No More Warm Bodies!
by Roger E. Herman

"Get me more people!" "Hire some people so we can get the work done around here!"

These cries for help are all too familiar to human resource professionals and hiring managers. The labor shortage is really beginning to hurt a lot of employers. Without enough people to get their work done, companies risk not being able to win and hold customers. Not meeting customer expectations can be devastating in today's competitive world. But, the key is to hire the right people, not just anyone off the street.

Unfortunately, faced with the demands of getting jobs done, companies hire people who are not qualified to do the work. They use a measurement we half-jokingly call "the mirror test:" Place a mirror in front of the applicant's face; if it fogs up, hire." While this process will get you bodies, it also creates serious short-term and long-term problems.

Low Performance. When the people you hire can't perform the job they were hired to do, you're back in the same position you were, production-wise. However, at the same time, you've deluded yourself into thinking you solved your problem. Now your problem is masked by the presence of a body, reducing the urgency to get the right people on the team. Who's really being fooled in this situation?

Stressed Supervisors. Having to contend with low performers is particularly stressful for supervisors, particularly if they're accustomed to working with people who had the capacity to be trained, follow directions, and be trusted to get their work done. Result: supervisors react to the stress with fight or flight. In the fight reaction to stress, they may yell, become abusive, and exhibit counterproductive autocratic behavior. In the flight reaction, they'll leave . . . at least psychologically. Good supervisors are hard to replace, and promotion of a subordinate means you have one less good producer getting things done.

Disgruntled Co-Workers. When you hire people who can't carry their share of the load, that places more of a burden on your more competent workers. How long will they tolerate a condition where they have to work harder and/or longer because you hired the wrong people? Dedicated workers will usually carry a heavier load for a time - while you find a qualified co-worker, but don't want the condition to be permanent. They'll leave: there are plenty of other opportunities for competent workers in all fields.

Dropping Competence. As your more competent workers leave, and the less competent stay, your overall capacity to produce drops. With less ability to perform, productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction wane. Customers leave, taking their money with them. Now you're caught in an unstoppable downward spiral. Reduced cash flow can cause layoffs, inspiring other competent people to leave. Look what's left.

Wasted Resources. When you hire warm bodies, you'll want to keep them. It's natural for employers to want to keep the people they hire - the cost of replacing them is high, even when they weren't qualified to begin with. Now you're pouring resources into keeping people you shouldn't have hired at all.

What to Do

Raise Your Standards. Stop hiring people who should not be working for you. Let "No More Warm Bodies" be your battle cry in the War for Talent. Raise your standards to where they need to be, then stick with them. Be diligent and consistent.

Evaluate Current Employees. Do you have people on your payroll who shouldn't be working for you? Or people who are assigned to jobs that just aren't right for them? Take the steps to move people who don't fit where they are. If more training is needed, make the investment so you can earn the return in performance. Consider a process of re-recruiting and re-orienting with all employees to strengthen focus and dedication.

Dump Bad People. Say good-bye to those who just aren't going to work out. Give them a "career redirection opportunity." They're not going anywhere with your company, but might be just right in another situation. Stop holding them back. Note: when we say "bad" people, we don't mean that there's anything wrong with them; they're just not good for your organization.

Imagine what life will be like with a competent, enthusiastic workforce that's dedicated to achieving company goals. It's possible. Start today to build the power to excel!


Roger Herman, co-author of How to Become an Employer of Choice, is CEO of The Herman Group, a firm of Certified Management Consultants and professional speakers based in Greensboro, NC. Visit www.hermangroup.com or e-mail roger@hermangroup.com .

Many more articles in The HR Refresher in The CEO Refresher Archives

   


Copyright 2004 by Roger Herman. All rights reserved.

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