Building a Great Company
Identify Strategic Employee Character Traits to
Make Your Business a Success

by Fred Lange

In today's economy, it's more important than ever for companies to clearly define the "employee character traits" of new job candidates to ensure their business success. With organizations becoming more team-structured and project-based, personality traits and good people skills are becoming essential attributes for achieving workplace harmony. In other words, you get your hiring right - you save your company time and money.

Take Hotwire, for example. Launched in October 2000 - at a time when most e-commerce companies were struggling - the new discount travel site not only attracted top talent, but also took vital strategic steps to ensure their new hires were a perfect fit to thrive in their corporate culture. From day one, the Hotwire team established employee character traits as guidelines for their interviewing process. Doing upfront screening paid off. Hotwire now enjoys some of the lowest employee turnover rates - below industry averages.

Hotwire CEO Karl Peterson recognized the value of creating a company culture from his days as a partner at Texas Pacific Group. "I believe a big part of our success has been due to pulling together the right mix of people who share similar values," Peterson said. "In addition to having the right technology and financial backing, a solid, workable team is essential for creating a thriving, profitable business. I also knew it would save our company money in the long run."

Just how much money can a company save by reducing mishires? A lot. According to Brad Smart, an industrial psychologist and author of Topgrading, an employee mishire can cost a company 14 times the base salary - or a stunning $840,000. For those in upper management, he estimates the cost at 28 times the salary.

Hotwire's Peterson believes that his company has saved a significant amount of time and money by doing the work upfront to ensure Hotwire found the right people to succeed in the culture Hotwire desired to create. "Getting the 'people thing' right is huge strategic advantage in any industry," Peterson said. "It can make or break a company, especially in the first few years."

So what steps can you take to make sure your hiring investments pay off?

  1. For starters, read Smart's book. His book outlines a simple, yet detailed grading system to pinpoint the right candidates for your company.

  2. When designing a hiring process, go the Hotwire route hire a professional. With carefully planned screening procedures combined with top-notch retention programs, Hotwire is thriving amidst the worst downturn in the travel industry.

  3. Set forth some key measurements for success. Start with the top by making sure executives and human resource managers are in alignment on the employee character traits your company is looking to attract. In Hotwire's case, the senior management team created a strategic hiring manual that detailed the attributes they were looking for before interviewing their first candidate. These included:

    • Passion: high energy, enthusiastic people who express a passion for work
    • Communication: ability to articulate thoughts clearly and concisely
    • Flexibility: ability to thrive in changing, unstructured environments
    • Proactive: ability to get things done; life-long learners
    • Team Oriented: effective listeners; productive collaborators
    • Competitive: strong desire to compete and win in the marketplace
    • Integrity: strong internal value system
    • Dedication: demonstrated commitment to help company succeed
    • Empathy: respect the differences and capabilities of others
    • Fun: positive, outgoing and enjoyable to be around

  4. Once your company has identified the employee character traits of an "A" team member, you can then define specific screening questions to determine what candidates are right for the job - and right for your company. In addition, there are a number of online and written tests aimed at assessing character traits.

While Hotwire has proven that strategic hiring can add to the bottom line in both dollars and employee morale, they are not alone. Many other companies are seeing the value of strategic hiring. You can do the same for yours. By taking these important steps before hiring your next employee, you can save your company thousands of dollars - perhaps millions. And you'll go a long way towards creating and maintaining the kind of thriving, harmonious company culture that keeps a company growing - in good or bad times.

Fred Lange is owner and president of HR Architect, a turnkey HR solution firm that specializes in sourcing talent, developing talent, and creating thriving work environments. Based in northern California, Fred can be reached at Visit for additional information.

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Copyright 2002 by Fred Lange. All rights reserved.

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