tomorrows success begins today

The time to create a winning game plan for attracting and retaining top employees is right now.

I’ve been talking with two friendsabout the possibility of running theChevron Houston Marathon together this January. We kicked the ideaaround for a couple of months, butdidn’t actually sign up.

When I finally checked out the raceinformation online, our dreams of glorywent up in smoke. It turns out the organizers recommend that first-timemarathoners practice two or three timesa week for four-to-six months and becapable of running 30-45 minutes at aconversational pace before starting aserious multi-month marathon trainingprogram.

That, in a nutshell, is one way somany plans in business and in life nevermake it to fruition. Sometimes we waitso long that when we’re finally ready todo something we’re too late. Sometimeswe have a good plan in place when, allof a sudden, something changes (management, technology, the business climate, etc.) and we have to switch horsesmidstream or scrap that plan entirely.Sometimes we’re so busy fighting firesor jumping on new opportunities (orboth) that we never have time to plan.In the course of my consulting work,I’ve even met people who think all planning is a waste of time. (I call this “New Year’s syndrome” because those afflictedwith it stop making New Year’s resolutions because they never keep them anyway.)

Considering the rapid pace ofchange in today’s business world, Iunderstand why these yearly planningdrills seem futile to some, but they are,in fact, crucial to our future success. Inorder to get where we want to go, weneed to know exactly where that is. Weneed to have an idea of what the goal isin order to reach it. It matters not thatwe can’t precisely predict what will happen tomorrow, let alone over the courseof the next 12 months. Planningimproves our chances of success no matter what happens because the processcreates subconscious objectives that ourconscious mind will then set out toaccomplish.

When it comes to business strategies,most organizations routinely plan nextyear’s projected sales, operating budgetsand capital expenditures. These are thekinds of activities that are easily quantified and lend themselves to spreadsheets, charts, goals and graphs.

In spite of the fact that industry managers nationwide claim one of theirbiggest headaches is finding and keepinggood employees, most fail to create ayearly plan for employee recruitment,selection and retention. This may bebecause, with the exception of head-counts and turnover stats, this planningactivity doesn’t lend itself so readily tospreadsheets. Also at work here is theperception that while the problem is”important,” it is not perceived as beingas “urgent” as sales and budgets.

Even some organizations that walkthe “our people are our most importantasset” talk are guilty of planning onlyfor activities where the results will showup in positive numbers on the balancesheet.

Bottom line: When it comes to people planning, the industry is in a reactiverather than a proactive mode and it’shigh time for change. If you think it’shard to find and keep good people now,the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 22.2 million more people willbe employed by 2010. Which industriesand employers will attract the best ofthose new workers? Real output isexpected to expand by nearly $6.1 trillion and nearly 60% of that will be in service-producing industries. Will youhave the people in place to participate inthis growth?

It may be December, but that doesn’tmean it’s too late to put a people plan inplace. Resolve to move from reactive toproactive in 2007. Don’t think you have to do everything at once. Make a plan,set some goals and commit to one ortwo concrete actions. Here are somesuggestions:

Proactive Employee Recruiting.If you don’t already know what yourbest source of new employees is, make ita priority this year to find out. Askevery job applicant why they appliedand keep track of the responses. Thenlook at this data for only the people youhire. (You could ask this question ofyour current staff, too, in order to havesome historical data.) Eventually, you’llbe able to pinpoint the commonalitiesamong your best employees. Did mostcome from want ads, referrals, walk-insor job fairs? This data will tell youwhere best to spend your recruitingtime and money.

Set up an Employee ReferralProgram. It’s been proven over andover again that new hires referred byexisting employees will be more successful and stay on the job longer thanemployees from any other source. Thisis because your existing employees giveapplicants a realistic picture of what thejob will be like and because the newhire already has a friend or mentor onstaff. The program doesn’t have to becomplex and the rewards don’t have tobe over-the-top. The point of the program is to keep the idea of referrals topof-mind, to provide some kind of incentive, and to have some fun. (To cast aneven wider net, consider offering incentives to suppliers and customers as well.)

Proactive Selection Plan. Saveyourself a lot of time and trouble in theNew Year by creating a simple job applicant pre-screening question set. Too many hiring managers make appointments to interview every person whocalls or fills out an application only tofind out the person doesn’t have reliabletransportation, can’t work the hoursrequired or is unwilling to do some ofthe routine tasks.

Here are some suggested questionsto help you create your own applicantpre-screen:

  • When are you available to start?
  • Do you have reliable transportation?
  • What days/shifts do you prefer towork?
  • What days/shifts are you available to work?
  • Which days/shifts would you prefernot to work?
  • What is your minimum salaryrequirement?
  • Can you lift 50 pounds on a repetitivebasis?
  • Are you willing to be responsible forkeeping the restrooms clean?
  • Have you ever been fired or asked toleave a job?
  • If hired, how long do you plan to stayon this job?

Make a resolution to call and checkreferences on every person you hirebefore their first day on the job.According to the Society for HumanResource Management, 20 to 25% of allresumes and applications contain atleast one major discrepancy.

Whether former employers will tellyou anything or not, if you don’t makethe effort to check references and itturns out the new hire’s employmentrecord has been falsified, you can beheld accountable and at risk for a negligent hiring lawsuit.

Proactive Retention Plan. Whileemployers routinely provide employeeswith paychecks, tuition reimbursementand paid vacations, employee surveysrepeatedly tell us what employees wantfrom their employers are fair treatment,care and concern, and trust. Knowingthis, how do you measure up? Thismight be a good time for some honestself-assessment and resolutions thatcould improve turnover statistics.

Another mistake I see wherever I gois the assumption that the outstandingemployees who are doing a great joband have been with the company for awhile aren’t going to go anywhere else.When one of these star performersgives notice, their manager inevitablytells me he feels like he’s just beenslapped in the face.

Some people do find a comfortablejob niche and want to stay there forever,but most of your best people need to bechallenged—for them, nothing’s worsethan a boring, routine job. For 2007, create a plan to grow your best people. Forexample, provide cross training, delegate some of your routine tasks or puttop employees in charge of a special project. Ask one of them to create andadminister your new employee referralreward program.

Anyone who has attended one of myworkshops has heard me repeat this truism:
Q. When’s the best time to plant a tree?
A. Twenty-five years ago.
Q. When’s the second best time to planta tree?
A. Today.

I should have started training for that marathon last January, but hey, I’mright on track to start training for 2008.And it’s not too late for you to thinkabout where your employee recruitmentselection and retention program coulduse the most improvement. Why notwrite a plan with two or three concreteobjectives for 2007. Seize the opportunity… today.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally recognized consultant, author,and speaker on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourlyemployees. He is the president of Humetrics, a leading developer ofsystems, training, processes, and tools for recruiting, selecting andretaining the best hourly workforce. Mel is also the author of fourbooks, including the best selling “Hire Tough Manage Easy.” You canreach Mel at (800) 218-0930,, or


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