This afternoon I attended the Build a Dream Team hands-on lab presented by Chris Carlson and Gabe Romero of Aureus Group. They presented tips on how to hire and retain great team members. We’re currently looking for some top talent at Five Nines, so the timing was great.
I learned that we could improve our interview process by creating a performance profile that focuses on what the candidate will have to do to succeed in the job. What will be the objectives? What projects will they work on? What responsibilities will they be assigned? How long will they have to reach each objective? Defining the future of what they are going to need to do and making sure they are qualified to do that is more important than arbitrarily specifying that they need XYZ certification or a degree in ABC.
For the first hour we talked about hiring and the book “Hire With Your Head” by Lou Adler. Chris was a big fan of this guy’s work, which I haven’t read before, but a lot of the tenants she talked about from his work rang true for me, too. For example, when writing an ad for a job, focus on what the candidate will have to do, not what experience they have to already have. Make the candidate a customer – try to sell them on your company, and make sure they leave with a positive experience even if they don’t get an interview. Try to limit bias and emotions by asking the same narrow, quantitative type questions to each candidate, and then scoring them on some pre-defined categories (having the book would help here, it comes with templates and extras). Also, be careful of initial reactions to a candidate – it may be best to take a 30min break before you talk to anyone about the evaluation of the candidate. Concentrate on a candidate’s past performance – what have they done to improve the environment at past jobs? If nothing, then don’t expect them to hit the high notes in the future, either.
When checking references, validate the candidate’s strengths with specific examples. Would that reference hire them or work with them again? How does the candidate compare to others they know at the same level?
The next hour or two we talked about accountability and engagement. Gabe described the difference between responsibility and accountability by explaining that responsibilities are assigned, or given to you, but only you can be accountable to get the results done. He talked about how engaging with your team is critically important to help understand what they are experiencing, what are their frustrations and aspirations and goals, and to give feed back and reinforcement.
I think our AppDev group is doing a very good job of accountability and engagement. We practice an agile approach to all of our work, and each of us is held accountable each day at our daily stand-up meeting where we quickly review what we said we were going to get done yesterday, what got done, and what we’re doing today. You can see instantly that someone got off track, and no one wastes more than half a day going down a rabbit hole before they get a chance to come up for some air and help from the team. Our iterations are time-boxed, so it is obvious at the end of the 2-weeks whether we got done what we had planned or not. After each iteration, we do a retrospective (Good/Could be better/Improvements) that has proven to be such a powerful agent of change that I’ve been thinking about how to apply it to my personal life.
We have weekly one-on-one meetings with our Director where we talk about whatever is going on with us in the environment. It’s a great chance to vent (constructively, of course) and get some feedback. We build trust as a team because we know our opinions matter and we really are being listened to.
We occasionally have strategy meetings where we talk about the course of our group and what direction we will concentrate on in the future. Each of us brings our ideas to the table during those meetings, and all thoughts are welcome.