Helicopters Magazine

Features Procedures Safety & Training
Solving the Hiring Game

October 1, 2010  By Paul Dixon

What’s your time worth to you? In the last issue of Helicopters, I ended my column discussing the concept that “doing it right the first time means never having to fix it.

What’s your time worth to you? In the last issue of Helicopters, I ended my column discussing the concept that “doing it right the first time means never having to fix it.” This, of course, is directed at those who feel they are “too busy” to concentrate on the details of a successful operation, to put much effort into the hiring process, to adequately train new staff and to monitor that staff’s performance.

So, here’s a rhetorical question: how critical are the people in your organization to its success? The answer is obvious, but how often in the course of a year do you find yourself scrambling to fill positions because someone left unexpectedly for a new role, or they had that little epiphany that this really wasn’t what they wanted to do, or you just had no choice but to kick their sorry butt out the door?

For small- and medium-sized organizations, the recruiting process can be a daunting task. All too often, it’s seen as an interruption to the day-to-day operations of the organization instead of being accepted as one of the cornerstones. Let’s put the importance of the hiring process into context. The National Restaurant Association conducted a four-year study that drew information from 135 restaurant chains across North America. The result was the landmark “Industry Of Choice Report” that provides foodservice operations “a management tool to better understand employee workforce needs.”

After surveying thousands of restaurant operators and employees, the study’s authors sorted the workforce into four main groups. These employee types can be applied to any profession, including aviation:

  • Careerists: Strong performers who like their job, are good at it and intend to stay in the business.
  • Passing-Throughs: Those who have other career aspirations, either further up the food chain or somewhere other than aviation.
  • Undecideds: Got the talent for the job, but haven’t made their mind up yet about what they want to do with their lives or where they want to do it.
  • Misplaced: Bad attitudes, lax work habits, chronic complainers. This group is the least likely to improve themselves or their employment situation. It also represents the largest of the four groups. These are people who will proclaim their years of experience in the business, which is really no more than one year’s experience, re-lived over and over again.

McDonald’s restaurants utilized the information in the report and incorporated it into their hiring and training procedures. They claimed to have cut their annual employee turnover rate from 120 per cent to 70 per cent. OK, so paper hats aren’t part of your corporate image, but there are a number of similarities between the restaurant business and commercial aviation, as neither industry has a 9-to-5 business model.

What’s it all mean? Take a second look at the four employee categories and think about the people in your organization that could be the poster child for each category. Your goal is to increase the percentage of Careerists. The Undecided pool is the first place to look, because some of these people really do want to stay with you. They just don’t know it yet, but you’re going to help them make that decision. The Passing-Throughs have their place, especially for seasonal or short-term positions, but be careful about investing too much time and effort. As you build your percentage of Careerists, your misplaced pool should be shrinking correspondingly and that is your ultimate goal. You’ll never eliminate them, but you can minimize their impact.

Here’s another key concept to keep in mind: hire for skills and fire for attitude. How often have you hired someone based solely on their level of technical expertise or the references provided by a previous employer only to discover that they are pure poison? You check back with that previous employer who gave them a glowing reference, and all you hear is a chuckle on the other end of the phone with a comment something to the effect of, “well, they’re your problem now.”

When hiring employees, think about the person you chose as the ultimate careerist for your organization. What makes them so important? What are the human qualities they possess that make them the total package? Think about your misplaced poster child and what makes them what they are. This should give you a good idea of what you’re looking for in the future and even more importantly, what you don’t want to see.

So, time is important. Spend it at the front end of the process and you’ll save lots of time at the other end of the equation.

Paul Dixon is a freelance photojournalist living in North Vancouver.


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