Staffing, Foxconn & Henry Ford

IT Business, SMB, Work Ethic

(this is not a motivational post that will be featured at monster / careerbuilder)

We’re at the start of the biggest hiring spree we’ve ever had. OWN is launching upgrades to all the existing product lines next quarter and introducing brand new products and services online in Q2 and Q3. We’re shorthanded now and on the verge of becoming a sweatshop very quickly.

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Over the past few years I’ve been very lucky to hire some really hard working, smart people.

Unfortunately for them, it’s their turn to hire their own “teams” now and build on the success that we’ve had together.

Sadly, the e-myth and standard hiring process for private enterprise reveals an ugly, disheartening truth:

You can’t hire a replacement for yourself.

This is so frustrating to people that have worked very hard to get to where they are. For every good employee there are typically at least 2-3 slackers that sail along somewhere above being fired for gross incompetence but below possibility of promotion or trust with anything more than a mid-range cell phone and netbook.

I see this frustration everywhere. The mythical “me” employee. Everyone wants to hire themselves. From the people that make $30K/year to people that run multimillion dollar companies – the person that you want just doesn’t exist. If they do, they are either too smart to work for you or have control & ego issues that prohibit them from reporting to a 20-something.

There is a safe way – hire, evaluate, keep or fire. This is the safe way because the investment is seemingly quite low – folks either pan out or don’t. This is the most expensive way to do it and if you’ve read emyth, it can be catastrophic even if it works. If it doesn’t work out, you’ve frustrated whoever manages them. If it does work out, and they quit, you’re starting from square one. The frustrating experience of building your own apprentice in the fast paced world of professional white collar business can not only affect your new hires, it adds an enormous amount of stress to everyone involved in that food chain.

I used to have a friend who bragged about how his team was able to run the company without him. Yet every time we hung out outside the business, he had to get on the phone and deal with fires. He’d go back to work, fire whoever was on top of the s#@%list that week and be back in the rebuilding mode. Yet nearly half a decade later, his business is smaller than when I first met him. Why?

There are two sides to the story. New hires will always feel like they are not receiving proper training, motivation, incentives, etc. I actually heard this last week: “Training? What training? We are still here due to the sheer will power of wanting to figure things out on our own.” Yet, when their boss got called out for being too lazy to record some training, a similar (yet opposite in direction) frustration came out.

In a perfect world, we would all be able to hire competent hard working people that require little training and are self motivated to move past the frustration of not being hooked into every process and every undocumented piece of information. Such a beast does not exist and I’ll try to sum up my 6 credits of management courses at UF in a paragraph:

Most employees are motivated by money and rank: keep in mind that majority of the workforce is not looking to be rich & stressed, they are looking for the comfort zone. At a certain salary level, the effort curve straightens out where they make enough money to spend more time away from work. The more money a person makes, the less incentive they have to work harder.

As I told a buddy of mine: The person that wants your job and can actually do it is too smart to work for you – they are working for themselves.


I am not an HR expert.

I’m pretty sure the following is illegal. I hope that the Foxconn people don’t read this and think: “That Vlad guy could help us ramp up our white iPhone production”. But I hope it helps you in some way. I’m really writing it up because I hope it helps my team in getting help.

Step 1: Document Your Job

We started doing this last year. Take any cheap webcam (Flip HD, $130) and point it at an employee that you think has a good grasp of their role. Start the role play. Here is what it looks like:

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No lights, no production, no editing, no script, no worries. Just point, shoot, and roll. This becomes your training collateral.

Think it’s expensive to put a new employee through rough videos where they just sit there and watch stuff for the first week of their employment? The apprentice stuff is far more expensive – it takes your currently performing employee away from their job and the new hire (that may or may not turn out to be a serial killer) still just sits there and nods their head.

Warning: Your staff, particularly the more technical ones that think they are geniuses (which would be every single f’n one of them) will think that the new hires are complete morons that they need to teach the TCP stack to and gauge which parts of the training they understand and not understand by the dilution of their pupils or the number of hair twirls. See step #2.

The video process is important for several reasons. 1) You can pack a ton of information in an hour of video 2) When you talk openly you can easily sidetrack and come back to the main message to make sure you explain both the context and the details correctly 3) It’s all internal so you don’t have to get it past the lawyers 4) You can disagree and pass on tips and tricks for dealing with difficult stuff 5) You get to emphasize what is important to you.

Step 2: Make them earn it

The problem with the professional workforce is entitlement.

Most people looking for a professional job feel they are entitled to it and a high salary with benefits because they went to college. Most will expect a high level position as well, based on their (largely unrelated) work experience. This tends to die during the interview process as they clearly have no answer to the questions that come with the role.

For example, you may have Exchange experience.

But unless you worked in an environment with thousands of employees and an unlimited budget, you likely have no experience dealing with autoconfiguration, migration from 2007 to 2010 or the performance issues that should not be happening in the first place.

Monkey: So I see here that you have experience managing BES. How did you handle OTA?

Candidate: OTA?

Monkey: Activations, how did you activate devices that showed up in the field.

Candidate: Oh. Well. Employees (all two of them that had a Blackberry) had to connect their device to their desktop and…

Very few people have the exact experience you need.

So you need to document the training process and give people the tools. Even if they have worked in Exchange for the past 12 years, they will not know how to deal with the stuff you just figured out last week.

Qualify people that would understand the basics and make them want to learn how to do the advanced stuff. Here is what it looks like:

Congratulations, we love you. We’d like to make sure you can handle the more intricate parts of this role so here is an offer: Come over and do a few days in the life of this role. You’ll be paid for it. If you rock, the job is yours. If you don’t like it, no harm – no faul.

If they are between jobs they will jump on this.

If they aren’t – but are sincerely interested in the opportunity – they will still take a stab at it.

Why? Nobody wants to take on a new job working on @#%^ they hate with the people that they may not get along with. With this, all of the uneasiness of starting a new gig is removed.

Step 3: Jeff Foxworthy (aka “blah blah bull@#%”)

The problem with professional employees is that they can bull$#&* their way out of anything.

The smart ones know to keep their mouth shut. The dumb ones will keep on talking and remove all doubt 🙂 Sadly, most people know to keep their answers short, the details vague and defer being called out at any time with “I am not entirely certain, I don’t want to lie to you, let me find out and get back to you on that one.”

This is where most small business owners end up with a frustrating, ineffective workforce. Here is the cure, and it comes from Mr Jeff Foxworthy and “Are you smarter than a 5th grader.”

Step 1: Make them watch the video.

Step 2: Talk to them about the video.

Step 3: Call them on the details not explained in the video.

You should know in less than 72 hours whether you’ve got someone that is just professional enough not to be blatantly incompetent or if you’ve got someone that is capable of learning.

In nearly all roles, you want problem solvers.

You should know right away if the person you’ve hired is one or the other.

But.. without the video and training collateral, you can only call them on things that you’ve explained. No matter how well intentioned you are to perfectly train an apprentice, you will have better stuff to do. It’s so damn easy to give people your busy work that too much time will pass before you realize they are not a fit. As unprepared as new employees may be for your job, you’re far more unprepared to train them for their job. Very few people have psychic powers – new employees will not know how you like things done, how you communicate and what your expectations are.

So take the time and put in the effort to make it easier. Employees are the most frustrating part of business because they are your family – there will come a time where you will not want to fire them – but fire at them. As an entrepreneur and a business owner it’s frustrating to deal with the expectations and employees – but it’s much easier than doing their job. If you want to grow, you gotta grow up.

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