Recently I participated in a roundtable with other human-resources professionals representing multiple industries. One discussion involved what we’re looking for in new hires. I found it interesting that the talk wasn’t about technical skills. Instead, it was about the life skills people need to be good teammates and relate to each other effectively at work. All of us agreed that we need to focus much more on creating strong teams of people who interact successfully, and much less on identifying people who can perform certain technical skills in isolation.
It struck me that my peers in manufacturing, banking, construction, and other industries expressed the same concerns I have for my company, the Center for Human Development (CHD), the area’s largest nonprofit provider. Every organization, large or small, for profit or nonprofit, needs people who can work together effectively in teams. Whether that team works on a manufacturing floor, in an office environment, in a clinical setting, or with the public, interpersonal skills are crucial.
Of course, certain roles, such as electrical engineers or behavioral-health clinicians, require specific degrees or technical certifications, but for many positions you can teach the technical side of the job. The ability to communicate and interact effectively with others is a lot harder to teach. It’s not only how you crunch that number or build that part or deliver that service, it’s also how you communicate with teammates, how you resolve conflict, and how you align your work with the organization’s mission.
This raises a fundamental question: how do you recruit for skills like these? At CHD, we start by asking for them in job descriptions and targeting them in the selection process. In my organization, we do a lot of behavior-based interviewing. For example, we put prospective hires in front of the same folks we serve. That way, we gain insight into their tendencies, how they react, and how they handle a situation. We’ve also changed the way we do reference checking to ask former employers about those issues.
When you find qualified employees, how do you retain them? It helps to get them committed to your company’s mission and goals. Especially with new hires, we explain our mission and how their individual strengths — what they were hired for — support the work we do. With our managers, we hone in on relationships and communication skills because we know that, when everyone is connected to the mission, it fuels teamwork, connectedness, and employee satisfaction.
Of course, good pay helps with employee retention, but so does creativity with compensation. At CHD, nearly every employee just received an increase of 2% to 5% (that’s the good-pay part), but we also use innovative approaches when we consider total compensation. One example is ‘insurance deduction holidays’ that forgive each employee’s health and dental insurance deductions from their paycheck. Our company is partially self-insured, and we actively promote employee health and wellness, so when our people stay healthy, it costs the company less. We share the savings with our employees. Last fiscal year, we provided this ‘holiday’ a remarkable five times.
We also include other benefits to help staff at different points in their lives, such as retirement savings, training and professional development, employee assistance, and flexibility to achieve work/life balance. In short, we think in terms of what helps our staff to be able to come to work, be fully engaged, and be productive team members. In my view, that is the foundation of any successful organization. –