Surround Yourself with the Right People

To maximize growth, you need people throughout your company with the right skill sets — who are passionate and fully engaged with the tasks at hand.

We’re guessing this won’t come as a surprise: your staff is key to the success of your business. Without the right people in place throughout your organization, no marketing initiative will achieve its desired ROI potential.

According to a study performed by Will Felps, Terence R. Mitchell, and Eliza Byington, even one bad apple can reduce the performance of a business team by 30% to 40%. New business efforts will die on the vine if the customer service infrastructure is subpar, if the sales force is not a well-oiled machine, or if your leadership team believes “customer-centric” is just a buzzword that is not worth rigorously pursuing.

Take a hard look at your personnel.
Jim Collins, noted author of New York Times bestsellers Good to Great and Built to Last, popularized the idea that leaders need to make sure they have the right leadership team in place before they can move their companies in the right direction. His 12 Questions tool, a guide for leaders who want to build great, enduring companies, addresses the topic head-on: “Do we have the right people on the bus, and are 95% of our key seats filled with the right people?”
Asking this question is certainly a good place to start, but what can you do about the problem? Although answering this question will never be an easy task, here are a few suggestions.

Build the right teams by focusing on the intangible
Think about hiring the same way a coach thinks about assembling a team. Every staff member will serve a specific role, but it is the joint actions of the team that will lead to success. This means you need the right team members, not just the most qualified individuals.

In addition, each team within the organization has a distinct role, and team members must have the right skill sets and expertise to perform that role exceptionally. When hiring someone, that individual first needs to have the expertise needed for the role they will be asked to play. Once that box is checked, that individual next needs to have a customer-centric mindset. You will never achieve your optimal ROI if even a single member of your team isn’t dedicated to the customer experience. And finally, that individual needs to be a culture carrier with the right level of enthusiasm.

Develop a rigorous recruiting process.
Of course, you can’t build the perfect team if you can’t attract the right talent. Your recruiting process determines the quality of talent that you can choose from, and time spent strengthening that process will pay off in long-term growth.

Organizations that have a rigorous recruiting process and track all of their applicant communications are 40% more likely to be “best in class.” This means that your process must be structured and your hiring is diligent in order to achieve your potential. Candidates should undergo rigorous scrutiny, with interviewers trained to compare employees on the same scale. Prioritize qualities and values that are consistent with your company, and always aim to hire the highest quality individual available. Author and entrepreneur, Guy Kawasaki, is fond of quoting Steve Jobs as saying, “A players hire A players; B players hire C players; and C players hire D players. It doesn’t take long to get to Z players.”

You don’t want your hiring to be consumed by that kind of insecurity. However, your decision to hire or not hire is only half of the hiring process. You need to attract and impress these qualified “A players” as well. Part of this is dependent on the reputation of your business and brand. The cost-per-hire at companies with strong employer branding is half that of other organizations, and their turnover rate is 28% lower. Recruiting is certainly one more reason to invest in optimizing your business and brand.

The recruitment process also gives you an opportunity to make a good impression. In fact, 68% of job seekers will accept a lower salary if employers make a great impression during the hiring process. Everything about your process, from job postings to interview scheduling, should be standardized to ensure quality. Recruiting should be done in a timely and professional manner.

Constantly assess and strengthen your team.
Consistent, constructive performance reviews will keep your team strong and at its best. Consider the example of Jack Welch who developed a performance-appraisal system that he calls “differentiation.” Welch suggests you conduct biannual evaluations of all employees based on how their results are advancing company goals, and how well they are adhering to company values. This evaluation allows employees to know where they stand and where progress must be made. In addition to telling employees whether they fall in the top 20%, average 70% or lowest performing 10%, this evaluation should be accompanied by actionable feedback and coaching that will enable employees to improve.
Although your performance criteria may not align exactly with Welch’s, the consistency of his approach is necessary for any performance evaluation system. Having such transparency will improve team performance across the board. It also guarantees that employees at risk of termination are given a fair chance to improve their contribution to the team. You cannot afford to keep the wrong people around simply to be kind, but you should ensure that the firing process is conducted with fairness and respect.

In the Trenches Takeaway:
Take a hard look at your recruiting process. Is it consistent and rigorous or spotty and casual? What questions are you asking of potential team members? How are you presenting your organization to applicants? Is your application process rigorous enough? Many large, successful organizations have applicants do 7-8 interviews before hiring, and ensure that multiple interviewers aren’t simply asking the same questions. Although you may decide that you need fewer, a certain level of rigor is crucial to getting the right people in the right seats. And this process should go on long after the initial hire. Use annual reviews to evaluate your people in a structured way that ensures those seats are still being filled by the right people.