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How Smart Companies Grow

Make sure you have the right people in the right places.

There’s only one force that drives any business, whether it’s in material handling or some other industry: people. It’s really that simple.

But at the same time—as you well know—it’s also that complicated.

People are complicated, but they are the catalyst and the primary reason for success or failure in any venture. Here’s the bottom line: If your organization is to grow and prosper, you must have the right people in the right places.

In more than 25 years of working with businesses of all sizes, it has become increasingly clear to me that many businesses believe that processes, systems or checklists can replace the role of people in an organization’s success. But there’s a major problem with that logic. It’s people who make the processes work. It’s people who design and deliver the systems and complete the checklists.

Three Fundamental Skills for Success
In most organizations, there are three fundamental skills that high performers have. Hard job skills relate to product and marketplace knowledge—things like product specifications, industry standards and legal trends. Soft job skills are those capacities for understanding and applying skills specific to a particular job, like “management skills,” “sales skills” or “information technology skills.” Personal skills relate to an individual’s ability to implement his or her hard and soft job skills. Personal skills—the least observable when someone is first hired—are actually the most essential. Examples include personal accountability, results orientation, goal directedness and emotional control.

Most people get hired for hard job skills, and employers assume they have soft job skills. But individuals ultimately flourish or fail based on their personal skills.

We’ve developed a formula that clarifies this concept.

(Hard Job Skills + Soft Job Skills) x Personal Skills = Success Quotient

Let’s take a look at how this formula might play out. In our examples below, a real superstar’s score in each category would be 10, while a poor performer’s score would be 1.

In the first case, the person has fantastic job skills (HJS and SJS both = 10), but really lacks any significant personal skills (PS = 1). Assuming that personal skills are the multipliers of performance, their overall, long-term performance will not be good. [(10 + 10) x 1 = 20]

The next person’s job skills are mediocre (HJS and SJS both = 5), but personal skills are excellent (PS = 10). This person’s long-term performance has a full five times the potential that the first person’s does! [(5 + 5) x 10 = 100]

Unfortunately, many executives and managers believe that industry experience or a background in a particular business is the primary reason for hiring or not hiring. But that is flawed logic. It is a lazy person’s perspective—a way to avoid spending training time to bring someone up to speed. The truth is that a person can and will learn job skills if they have the drive and capacity.

Measuring Personal Skills
Truly successful performance in any job—sales, service, management or whatever—is a function of a person’s unique talents, behaviors, values and attitudes. Consistent top performers must be able to perform over the long haul to be successful in and valuable to your organization.

Let there be no doubt about it, success is truly an “inside” job.

Remember, job skills are only part of success in any given job. A person can have the capability to perform a job—may have learned all the skills and have the intelligence to perform—but still not perform. Why could this be? Why will a person perform?

The answer to that question is the most basic of all factors that drive human performance—motive. In the final analysis, the “why” behind choices is often the primary driver of performance. Why does a human being choose to do anything, whether serve in the military, join a religious order or become a salesperson? The answer lies in what that person values the most, and it also lies in whether what the person values is rewarded in his or her work environment.

If there is a match between what the person values and the organization he or she works in, and the person has good job skills, he or she will likely perform well.

Hard Job Skills (HJS) relate to product and marketplace knowledge such as product specifications, industry standards and legal trends.

Soft Job Skills (SJS) are those capacities for understanding and applying skills specific to a particular job, like “management skills,” “sales skills” or “information technology skills.”

Personal Skills (PS) relate to an individual’s ability to implement his or her hard and soft job skills.

Research shows that close to 80 percent of 178 top-ranked salespeople in the U.S. and Germany valued financial gain, measured their personal self-worth in terms of financial gain, were practical in their thoughts, and sought a profession that valued and rewarded financial gain.

In contrast, our survey of software engineers showed that the highest-ranked software engineers overwhelmingly had a strong need to learn for the sake of learning, a need to master areas of interest. In other words, they were motivated by knowledge, and they sought out jobs that rewarded that value structure.

If a position rewards study, research and in-depth knowledge, a person who values these activities would be highly engaged and potentially well-suited to the position. By the same token, if a person is more interested in financial gain than intellectual activity, the position in question would likely not be a good fit.

Will a Person Perform?
Wanting to do something, then doing it, and ultimately doing it well are three very different things. In literally thousands of cases, people’s values match the values and motives that were demanded and rewarded by their jobs. They were fueled by the exact things that their jobs offered, and they wanted to be doing their jobs. But a vast number of these people did not perform well, in spite of their heartfelt good intentions.

So what does that tell us? Motives and values alone are not sufficient indicators of performance. Motives are the base—the “why” of performance. Without them, passion is never there, and passion is what sustains peak performance.

But another essential series of questions starts with: “Will this person perform the job?” It deals with the individual’s fundamental capacity to deliver what the job demands. You can start to answer this question by analyzing a set of attributes driven by how a person’s brain functions relative to the deliverable capacities that a specific job requires.

Remember, this is not the same as job skills. It is the clarity and focus a person has, builds on and sustains relative to attributes that drive his or her fundamental capacity to perform in a specific job on a long-term basis.

I recently conducted research about success drivers in an industry where the average income for salespeople reaches the low six figures; 250 performers whose incomes were very high six figures or more were then isolated. The difference wasn’t product knowledge or sales skills. There were two distinct factors that differentiated them from everyone else: personal accountability (the capacity to be answerable for their own actions and results) and empathy (the capacity to truly understand their customers).

Having the right people in the right jobs is the essence of organizational performance. The decisions you make about whom to hire, when to hire them and how to manage them may be the most critical decisions you make as you try to grow your company (or just maintain hard-earned market share). Your carefully selected employees can literally make or break you.

If you truly want top performers in your material handling company who will be valuable, consistently effective employees, you must look beyond the surface—beyond the résumé.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Bill Brooks Meet the Author
Bill Brooks is CEO of The Brooks Group, a training firm located in Greensboro, North Carolina, and on the Web at www.brooks group.com.

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