Making the Right Hire the First Time

For more than 15 years you've heard me say "People are your most important asset." If you hire right, train, communicate, motivate and compensate well, all of your other assets will grow. Nothing affects your bottom line more than your people.

If you're the typical kitchen and bath dealer, you will have between five and 10 employees. If one, two or, Heaven forbid, three or more of these people are not the "right" people for the jobs they're performing, it will take a lot more hard work and expense to achieve the ultimate success you desire and deserve.

While there has been an incredible amount of change in our industry in the past 10 years, how kitchen and bath dealers hire, train and retain employees has, unfortunately, not changed. Owners and managers are so busy playing fire chief and police officer that they will hire the first warm body that can fill a space. Or, they go by "gut" feel. Next, they train haphazardly and manage by prevention.

Hiring How-To tips
At the K&BDN/NKBA "Managing for Profits" seminars, we talked about the costs of poor hiring. For example, let's say you've gone through the whole exercise of hiring a new salesperson. The person's annual compensation is geared to be about $80,000 when he comes up to speed. Let's also assume that you didn't do the full due diligence in checking references, having two or more people involved in the interviewing process, etc. Now, it's six months later, and it's obvious this is not the right person. So, you let him go and have to start all over again.

The U.S. Department of Labor and other professional human resource people will tell you that it will cost the company anywhere from 33 to 50 percent of the employee's annual compensation to replace that person and this doesn't include lost sales and productivity, which are significant. Now, add in the costs related to starting all over. In this example, that original $80,000 hire could cost you $100,000 or more.

All of this can be avoided by hiring right the first time. While you won't make the right decision every time, by practicing good hiring rules you can hope to achieve an 80 percent success rate.

When reviewing resumes and application forms, be aware that many applicants will make false statements in order to get a job; they will not always tell the truth in the interviewing process, and some may even falsify records. In addition, surveys reflect that 35 percent of applicants have stolen from previous employers, and 31 percent have abused drugs and/or alcohol. That's the bad news. The good news is that you can determine who the "bad guys" are by being more thorough in your hiring procedures. Drug screening and background checks are a good start, but still not enough.

Many firms are utilizing pre-employment integrity assessments to reduce the chance of error. These tests can alert employers of behaviors and attitudes that could be a detriment to the success of the business. There are a lot of pre-employment assessments available, so do your homework before selecting one.

Also, when starting the hiring process, be sure you have a detailed written job description. Spell out who the supervisor will be, who may report to the candidate and everything involved in performing the job successfully. List education and experience requirements and establish a compensation range (high and low, with all of the benefits listed). Identify the traits and skills that will help the candidate succeed.

Do a study of the successful top performers who work or have worked for you. Ask peers in the industry what traits and skills they look for. By documenting this information you can develop a "job success pattern." Use this to help evaluate future candidates.

Every company has its own "culture." Know what yours is before you begin the hiring process. You only want to hire people that will be a good culture fit. Some characteristics to be aware of are personality, interests, energy level, competitiveness, self reliance, common sense and persistence. It's not previous work experience or level of education that leads to success in a job it's how the candidate will fit or "match up" with your culture and the characteristics you're looking for that will lead to success in the job.

In addition, don't depend upon the boss' interview and gut alone. Involve two or more fellow employees in the interview process. Get input from the team. Compare notes and make a collective decision.

Training Days
Too many managers get hung up in the day-to-day people challenges: tardiness, attendance, conflict, poor morale, time management, follow-up etc., etc. They don't take the time (or have the time) to be a trainer, coach and mentor. And, too often, managers get so involved in these time-consuming people issues that they don't have the time to perform their many other responsibilities, such as selling, designing, meeting with manufacturers' reps, etc.

Every kitchen and bath dealer should have a formal, written training program that begins day one and never ends. Training helps employees with self confidence, self esteem, productivity and remuneration. The company will gain increased productivity and you will have a happier team member and a more self-reliant employee. Your clients will get better overall service and your vendors will gain increased sales of their products.

Involve the whole staff with training. Get input from each member on what's needed individually and collectively. Assign specific products to a team member and have that person do all of the homework to make a presentation to the rest of the team.

Since the kitchen and bath industry is built on relationships, who you hire will have a lot to do with the success of the relationships you need to foster and build with your clients. If your whole team from management to sales to support staff is competent, qualified and working in the right job, your employees will benefit and so will the business. Morale, teamwork and productivity will improve.