Getting a fitness tracker for my birthday excited me. This tracker was going to change my health for the better. I knew I needed to be more conscious of my diet and exercise to prevent all those things that happen if we don’t take care of ourselves as we age. The same is true when you hire people to work for you. You want to take good care of your business needs and keep it healthy and growing. You are looking forward to having someone lighten your load and you can’t wait to see results.
The first few weeks with my fitness tracker, I wore it 24/7, tested all the features, and felt like I was on my way to achieving my goals. I checked my tracker constantly. I annoyed my husband by constantly telling him how many steps I’d taken, miles I’d walked, and calories I’d burned. I loved seeing those numbers and feeling accomplished.
This is where the roller coaster began. My excitement gradually faded. I realized the tracker wasn’t always accurate. I’d go up a set of stairs and the tracker didn’t log it. Worse, the tracker would log stairs even when I didn’t go up any. The funniest stair tracking fail was when I was on a flight to Seattle and saw that I had logged 35 stairs. Apparently, flying on a plane was a great way to get fit!
Next, the band started to crack in a few places. Then, there was a larger separation of the band from the tracker module and finally the button that operated the display simply fell off. I got a warranty replacement quickly and was ready to be in love again. The bugs with the earlier version should be fixed now, right?
Wrong. I wasn’t so excited about the tracker anymore. The replacement still had the bugs with tracking stairs and even worse, the battery wouldn’t hold a charge longer than a day or two. The promise was 7-10 days of battery life. What to do now? Do I get another warranty replacement or try another tracker, use an app on my phone, or just go back to the no tech days of manually tracking miles and calories? I wasn’t on the roller coaster long and I was already fed up.
While the investment in a fitness tracker isn’t large and the frustrations I experienced aren’t make or break, and won’t cost me thousands of dollars, that’s not true when you hire someone to work for you. When you hire, the stakes are high and you don’t want to take a chance on whether your new hire will perform well. You want to be sure you are hiring the right person who will achieve the results you need. You don’t want to get stuck on a hiring roller coaster, where you are constantly experiencing the ups and downs of expecting high performers only to find out they are actually low performers.
The fitness tracker experience taught me these lessons which also apply to your hiring practices:
1. Know Your Performance Standards
Know what you need from your new employee and be clear about the results. I talked about this in my recent 4Cs of Hiring blog post. While the story about logging 35 stairs on a flight to Seattle is funny, you don’t want that kind of performance from an employee. You want your employees to meet your performance standards, follow your standard processes, and create valuable results.
As a small business owner, you need to know exactly what you need and not get sidetracked by shiny bells and whistles. My fitness tracker did lots of other things besides tracking steps, miles, and stairs. When paired with an app on my smartphone, I could get caller ID alerts when I received a call, set alarms, track my food and water intake, set fitness goals, connect with friends who have trackers, and earn badges. Did I really need all these features? No, and I didn’t use most of them. I was impressed by the list of things the tracker could do. In reality, I needed only a small number of those features.
When you’re hiring, know what performance is critical and focus on the skills, attitudes, and behaviors required to achieve the results you need. Don’t be swayed by a laundry list of skills that look impressive but won’t give you results. When you have clarity about your needs and what is important, you are able to make better decisions and keep that new hire on track.
2. Know When You Can Adapt
You always have choices. Get creative and look for alternate ways of achieving your goal. When I noticed the problem with logging stairs on my tracker, I searched the help files online and found out how to reset the tracker. This was supposed to fix the problem. I learned that touching the floor before walking up stairs would improve the accuracy. So I started doing that. It was frustrating to know that I had to go out of my way and add an extra step to get results, and yet the tracker still didn’t accurately count stairs.
While these are minor things for a fitness tracker, weighing alternatives for achieving your goals can be difficult. As a small business owner, you may not always be able to get the exact skills you need because of budget, availability, or other reasons. In these situations, you may have to get creative and use an internal training program, a mentorship program, or accept an alternate skill. You might consider training someone to do your bookkeeping who has strong skills in analytical thinking, planning, accuracy, and attention to detail. These are all important skills in a bookkeeper, and the technical aspects are easily learned by taking appropriate training courses.
3. Know the Costs
There are costs involved with every decision you make as a small business owner. Some are tangible and some are intangible. Both need to be taken into consideration in your hiring decisions.
With my fitness tracker, there were intangible costs which included the frustration of always resetting the tracker or touching the floor before going up stairs. This affected my attitude and I found myself resenting those extra steps to get accurate results. When I received the warranty replacement, an added frustration was not knowing when the battery would die and if it would be at a good time to take the hour needed to recharge it. If I was in the middle of my three-mile daily walk, I would lose credit for those steps/miles. My tracker friends would think I was slacking.
These are not huge issues when dealing with a tracker. They can be huge when you are talking about employee performance. There is a business cost to accepting and adapting to your employee’s performance. Your customers may feel like you aren’t providing them with adequate service, you may lose sales, and the morale of the rest of your employees may be effected.
For example, if it takes me 30 seconds to stop, think about touching the floor, touch the floor, and then begin climbing the stairs and I do this 15 times a day, that adds up to 7 ½ minutes per day. Those precious minutes could have been spent making a call to a client or speaking to a prospective client which could result in revenue. Think about how those small things add up and what you might be losing because of them.
As a business owner, your time is money.
What are you doing to work around those performance gaps? The value of your time, spent in areas other than your focus, can be significant. If you are doing things your employees should be doing, you are leaving important tasks undone. You are not focusing on your revenue generating activities when you get lost in solving problems, work around skill gaps, or deal with the headaches and drama caused by poor performers. If you want to learn more about the hidden costs of hiring poor performers, you can download my easy-to-use calculator.
Hiring the right people can be tricky to master, but these basic concepts will take you far. By focusing on your performance standards, knowing when to adapt, and knowing the costs involved, you’ll be able to hire the right people and stay clear of the hiring roller coaster.