How I hire the right people…
I just listened to a radio report about yet another manufacturer who is having trouble finding qualified applicants for the available positions. You've probably heard similar stories. I get annoyed when I hear business owners or managers say things like, “I can’t find people with the skills I need,” or “There are very few people who are familiar with our specialized machinery,” or “This job requires a license for (insert skill) that too few applicants hold.” These are cop-outs.
The problem is not the lack of a skilled workforce; the problem is that many companies are unwilling to train people to do the job. They are deflecting their responsibility of training their employees onto the job market. The expectation that there will be a steady flow of applicants with 100% of the necessary personality traits and technical skills for vacant positions is completely ridiculous and predictably fruitless. (The rest of this paragraph is a rabbit hole, but follow me down it for a minute.) Consider Sea World and their dolphins. When Sea World needs a new dolphin, what do they do? They bring a few dolphins into an office and ask them if they know how to balance a beach ball on their snout, and if they all say "no," then they all get thrown back into the ocean, and the search continues, right? No, of course not. They train the dolphins tirelessly to do exactly what they need. Expecting a new member of your workforce to be able to perform specialized, complicated tasks without any training is totally unreasonable, but that is exactly the tactic that many companies employ when searching for new blood.
Including myself, Gerard Home Inspection has four skilled, trained, and capable employees. Precisely zero of our employees started their job with all of the skills necessary to properly inspect a house, yet we have quickly built a reputation for reliability and quality. How did that happen? It is really pretty simple. Our inspectors underwent a 6-month training and licensing period prior to performing their own inspections. During that time, we focused on building the skill set required for completing high-quality, timely inspections for our clients. It was expensive and exhausting, but it was immensely rewarding. I am just as confident with our inspectors’ skills and techniques as I am my own.
I’ve never tried to find people with the right skill set for this job; I’ve tried to find people with the right values. I can teach just about any literate person everything they need to know to inspect a home. It is honestly not that complicated after you see it done about 100 times. But I can’t teach values. I can’t teach someone to be honest, or loyal, or to be able to work independently, or to play well with others. People either develop these values in childhood or they don’t, and these values tend to be relatively static throughout a person’s life. My technique for hiring people can be boiled down to this: I find the people with the values I'm looking for, and then I train them to do the job. I strongly believe that this is the model most companies should adapt to overcome what they perceive as an under-skilled workforce. After all, whether we start working at age 12 or age 25, each of us enters the workforce as an unskilled worker. Without an investment of time and energy from others, that is exactly what we would remain.