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Hiring And Retention

Take steps to keep employees motivated, satisfied and committed to success.

Selecting the right people and keeping them employed with your material handling company are not things that just happen on their own. The process requires serious thought, planning and an ongoing commitment. In order to guide your hiring and retention strategies effectively, you’ll need to keep these three factors in mind:

  1. Changes in your business environment lead to rapid and frequent changes in people’s specific jobs.
  2. As top performers become dissatisfied with their jobs, they will start looking elsewhere.
  3. As record numbers of people retire, there are fewer experienced workers available to fill key management and leadership roles.

Changes in the Business Environment Lead to Job Changes
While business leaders are often quick to recognize the need to do things like add new product lines, hire more employees, go after different clients or even relocate to a bigger or smaller space, they often neglect the next important step in the process: Revisiting job descriptions.

Ask yourself, “Have I formally assessed our current jobs and how they relate to our goals for this year?” If the jobs are not truly aligned with your newly established objectives, realizing your vision will be tough.

Too often, job descriptions are treated as static documents that are only pulled out when it’s time to write a hiring ad. But they are so much more valuable—and essential—than that. Most companies do a good job of listing the technical aspects of a position but fall short when it comes to outlining the extent of the responsibilities, the behavioral attributes needed to perform the job, a description of the relationships to be established and maintained, acceptable performance standards and how success will be measured.

When all of these items are in place, you’ll be in a much better position to evaluate each employee’s performance, assess their potential for performing new functions of the job and understand why some people may struggle with redefined roles.

Remember that even if the job seems similar on the surface, a whole different set of traits may be necessary to handle the changes. For example, if your service technician is flawless when it comes to handling repairs, has a good work ethic and makes you feel you could hire ten more people just like him, you might feel differently if you suddenly change some of his job responsibilities. Your new business model might mean your service techs now need to spend more time interacting with customers, trying to up sell or resolve customer complaints. If your excellent mechanic is not so excellent when it comes to working with people rather than with things, or is too much of a perfectionist to handle additional work quickly, you’re likely to see a drastic drop in performance.

Once you rewrite your job descriptions to have them aligned with your new business model and objectives, you need to assess the talents of your current staff. If you’re pushing people not only out of their comfort zones, but also asking them to take on responsibilities that are beyond their abilities, you’ll be doing your company and your employees a disservice, which often leads to issue number two.

Dissatisfied Employees Do Not Stick Around
When companies downsized in response to the economic downturn, employees were asked to pick up the slack by working harder in a leaner environment. As things begin to improve, people are still being asked to keep up the same pace. It’s only so long before the best performers decide they’ve had enough.

In fact, according to the 2004 U.S. Job Recovery and Retention Survey released by the Society for Human Resource Management and CareerJournal.com, 75 percent of all employees are looking for new jobs.

So it’s up to you to convince your best people to stay. As mentioned, the job description is a great place to start. Discuss their jobs with each of your top performers. Explain the changes that are happening, how their jobs will be affected and what strengths you know they will bring to the new role. Encourage their input. Whether they have concerns or a different spin on what the job could be, their information is valuable. Work with them to define the job so you and the employee are clear about expectations and opportunities.

When you show your best employees you value them, it helps increase their job satisfaction and commitment to the company. So show them you’re willing to invest in their development by offering training and education. Define creative career paths that let them know you’re open to their ideas for exploring other opportunities in the organization, and most importantly, learn what makes your employees tick. When you understand their unique motivations, strengths, interests and long-range career goals, you can offer people different options that will be meaningful to them individually.

Rely on Something Other than Experience
Of course, as your business model changes and jobs are redefined, you’ll likely need to do some hiring. One thing to keep in mind is that as baby boomers retire, there will be fewer experienced workers out there than ever before. And while the bad news is that with fewer experienced candidates around, you will no longer have the option to hire based on experience, the good news is that it was never a very good option to begin with.

Relying too heavily on experience has long been a trap that busy executives fall into. Although it seems like the easiest option when you have a pressing need to fill an empty chair, many times the best thing about past experience is how good it looks on a résumé.

Instead, it’s much more important to focus on an individual’s future potential. Delve beneath the surface to get a true read on an applicant’s underlying motivations, strengths and weaknesses. When you take this information and apply it to your corporate culture and your newly revised job descriptions, you are able to assess how likely someone is to be successful in the current job opening as well as where they may be able to move in the future.

For instance, if you hire someone for a sales position because the job requires someone who is persuasive, service-oriented, independent and able to reason, and the candidate possesses these traits, you might also have ascertained the individual has strong leadership dynamics and would be a good candidate for a future management position. This awareness of potential helps you in the short term as well as in preparing for the future. In fact, you may discover that someone in an administrative role could turn out to be one of your best salespeople, but if you only focus on experience, they’ll never get the chance—and you’ll never reap the benefits.

As you revamp your business goals for 2005, be sure to update your hiring and retention strategy as well by revisiting your job descriptions, carefully assessing the talent you have on board, focusing on hiring new employees based on potential and doing all you can to keep your best employees motivated, satisfied and committed to succeeding with your material handling company.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Ron Wolff Debbie Dreessen Meet the Author
Ron Wolff is senior vice president of new business acquisition, and Debbie Dreessen is marketing and corporate communications executive, for Caliper, located in Princeton, New Jersey, and on the Web at www.caliperonline.com.

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