Finding quality employees is a major concern across all sectors of business. In 1999, futurists predicted that a labor force shortage would become a crisis in the US by 2010. We are only in 2008, and, for many businesses, it has already reached that crisis state and has become a threat to their future success. If you are one of those companies for which it is not yet a crisis, consider yourself fortunate that you have dodged this bullet so far.
Characteristics of a Successful Company
The companies that will be successful are those that take a hard stance when dealing with the recent changes in the work force. Instead of burying their heads in the sand, they developed strategic plans to understand the issues, accept change and capitalize on new ways of doing business. These companies hardwired their culture, so everyone got on board with the changes that had to be made.
Successful companies know that their competitive advantage depends on the quality of their entire team. Look at your industry. Your competitor can copy everything that you do. They can purchase the same equipment, diversify into similar ancillary products and services and even create a comparable marketing plan. The one thing that they can never copy will be your people. Companies that employ only the people who are the right fit for their positions will gain and hold the competitive advantage.
Successful companies do not have knee-jerk reactions to hiring, developing and retaining top performers. They will not just hire a warm body because the position needs to be filled. They will have the fortitude to continue to seek out the person that has the right personality and attitude and is smart enough to learn and acquire the skills and knowledge, and they will be prepared to spend the time and money to train and develop a top performer.
Successful companies have processes in for screening, interviewing, testing, reference and background checking. These companies rely on outside resources to assist them in these new human resource functions. Peter Drucker says, "One-third of all hiring decisions are outright failures, and in no other area would we tolerate such dismal performance." He is absolutely right. In many businesses, the entire organizational development — the human side of the business — has been left to an owner or manager to just do the best they can when the need arises to fill a position. Sometimes it works out great; oftentimes, it does not. The amount of money that is wasted on a poor hire can actually force a company out of business.
Finding the Right Talent  
You all know that success in physical fitness is dependent on the discipline that you apply to the process. That is what you teach your clients to make them fit. If they listen and follow a disciplined approach, then they will reach the goals they have set for themselves in health and fitness. Completing a successful hire is no different.
Over the years, my staff and I have worked with owners and managers to go through the increasingly difficult job of finding top employees, and we gained valuable experience during that time. Here is an overview of the 13 steps we recommend for successful staffing:
Step 1: Define the job  
The nature of the position to be filled is defined, and the expectations are determined. The existing job description is evaluated against the job function to see if it is accurate and properly placed in the organization. If it is not, then make the necessary changes. If a job description does not exist, you must prepare one so that all applicants and the staffing manager can agree on the responsibilities and duties of the job.
Step 2: Define the person 
Assessment tools are available to determine the specific behavioral expectations required for the position, your business strategy and your organizational culture. Personality is key to success and perhaps no more so than in the personal trainer relationship with the client.
Step 3: Recruit
Successful companies will allocate additional financial resources for the recruiting process. Running an ad in the local newspaper will no longer work. Exhausting the Internet (88% of Americans are online), word-of-mouth, internships and becoming an employer-of-choice are just the beginning steps for acquiring top talent.
Step 4: Pre-screen  
Use the Internet and the telephone to quickly weed out the applicants who are clearly not viable candidates. Verification of minimum requirements and checking for red flags is essential at this step. Don't waste time on applicants who do not meet your criteria.
Step 5: Employment application  
Use of an approved state and federal compliant application form is critical. Don't assume everything in the resume is the truth. Completion of the application, a legal document, not only brings out important information that may be missing from the resume, but it is also an opportunity to check spelling and grammar. The application should include a release to conduct reference checks and a warning that background checks will also be conducted.
Step 6: Structured interview 
Prepare for this event. Know the right questions to ask, and do not hesitate to use a script to keep on track. Ask all the applicants the same questions so you get "apples to apples" comparisons. Record the responses for use in the decision process. Watch out for the tendency to rely on first impressions.
Step 7: Test   
Conduct tests to measure math aptitude, comprehension and on-the-job skills. So much knowledge is required to succeed in your industry that applicants must have higher levels of intelligence. Additional assessments to determine such things as personality fit, emotional intelligence, sales abilities or other characteristics are given at this juncture of the process. Knowledge of fitness skills and tools should also be demonstrated.
Step 8: Reference check 
Reference checks will enable you to verify the information in the resume, application and interviews and gain additional insight into previous employment behaviors of the applicants. Make sure that you get professional references, such as former employers or managers. Don't settle for the accolades of friends and relatives.
Step 9: Hiring decision 
Objectively evaluate all of the qualified applicants against the hiring criteria. Create a matrix to rank-order each candidate so you can select the best one.
Step 10: Make an offer  
Make a verbal offer, but immediately follow up with a full written offer, including all details of the offer and any added requirements, such as I-9 verification, drug tests and medical tests. Remind the candidate that reference checks and a background check will be conducted and that the offer is contingent on the results.
Step 11: Final checks 
A background investigation is prudent and necessary for liability protection. It is an essential step in the final selection of the best employees. If your policies require it, also have medical and drug testing performed by competent agencies.
Step 12: Develop the "Golden Egg"    
Set your new hire up for success rather than for failure. The journey begins on day one with the orientation and continues until the employee leaves your employment, ideally after a long and successful career. Invest in training and mentoring. Use performance appraisals and career development discussions as an opportunity to grow and develop the employee. Recognize that every communication is an opportunity to hardwire the culture of the company.
Step 13: Retain your "Golden Eggs"  
Be proactive in retaining your top performers. Motivating, empowering and supporting the development of your employees and creating teamwork is what will build your competitive advantage and ultimately create success. When you consider the investment you made in finding and developing top performs, you don't want to miss any opportunity to increase retention.
Owners and managers need to take action to find the right people and build them into a competent, stable, well-led team. If you do, you will realize great benefits. McKinsey & Company, in their study, "War for Talent," clearly identified the value of top performers:


  • High performers in operations will increase productivity by 40%

  • High performers in management will increase profits by 49%

  • High performers in sales will increase revenues by 67%

Aren't those the results that you want in your business?
Hiring is no longer a simple matter of filling job openings. To be successful, you and your hiring managers must use a multi-dimensional process. This process must be validated and have as its projected output quality hiring the first time and every time. This process uses a formula that has been proven to be extremely successful. Follow it step by step, apply its principles and use the recommended tools, and you will find success at the bottom line. When you find top performers, invest in their development and retention so you don't have to go through more hiring.
Debra Thompson is President of TG & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in "the human side of business," which provides virtual HR services and customized staffing solutions. She can be reached toll-free at 877.842.7762 or by email