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Human Resources

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In the book, Good to Great, author Jim Collins devotes a chapter to getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats. As a fan of Collins' research and writing, our company, Safeguard Security and Communication, has experienced the benefits of applying the principles found in Good to Great, and we continue to apply our attention to getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats. It's a never-ending quest.

The right people can make all the difference in creating a profitable company. However, blind loyalty, fear, and, sometimes, plain laziness keep many top executives and business owners from dealing with the all-important question of finding the right people that can help make the company great. Let's list a few positions in your company that with the wrong person could dramatically affect your profitability:

• Sales-A sales staff that doesn't produce becomes immediate and unnecessary overhead, they can drive away business instead of create business, and they can be allowed to sell poor projects with poor estimates and low profits.

• Project Management-Project managers hold the keys to the jobs. The wrong PM lacking the necessary attributes, like being detail-oriented, able to multi-task, and an excellent planner, can cost you tens of thousands, if not more, in profits.

• Accounting-Every member of the accounting department must be fanatical about detail and accuracy. Incorrect billing creates cash flow and collection issues. Contract administration needs to cover all project details and develop accurate job costing.

• Design and Engineering-The wrong designer who can't communicate or listen will create inaccurate designs, leaving out necessary job costs and miss client expectations.

Think about these quotes from Good to Great: "If you have to expend a lot of effort and time motivating your staff, you have the wrong people...When you have disciplined people and disciplined thought, you don't need bureaucracy."

The right people are self-motivated to do the right thing, and while they may require some coaching, they generate their own motivation, because it would never dawn on them to do less than their best. Another important indicator that you have the wrong people is that you find yourself creating a lot of policies and procedures in order to ensure that important activities are accomplished correctly. When you have the right people, they understand what is needed to succeed, and they don't need a policy manual to tell them what to do.

The good news is that tools for hiring do exist and frankly there are some really good ones. Products such as "Forecaster Tests" that measure behavior, motivations and skills allow companies to benchmark their best people in specific positions and then compare potential hires to the benchmark to help ensure success. The product helps avoid costly hiring mistakes and is a good predictor of performance.

Behavior and motivation tests don't tell you the whole story. Tools like "Disc Analysis by TTI Success Insights" measure how someone will approach the job. "Disc" looks at four traits-dominance, influencing, steadiness, and compliance-to determine personal style and fit within the job requirements. Each of the four categories is scored on a scale to determine tendencies. For instance, we have determined in our experience that successful sales people (closers) need to demonstrate a fairly high "D" (dominance) and a high "I" (influencing). Most aspiring sales people have a very high "I" and a low "D." They make friends with everyone they meet, but they can't close sales. When you ask them, "What did you do last week?" they might reply, "I met 10 new prospects and provided four new proposals." A high "D" with a high "I" would answer the question, "I closed three sales." "Disc" can predict this approach and keep you from wasting your time on a good talker.

"Disc Analysis" can also be a great tool for team building and employee development. All of this leads to higher productivity, fewer hiring mistakes, and ultimately higher profitability. More information on these tools is available from www.hrgrouponline.com, or by e-mailing info@hrgroup.com.

Studies have shown that traditional interviewing methods are only about 15 percent accurate. Experts recommend using behavior-based questions during the interview to acquire more accurate impressions of the candidate's ability to do the job successfully. HR experts also agree that you should hire by thirds. In other words, one third of the decision should be based on a behavior-based interview and references, one third of the decision based on pre-employment tests such as Forecaster, and the last third should be based on cultural fit.

Cultural fit may be the hardest and most subjective part of the decision. Most employers don't really know how to define the culture of their company because they never really thought about it. Take the time to understand and define your culture and then learn to evaluate a potential hire for fit into your culture.

Mike Bradley (mcbradley@safeguard.us) is president of Safeguard Security and Communications, a security and communication systems integrator in Phoenix, AZ. Bradley is a past president and director on the board of the NSCA.

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