Friday, October 10, 2008

On Hiring the Right Employees


When I graduated from college, I took a job as a restaurant manager for Red Lobster. I was a terrible manager, and did not last very long (I could not distinguish breaded fish and shrimp!)

One thing that struck me in my youthful enthusiasm was that it was very difficult to get employees to buy into whatever plan or action I wanted to take. If we were to work especially on cleaning the kitchen area, the next morning I would get a call that something had not been done - I remember feeling betrayed - "how could John not have cleaned that area?" I mean, if we all work together, we get home faster, work is easier, etc.

As I said - I was naive.

You have a vision of how things are to get done - and in what manner. You certainly are driven (why else open a business). And one of the first shocks of being a business owner is that employees might not have the same enthusiasm as you in doing things.

That is why hiring the right people is critical. As a restaurant manager, I had no idea how to hire a good waiter or kitchen cook - and at minimum wage. I had no idea what motivated someone to take that job.

Too often we look at salary or wages as the only determinant in hiring good people. But of ten kids who come to look for a summer job, one or two are likely to be much more diligent and hard working - for the same wage as the other eight. Of ten admins you might hire, one or two will do more and be more productive..

If not salary, then what? One idea is whether they buy into your own enthusiasm. Not that they gush about how excited they are to work for you - but do they carry their own independent enthusiasm for what you are excited about? Do they carry a spark? Are they inquisitive? Do they try to understand how something works - and maybe how to make it better?

I was a terrible manager for Red Lobster because I had no enthusiasm for it, no interest in seafood or seafood restaurants. Employees could tell I was lost, and reacted accordingly. If you can transfer some of your enthusiasm to new employees it will help your business to grow.

If you cannot, or you cannot recognize the difference between telling you what you want to hear, and real interest, you are going to have a hard time staffing.

Any ideas on how to differentiate the two?

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