Springfield, MO

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Draw on Aptitude, Attitude for Successful Employees (Sponsor Letter)

SBJ Economic Growth Survey: The New Workforce

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Of all the concerns business owners have before them, is any more pressing or difficult than hiring? Our employees are our most valuable resource, yet the process of hiring is often the least controllable.

Unfortunately, we are sometimes in a responsive state of hiring when we are seeking a qualified candidate with the experience and education to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of an already defined position. Then there’s the question of who will fit in well with the company culture.

Usually, the clock is ticking because the position will be vacated in a few weeks or is needed to fulfill a backlog of projects. That is when the “help wanted” sign is hung, the job description is posted all over the internet, and the typical hiring cycle begins.

While there are circumstances that demand this common form of hiring, I believe it is rarely the most effective. You are unlikely to find somebody who checks off all the boxes for your ideal education, experience and personality traits. Ordinarily, the focus is on experience since there is often little time to train an employee being hired in these situations, and the new hire must be able to hit the ground running.

However, I believe the character traits of the individual are the single greatest determining factor of their success and by extension, yours. The best hires we’ve made have been hiring the person and training them to perform the task rather than hiring based on a specifically needed skillset.

Early in our business, we hired several of my college study buddies. They didn’t even necessarily come from our industry, but I knew them each as a person. I knew their work ethic. Many companies don’t like to hire family and friends, but it has been one of our keys to success.

We have identified four traits essential to our successful employees:

1. Self motivated. You can use external motivation tactics but with only moderate success.

2. Detail oriented. This is not optional in our line of work of electrical, structural and civil engineering. Lives depend on the details.

3. Caring. We seek people who care about their work, company and clients. If an employee has that attitude, they are not attempting to do the least amount of work.

4. Intellect. We care about GPA because it reflects their intellect, caring and work ethic. If you have a good GPA, then you have those qualities – or at least most of them.

I challenge you to make your own list of essential traits you look for in employees and hire based on those rather than based solely on experience. We like to hire people we know or those our employees refer to us. Yes, that means we sometimes invest years and dollars in sending them to engineering school or other training for the needed experience, but we have found that hiring the correct person is the key to success.

In my opinion, one of the most misused hiring tools is the interview. Interviews are good at demonstrating how well people interview, but unless the position is in sales or a similar field, they are often poor indicators of success. Interviews should be utilized to identify if candidates have the essential traits necessary for success. For example, if one of those is strong technical knowledge, a technical interview or test may be a valuable tool in gauging a potential employee’s abilities.

The most successful employee is the one who has the aptitude and attitude that you want. You might have to invest in them to gain the desired education and experience, but trust me, it will pay.


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