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Eureka: A talk on hiring and human resource practices Eureka: A talk on hiring and human resource practices
by Jay Gutman
2017-12-03 12:41:33
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This talk will be on hiring and human resource practices. I've given quite a lot of detailed advice on this one. But I hope this talk will summarize a lot of what I think on the topic.

human01_400_02First trend I've noticed is that a lot of companies don't have policies on hiring. Or some of them do, but give out qualitative attributes on who they're looking for, for example, that they're looking for respectful, punctual and hard-working people or some qualitative attribute along those lines. Then there are those who set quantitative attributes, like having a university degree, 5 years' experience, or 10 years' experience, or 10 years verifiable experience with certificates of employment and tax receipts provided. Something along those lines.

Now the problem is a lot of companies confuse hiring with long-term collaboration. Kind of like people confuse weddings and marriages. Too busy planning for the wedding to think about married life. Too busy setting bars for hiring to focus on long-term collaboration.

Kind of like marriages, long-term collaborations can rot before they break. Just like you have married couples who have completely broken relationships but decide they've been together for too long to divorce, you have collaborations that are toxic but where the company and the staff decide that they have worked together for too long to part ways. Or kind of like in a marriage where partners tend to stay in the marriage because they are worried they would not find someone outside the marriage to suit them, collaborators sometimes stay because companies worry they will not find adequate replacements. Or kind of like in marriages where partners worry that their partner will seek revenge or engage in violent behavior if they request a divorce, sometimes companies are worried that if they fire a long-term collaborator, the collaborator could be a threat to the company, either through sabotage or through violent behavior. So the real question is, how do you prevent toxic people from entering the company?

In marriage, a lot of couples get together based on qualitative or quantitative prerequisite that they had about their ideal partner. They either wanted someone who makes X amount of money, or who has X physical attributes or who looks so and so or who likes so and so. In the office, a lot of hiring decisions are based on quantitative or qualitative attributes, as in I hired the guy because he went to Harvard, or I hired her because she speaks French or because they had the 10 years' experience requirement. Two factors are completely overlooked here: you can train pretty much anyone to do anything, and, work as well as marriage are all about chemistry.

So how do you hire the ideal candidate. How do you set up the ideal team at work? Be it in the office or in the factory or behind the counter. You want a good mix of four elements: emotional compatibility, personal compatibility, organizational compatibility and task compatibility. Let's look at the four elements.

First, when you look at resumes or interview people, you want to get a feel for the person's emotions. Before doing that you want to get a feel for the emotional “temperature” at the workplace. Are most people cold? Warm? Distant? Agreeable? Hot-blooded? Rational?

Now here's a mistake I saw my last employer do. The emotional temperature at the workplace was, let's say, cordial. Not too warm, not too cold, you get the idea of cordial. Then, after a series of departures, they hired a either very cold staff or hot-blooded staff. I quit, but then noticed that, after stellar reviews, people started complaining about the overall services of the company. Why? Because they did not measure the emotional temperature before hiring people. Clients knew the place to be cordial, only to suddenly end up dealing with either very cold or hot-blooded people in the company. The problem with emotions: they tend to spread among the staff like the flu. So the whole company became either cold or hot-blooded.

Now to the second thing you want to get a feel for; personal qualities. I know in some places asking personal questions is illegal, and it is immoral in general. But what is the general personal feel of your company? Rich, three-time-divorced middle-aged men, or modest, newly married, lower-middle class men and women? Or single, bachelor, compulsive-spending men and women. All these will affect the general atmosphere at the workplace.

Imagine most people at work have been divorced several times, have high incomes and have enjoyed the high life for many years. How would the newcomer react if you came from a humble and conservative background, was freshly married and tended to be thrifty. How do you think the person would fit in? There would certainly be lots of conflicts. That newcomers would certainly be left out of informal dinners, would then be outcast from meetings, thus poorly informed, then you have the recipe for disaster right there.

The third thing you want to get a feel for. Organizational compatibility. That is how do things move within the organization. No amount of psychological tests or psychometric tests can determine this. What's your organization's “temperature” ? Do you do things last minute or is everything planned out well in advance. Do you improvise as you go or do you have careful plans and rituals? Do you have traditions and rituals or is everything unstructured? Are meetings “democratic” or are they meant merely to give reports and orders? What's your policy on being late? On being absent? On overtime?

For example, if you're going to hire me, you need to know that I dislike formality and clearly defined relationships, that I tend to show up very early at work so I can mingle with the early comers, that I get anxious when the office empties up, that I don't mind working overtime if I'm not alone and that if you're sitting next to me I will talk to you. I hate eating lunch alone and being left out of conversations. I don't mind improvisation and last-minute tasks as long as there's a clear reason. And I'm the kind of guy who needs long stretches of conversation before I decide anything, and quit quite a few jobs because I was not allowed to say “no” when given tasks that were impossible for me to carry out. I'm also the kind of guy who's constantly trying to figure out if what I'm doing is legal. How do you test all this in any psychometric test? Again, you need quite a few conversations before you decide if the guy's the right fit, because, in psychometric tests as in all tests, people tend not to be sure and tend to lie a little bit.

Final thing you need to get a feel for: task compatibility. You want the person you're hiring to be able to deliver their tasks, not just in the short run, not just the first couple of days or months, but for a long stretch of time. A mistake I see a lot of companies do is hire someone who will work hard the first couple of years, gain the company's respect, and then stop working altogether. He'll find some way to delegate and he or she will delegate. Or they will start cutting corners. So how do you know they will be up to the task for a long, long time? Chemistry. You can get the feeling someone's going to work hard, or work for a bit and then slack around.

At the workplace as in dating and relationships, slowly works best. You want to hire the person, take a few steps back and watch the real person at work. If you see the person doesn't fit in, or shows signs of discomfort, you need to cut the pain and part ways. Let them suggest to part ways first, if they don't, then you need to be able to wish the person luck in their future life. You can't assume when you hire someone that they have to be the perfect fit and that you have to stay with them for life. That's why you need to take a few steps back and gradually integrate them into the team.

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