an effective “screening tool” for new people as well.
Don’t just “let the consultant read the book.” Give it to them, dated, signed, and inscribed (“To Bob, A future superstar”) by the manager. A serious person will highlight and underline it. See what happens. That’s how you determine Charles B. Roth’s previously-mentioned “most important thing” at an early stage.
A well-respected individual with a major franchise organization recommends having the potential consultant make 25 to 50 calls (for example: Marketing calls) to a pre-determined list of prospects before hiring. This individual says he is not concerned with the results; he is concerned with how rapidly the potential consultant hits the phone and the amount of time spent between calls. Too much reluctance eliminates the candidate from contention.
While I have never personally utilized this method, it seems well worth considering as an early eliminator.
First Two Weeks
1. In the early stages of training, a series of daily written tests will help identify those who will be ultimately unsuccessful in our business at a very early stage, despite a rigorous selection process. This method has allowed those firms utilizing it to eliminate 25 to 35% of those hired in the first week. Barring major personal traumas, poor scores always indicate either a lack of intelligence or a lack of commitment (they didn’t study). Either eliminates a prospective consultant from eventual success and from further employment.
2. A written structured evaluation should be conducted at two weeks. While it is not possible to predict with certainty a “winner” at this time, it is frequently possible to predict a “loser.” Habit patterns such as arriving late and leaving early, not studying training material, poor voice or speech patterns, inattentiveness during sales meetings or formal training, and many other problems are unlikely to change. For a sample two-week evaluation form visit the author’s website (www.stevefinkel.com) and see the article
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What does your company know about Employee Experience?
“The Early Evaluation”.
1. Every firm should have a good daily planner. (Planners are available for sale through our firm). Especially in a new consultant, a consistent reluctance to fill out the daily planner indicates an unwillingness to take direction, to follow the system, and to pay the price necessary for success in our industry. Termination of the new employee is indicated.
2. The new employee must keep track of his numbers. The manager should have minimum acceptable numbers each week which have been written out before the new employee comes on board. If the minimum number of calls is consistently not achieved, the employee lacks commitment. Early termination is the answer.
3. Correct Role-Playing should be a mandatory and on-going part of every training program (see “From Knowing to Doing: How to Implement” on author’s website for complete information). If the new consultant does not do well in role-playing, he cannot do well “for real.” Consistently poor performance in role-playing with no sign of improvement is a clear indication of qualities which do not indicate future success.
1. Minimum acceptable billings should also be determined and written out before the new employee comes on board. This will obviously vary depending on the firm, as a clerical desk will produce billings more rapidly that a technical desk, for example. The manager must determine what is acceptable for his firm, must write out his minimum anticipated results, and must rigorously eliminate those who fail to achieve these results.
2. Formal reviews of the fledgling consultant must be done at 30, 60, and 90 days. The consultant must be told his strengths, his weaknesses, and what is expected of him in terms of hard numbers during the next 30-day period. These expectations must be written out by the manager and put in the consultant’s file (copy to the consultant optional). This step will stop the old “he hasn’t produced any billings, but he’s got a lot going on” feeling at 90, 120, and even 150 days, as the investment in an unprofitable consultant spirals. Consistent failure to achieve pre-determined quantifiable minimum objectives necessitates termination . . .and the earlier, the better.
These suggestions, with the emphasis upon early elimination, may appear to be harsh to some. They are not. The pre-determined minimum objectives must be realistic, attainable, and based on knowledge of what has been achieved by others. To do otherwise is counter-productive. Given the fairness of the goals, however, the owner-manager must base his decisions as to the continued employment of new consultants upon quantifiable results at early stages of development.
As the market improves and recruiting firms add to their staff, many lessons of the past will have been forgotten by experienced managers or never learned to begin with by newer ones. There is no better lesson than learning how to make appropriate and logical decisions on new people with your firm.
Any improvement in the selection of consultants and in our initial training program will obviously benefit us; however, only by rigid adherence to a planned program of early termination predicated upon realistic minimum numbers can we truly develop our firmsand our profit margins to the maximum!