Hire for potentenial

October 17, 2016 -  By

Photo: ©istock.com/ekinyalginGroom employees to step into critical positions well in advance of needing them in those roles.

Few landscape companies would say they have enough employees who are ready to step into management positions. Most would acknowledge they need many more A-players to supply a much talked about, but rarely well-implemented, talent pipeline.

The high cost of not having trained, agile employees who are ready to be promoted affects a company where it hurts the most—with its customers’ perceptions of its ability to deliver a seamless service experience. In fact, the negative impact on client retention when customer-facing employees and account managers leave have been well documented.

Without a plan to transfer processes and institutional knowledge to someone in the wings, customers may be faced with a loss in continuity, and contractors may be faced with a loss of credibility. Three ways to address the potential loss of productivity and service operations are to:

  • build a pipeline-type organization for employees at all levels;
  • develop a process of proactive hiring and onboarding; and
  • implement a retention and training program to keep employees engaged and ready to step up.

Hiring for potential—hiring people not for what they know but for how fast they can learn—requires a plan based around talent acquisition at all times. Reactive hiring—or hiring a candidate to plug an opening—can lead to a stream of new hires with needs that disrupt a business’s culture and slows its progress.

Throughout my career, I’ve always chosen to promote someone I believed had the potential to make a difference. I knew having well-trained employees ready to move up in the organization would be a competitive advantage. Promoting from within my company allowed me to spend time observing employee strengths and weaknesses. I knew where they would need extra guidance. I preferred coaching someone with the potential to grow to being surprised by an experienced external hire that wasn’t equipped to succeed.

When I hire for potential I look for resilience and certain character traits, such as having empathy for customers and coworkers. Industry skills are less important to me as long as candidates exhibit the willingness to grow into more complex roles and demonstrate service-first sensibilities.

For a CEO concerned about the investment and overhead costs of this approach, ask yourself:

  • What’s the financial cost involved in hiring a replacement?
  • What’s the loss-of-productivity cost?
  • What effects will these costs have on employees and customers?
  • How will you find a suitable replacement?
  • How much time and how many resources will you invest in recruiting, interviewing and onboarding?

Having a number of employees who are ready to step into managerial roles ultimately will pay for itself via your ability to scale and compete more strategically on a moment’s notice. When you have a potential high-performer ready to take on a larger role, you can finally terminate an underperforming employee who’s eating up resources.

When a key person moves on, the impacts on employee morale and the company’s financial results are significant. Avoid lost opportunities and operational hiccups by hiring for potential and grooming employees to move into critical positions well in advance of needing them. Can you afford it? I don’t think you can afford not to.

Quick tip:

Hiring for potential requires a plan based around talent acquisition at all times.

Photo: ©istock.com/ekinyalgin

This is posted in Business Planner 2017, October 2016

About the Author:

The author, of the Wilson-Oyler Group, is a 30-year industry veteran. Reach him at bwilson@wilson-oyler.com.

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