In a keynote discussion at Wednesday’s Grow Workforce Job Summit, local veterinarian, speaker and author Dr. Nels Lindberg talked to local employers about hiring and retaining good employees.
Lindberg, who has owned Animal Medical Center in Great Bend since 2005, said many of the lessons he sought to teach other employers came from many years of learning through his own failures. Getting the interview and hiring process right is crucial to a business’s success, even though not a lot of focus is put on the subject from an educational standpoint. It is a process many employers need help addressing, which is what led Lindberg to write a book on the subject, “The Ultimate Guide to Real World Hiring & Firing.”
“Our greatest opportunity, in my opinion, is the hiring process,” Lindberg said. “The key is getting the hiring process right, so we don’t have to go down the road of firing.”
But the hiring process, he said, is not a single event or a moment in time but something employers must focus on, “all day, every day.”
The hiring process begins with creating what he called, “a contagious culture,” a workplace culture that prospective employees want to be a part of, and that current employees would want others to be a part of. This must happen even when you’re not actively hiring, he said. Having a rock solid culture with strong character foundations that your employees buy into will create an environment that will draw better prospective employees to your business.
This means knowing what type of employee you are looking for, in particular defining the core character traits that are important for members of your organization to have. Preparation is a key step of the process, and one many employers miss, he said.
Because ideally a business looks to hire someone who fits the organization’s culture, the interview process should be as much about giving the prospective hire a chance to know the business as it is vice versa.
“You want them to know everything about your organization (such as behavior, culture and expectations), because the last thing you want to do is bring them in and realize they don’t fit,” Lindberg said. “If they don’t fit the culture, it’s not going to work long-term. People (in general) are not your most important asset, the right people are.”
Culture and character were at the core of Lindberg’s message to the audience. Technical skills can be trained for and molded, he said, but a person’s character is something that you cannot train, so an employer should focus in the hiring and interview process on finding someone with the character to work hard, be a lifelong learner and meet the organization’s culture.
The means finding employees that are focused on serving customers and co-workers instead of simply meeting their own needs. Businesses want people who are focused on providing “life-changing” customer service. “When we’re looking for team members, we want humble, hungry and smart (employees).”
To find the right employees takes time and patience, he said. Rushing the interview and hiring process, more often than not, leads to failure and finding the wrong people. Having them interact extensively with their future prospective co-workers should be a part of that process, in order to understand how they work with the people they will be working with.
On that line, he said feedback from other co-workers and team members should also be part of the hiring process. Allowing for interaction as part of the hiring process raises any potential red flags to be found and addressed before the organization makes a bad hire. Often, a good interview process can, and should, involve multiple interviews.
In addition to his own experience, Lindberg drew on the words and experience several accomplished leaders, like Dave Ramsey, John Maxwell, and national champion college football coach Dabo Swinney. To be successful as a leader, he said, you must be humble and willing to learn from others, and businesses should seek people with those same qualities.
Throughout the presentation, Lindberg encouraged and solicited feedback and discussion from employers. The process is not a one-size-fits all process, after all, and what works for one organization may not for another. But character and culture should always be the focus of the process.
“A great person attracts great people, and knows how to pull them together,” Lindberg said.