Friday, March 5, 2010

The Only People that Lose Baggage are Airline Employees

With 30 plus years in the plumbing and HVAC business, I think I made just about every mistake one could make in hiring new employees. I hired family members, I hired people back after they left for a small raise, I hired without checking references, I hired without the new hire having a drug test and physical, I hired without checking driving records, I hired applicants with poor skills and training. These were some of the most obvious and repeated mistakes I made. There were others, I just erase them from memory to feel better about my hiring skills back then. I have coached dozens of owners through the years who have made the same mistakes and often for the same reasons. Let’s look at some of those reasons.
“I really need someone right now!” How often I have heard this and how often I said this. Without planning and continual recruiting, a contractor puts himself (or herself) in a difficult situation when the season rolls around, the big job comes in, the economy improves, the weather, Joe just injured himself and will be out for several weeks or months, or Tom just quit. Without an immediate list of potential qualified, baggage free candidates, we have little choice, at least that’s what we think, than to place an ad and select from the first few who apply. Occasionally we even get lucky and stumble across a qualified baggage free applicant to hire. More often, we hired someone with baggage, but we selected the one with just two carry-on pieces. The other thing we do is hire someone who keeps calling looking for a job without investigating the entire market of available people. We do this because it’s easy. We probably know the person from somewhere and even know the baggage the carry but it’s quick and easy just to hire them. Here comes two carry-ons, two large suitcases, and two steamer trunks with them.
“He (she) will change once he (she) is working for our company.” Sure they will change or you will change them. A large portion of the fifty percent of marriages that fail are because one thought the other would change or they could change them. That usually does not happen. Most people can’t stop smoking without help from a doctor, a hypnotist, or a drug. Yet we, as contractors, think we are going to change a habit that a person has had for years or maybe their entire life because we are so smart. Face the fact, it is very unlikely that this will happen. Your energy is better placed on taking care of your customers and your business.
We make the mistake of not recognizing or acknowledging the baggage. Baggage can come in many forms. It could be job hopping. It could be anger. It could be drugs or alcohol. It could be a sense of entitlement. It could be sloppiness. It could be poor work habits or lack of skill. Of course there are others, but the point I want to make is that it is so very important to carefully and skillfully hire the very best candidates you can find with careful searching. Evaluate the baggage that a candidate is bringing to your company and how that could affect your company. Remember, “Airline employees are the only ones that lose baggage.”