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Limited by attitude part 2

The cost of people

If a truck breaks down we don’t blame the truck. We look for causes and try to repair it.
We recognise it as a vital piece of equipment and would only replace it as a last resort.
One of the reasons for this is that we know how much a new truck costs and we fear extra expenses.

When it comes to people however, our efforts are usually limited in getting them to work at maximum performance and we give up easily. We label them as lazy, incompetent, aggressive, inflexible etc and go for the replacement.
Motivation is not often considered.
We are happy to consider this option for a few reasons.

  • We rarely know or consider the real cost of replacement
  • We don’t know how to solve the issues involved
  • We assume that replacement is the fastest option to achieve success

I’m sure there are many other reasons. In summary, it doesn’t matter whether the person is sacked, moved sideways or the job is removed through redundancy we have still given up on the individual. We blame them.

The cost of people replacement

If you wish to purchase a new truck or a new piece of machinery you wouldn’t do so without justification both in terms of the use and efficiency of the equipment and a financial benefit analysis. You would examine all aspects of the buying the new machinery right up to the point it was working at optimum performance.

When considering the human counterpart often it is only the salary that is considered and perhaps an agency fee.
Typical items you may consider for machinery are:

  • Cost of research into the appropriate replacement
  • Purchase cost
  • Delivery cost
  • Installation cost
  • Training cost on the new machine
  • Smooth change over costs from the old machine
  • Testing period of the new machine etc.

In a similar fashion, the true cost of replacing a human being might be:

  • Pay owed to the outgoing individual
  • Notice pay allowing search for a new person
  • Interview time for one or more employees
  • Interviewee travel expenses and other costs
  • Relocation costs of the new employee
  • Training and orientation of the new employee
  • Recruitment agency fees
  • Specific training associated with a particular project

For the actual cost involved, in your situation, you would need to calculate yourself but it would not be unusual for the total costs of replacement to exceed the annual salary cost for the new starter.

So, what might be another option.
If you tried to modify the behaviour of the individual it may cost you time.
What if you spent the equivalent of two solid weeks of your time training the individual to behaviour in an appropriate way?
It may be more, say, 3 to 4 weeks equivalent.

It doesn’t take much to realise the cost of this would be greatly less than the cost of replacement.
There are several advantages to this method.

  • You will gain a rejuvenated employee who will be thankful that you spent the time on him or her
  • Costs would have been lower
  • There is always a risk that the new person would have turned out just as bad. Especially with the current training methods
  • The rejuvenated individual will act as an advertisement for the new approach generally improving morale, performance and motivation

You will need to manage your resource. If you assume that it is all down to the individual via self development you may be sorely disappointed with the results. It is up to you as the manager to make sure development is as you and the individual wish it.

Recruiting the best

It is bad enough losing people that you need to replace in the first place but recruiting unsuitable people is even worse.
Look for typical pitfalls in this process.

Technical expertise is one thing but natural enthusiasm is worth its weight in gold.
A person can have all the experience in the world but if their demeanour is poor it can rapidly affect the working practices of others which can then spread further.
You could end up reducing motivation.

Screen people in such a way that those who are already self motivated are identified.
When you interview, speak about the organisational culture and values together with what is required to fit in, as well as the job description itself.

Get a good idea of how people will deal with others and how they approach problems and disappointments.

Check references.
Get second opinions by involving others in the department in the interview process.
Involving others in the interview process and preparing the job description is a positive motivator for them.
It tells them that you value their experiences and judgement.

Don’t focus too much on perks and benefits as they should already be know from the job advertisement.

You could encourage applicants to perform in team games and events as part of the interview process.

Ask the candidate to give an impromptu speech or presentation on a particular topic.

There is a saying that goes, ‘recruit for attitude and train for skill’.
Clearly, there is a level of judgement involved in getting the balance right.
It should be perfectly possible to get both in most instances.

Once you have the best people you will want to keep them. By applying good leadership skills (see The Complete Leadership package) and the other techniques identified here you will go a long way to achieve that.

If the basic needs of people are satisfied (see Abraham Maslow) they will be far happier.

If personnel believe in the organisational vision then higher performance can be expected.
If you produce something that has a direct bearing on the lifestyles of your customers then it might be easy to see the vision in practice, for example, a medical product improving the quality of life or a labour saving piece of equipment, or a cutting edge vehicle design. You are more likely to feel proud with such benefits to society.

Maintaining high standards and a challenging environment requires a good system for feedback (see Feedback – part 1).