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Selection and Hiring

The issues of selection and hiring in the Ukrainian market are complex and difficult. The most common ways of selecting high quality employees in the competitive market do not exist here in the Ukraine. We are forced to use alternative, unproven, and often ineffective processes. Add to this the quality and habits of the employees in our market place and the difficulties are often doubled. In most cases we are given the lesser of two evils. We are forced to choose between young people or people with little or no experience in the fields we need, or a skilled and experienced person with a lot of history and many bad business habits. New people we must train and carry before they become valuable. Experienced people, who can produce results quickly, we can’t trust or control except with results. Which one is best? It depends on the needs of our business, whether we are short or long term planners, and our willingness to be a teacher or trainer.

Obviously, in the long run, we would prefer to raise our own employees, however, there is a lot of cost to this strategy. It requires a lot of time spent by the leaders cleaning up their mistakes and supervising during the time it takes them to become self-sufficient. In the past non-competitive market structures this strategy was largely a waste of time. Leaders didn’t have the time or energy to give these new and inexperienced people. We much preferred to hire them with appropriate skills and experience so we could rapidly orient them to their new positions and get results from them quickly. In the past non-competitive market structures we often didn’t have to worry about profit, effectiveness, or even quality. The controlled market was often oriented on productivity of numbers. How many products were produced in a given period of time, or perhaps how many trucks were filled during each shift, etc. Quotas were often the measure of successful business processes. Our selection and hiring procedures of today in most of our companies still use these foundation issues for selection of new employees. These principals are built into our procedures and we don’t notice them.

Today, how many trucks a potential employee can load can no longer be our main concern. New issues have entered the market place. Abilities to facilitate meetings, solve conflicts, work on a productive team, create and evaluate information, assist in the creation of company image, make clients feel valued during our interactions with them, strategic planning, project management, etc. are all now relevant skills when we are selecting or hiring new employees. Of course, they still have to have their core technical skills. If they are to be chemists, marketers, machinists or security personal, they must have the appropriate skills. So now we must know how to evaluate not just their technical skill but also their organizational skills and the personal communication skills as well. No easy task in the competitive market and almost impossible in our transition market.

So, what do we do? First, when we are selecting we must test for technical skills. If they are chemists, we must have our experts, if this is not us, meet and evaluate their real world knowledge. This is often the easiest part of the process because it is fairly straightforward and measurable. If the job they are applying for requires high level technical expertise it doesn’t make sense to go forward with their employment evaluation until their technical expertise in known and verified.

Second, we must test their professional organizational knowledge. This is not an easy task. Question and answer tests will not help here much unless they are really well done and very systematic. A structure that can help here is the ‘business situation description’ of a business problem and then listening to the applicant describe how they would go about looking into or solving this situation. Three or four of these situations will give you a good idea of their organizational skills. It is often not only valuable to ask the applicant how to solve the above situations but also ask them - what does the situation say about the ethics of the company, how can this situation be prevented from happening again, - how will you make sure this does not happen in your team or department. These kinds of questions will help you understand how these people think about organizational procedures and whether you want them as part of your important teams.

Ask them to describe the kinds of meetings they would hold with their employees if they are applying for a management level position. Ask them to describe how they would prepare for a ‘department head’ meeting, or any other typical meetings you have in your company. This type of questions and answers will give you strong insight into their organizational skill. Remember to request them to write an analysis of one of the ‘business descriptions’ for you. Their writing and their talking skills might be very different. Check them both. You may also notice that I have not suggested having them do work someplace else and show it to you. If it doesn’t happen in your presence, it is not an example of their work. This is the rule.

Next we must evaluate their professional communication skills. Give them typical difficult communication situation, preferably in writing and ask them to interact with you as if you were the other person in the situation. Give them several situations being sure they have to interact with you from the common positions they will have in the company. Create situations that put them in the following positions, colleague to colleague, boss to employee, employee to boss, employee to customer, etc. Next ask them to explain how they would build their motivating systems for their employees, if appropriate, or perhaps how they would work with a difficult or aggressive boss.

Ok, now what? Many of our companies don’t use probation time skillfully. I suggest 3 months probation unless prohibited by law or prior agreement in your company policies. In one month it is very difficult to evaluate a new employee’s potential value to a company. In three months most of the common behaviors and skills of the new employee will be known. The general rule of hiring is that if you would happily hire the person again after three month of their work with your company, keep them. If not let them go and start the selection process again. If you are going to fire someone do it as soon as possibly. Many employers try to save someone who is not working out in hopes that they will in the future become valuable, or trustworthy, or etc. This almost always creates more problems that it solves. Hire slowly, fire fast.

When our market matures a bit more, hopefully we will be able to begin relying on references, resumes, and the like. Now, I am afraid, the Ukraine is still the land of inaccurate or false information. We must be masters of the personal evaluation skills and then use careful probation analysis to decide to keep our newly hired employees or let them go and keep looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We must understand that when we hire an employee we will soon give them access to our databases, clients, private technologies, bank accounts, and more. They will become members of our most important groups, equal in some ways to our families. How do you decide to invite a new person to be a member of the inner circle in your family, carelessly? I think you are very careful. We must be very careful when we invite employees to be part of out businesses as well.

In the market structures of the recent past we created a very special type of employee mentality. Companies were not the most open, wonderful places to spend our time. Our employees were forced to protect themselves and create their own personal benefit systems. The companies didn’t perceive this as their responsibilities. Our companies were designed to serve the economic structures or perhaps a few specially placed bosses and political leaders, not the employees. Our employees learned this structure well and worked the system to their benefit. Unfortunately, these behaviors and habits are very damaging to our transition market companies. Loyalty, honesty, and information procedures existed only in systems often contradictory to the mission or goals of the company. Divisions, departments, or teams often competed with each other for resources or favors and turned our companies into subtle war zones. These skills are still the dominant experience of our labor market and our companies are faced with the difficult task of turning ‘sharks’ into effective employees and members of a large team called a business. They trust no one, they help no one except people who can give them special (often hidden) privileges. They work to their own benefit no matter how it affects the company and use information as a weapon or as a tool to control the people around them. Can they produce results? Yes. Can they communicate skillfully? Yes. Are they destroying our companies? Yes. Can they be converted into great competitive market employees? Yes. Is it easy to do? No.

So here we are back at our original dilemma. Do we hire young, inexperienced employees and go threw the training and supervising time necessary to produce good employees or do we hire sharks that can give us quick results and turn our companies into war zones? Many would rather build their own employees and work toward the future. Some of our business leaders would rather get the money today and worry about tomorrow later. The decision is up to you.

At the materials of “Upravlenie Personalom” magazine #9, 2007

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