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When you run your own small or medium enterprise, you know that hiring the right people is key to growth. Good employees can make or break a venture, and needless to say it’s always much more pleasant to have people in the office that you like.
Beyond resumes and skill sets, here are some things to look for in the “ideal employee”.
Seek out innovators
These are people who are not afraid to speak up if they believe they have a great idea, even if there’s a social cost.
“Society frowns on disagreeableness,” Malcolm Gladwell writes in “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.” As human beings we are hardwired to seek the approval of those around us; however, true innovators resist this code and SMEs need guts if they are to survive and grow. As Gladwell observes, “a radical and transformative thought goes nowhere without the willingness to challenge convention.”
Hire employees who are willing to mentor each other
In Annie Murphy Paul’s newsletter, “The Brilliant Report,” she references a University of Illinois study showing that “for the first several months to two years, having a co-worker in the work group who takes an interest in [a] new employee’s success is critical.” This doesn’t just include job training, but helping new workers learn to navigate office culture as well.
“New hires benefit from having an informal mentor who knows the job, has insight into the unwritten rules and knows the socially and politically appropriate ways of getting things done,” she writes.
New hires should be willing to collaborate as well as work above and beyond their job descriptions at first, and experienced workers must be open to the newcomers. If they are managers, they must make sure to speak with the new employees frequently and ensure that they work on important tasks. So while you may need to hire a bunch of tech monkeys, it’s best to make sure they are willing to interact with each other and teach the ropes to newbies in addition to constantly being knee deep in tech.
“Organizations may need to re-evaluate their new hire orientation processes, particularly if theirs is a sink-or-swim approach that doesn’t give new hires much support and help navigating the social subcultures of the workplace, the study suggests,” Murphy Paul writes. Agreed.
Hire people who are willing to change their ways, even if they did the same tasks at their previous job
A worker may be unwilling to adapt if they come in believing the way they worked at their last gig was the right way or the only way. This can prevent them from fitting into their new office.
Sometimes, a professional with too much experience will find it difficult to harmonize with a work group if their work habits in a previous position differ greatly from their new position. This sometimes requires veteran workers to unlearn old habits and be open minded to new ways of doing things – sometimes things that they’ve been doing for 10+ years.
Hire employees who are open to any type of office space
Your employees are going to have to work hard, and work hard together, to make your business a success. To do that, they’re going to need peace and quiet at times and a stimulating space to catalyze brainstorming at others. All in all, they will need an office environment to focus and concentrate on the task at hand.
Some workers prefer cubicles, while others prefer open office plans. Avoid hiring someone who has extreme requirements when it comes to office space – you may need to grow into a space that they might not like or downsize into something they refuse to work in. You want to hire someone who is flexible and can find a way to work efficiently in almost any environment.
Hire workers you trust to do the work, even if you don’t always have them in your line of sight
Lhert asserts that if you don’t trust your employees to work remotely, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.
“If you really think your employees will not be working if you cannot look over their shoulder to check, you have the wrong way of looking at the relationship with your employees (especially at a startup),” he writes.
Ultimately, our team members need to be committed, energized and on the same page. “You should be hiring people who are engaged by their work and believe in the company’s mission. If people slack off when you aren’t watching them, your company has a disease, and you have discovered a symptom,” observes Lhert.
Seek out employees who are comfortable in a results-oriented work environment
Such environments are ideal for SMEs that want to be nimble and change quickly according to demands. Instead of measuring an employee’s success by the amount of time you see them in their office, you should measure it on the output of your workers.
But not every employee will be able to deal with that level of autonomy. Ask potential hires if they like to work independently, or if they prefer the structure of a 9-to-5 job.
A results-oriented environment is ideal for SMEs that don’t have an ossified corporate culture that prescribes a certain way of doing things. For example, Lhert works best at night, and a job that forces him to be in front of his computer at 8 a.m. is not going to get the best performance out of him, he says.
Lhert advises that “If you are looking at your employees through the lens of ‘I can’t give these people freedom and autonomy to do work in the best way they see fit:’ You should consider finding different people for your organization instead of pursuing an authoritarian regime.” Preach.
All in all, you want to hire someone who is easy to work with and flexible when it comes to the ebb and flow of business, especially a growing one.