The Secret to Effective Staffing

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Your staff doesn't need to be loaded with leaders. Your employees just need to fit effectively within the group.

As you know, recently I officially opened a new store and in the past few columns, we’ve talked about staffing that store and, more specifically, the strategic way that we picked people from our existing stores to staff the new one. I mentioned that we purposely chose people who can look at the big picture and help us grow, and that not necessarily everyone can do that.

Some people don’t want to move. Others don’t like change. And some people just aren’t the right fit for leading a new store and having to implement a vision.

But here’s the thing: That’s OK.

Not everyone on your team needs to be a visionary leader. Not everyone needs to be someone that you can groom into management. Not everyone needs to be someone that you can hand your business off to when you retire.

You just need the right amount of those people who can, and then, most importantly, when you hire people, you, as the employer, need to find out what’s most important to them. That’s really the key, the secret sauce. It’s not about advancing and promoting people; it’s about advancing the right people and putting your employees in positions where they can succeed. Have you ever heard of the Peter principle? It’s a management concept that says employees in a hierarchy tend to rise to their “level of incompetence.” Put simply, we promote people until their reach a job with duties they can’t fulfill. If I’m honest, it’s happened to me throughout the years as a business owner.

And it all comes down to two things: 1) Poor hiring and training, and 2) Not understanding the goals of our employees. Employers don’t do that enough. For instance, I have some staff members that, if we make a big move and they don’t know about it, it’s a huge blindside to them. Other people, when they hear about a big move, are invigorated. It’s vital that you understand the difference.

I look to the military on some of this. Some people, when the commander says “jump,” they say, “How high?” Other people want to be the commander—the one saying “Jump!” What I’ve found is that it’s OK to have that mix. You can’t have everyone trying to be the captain. That’s a recipe for disaster.

The fact is—in my experience, at least—that having a good mix of people is very important. But you also need to effectively understand your mix. The business needs to keep its thumb on what’s important to them. If you have a young single mom and she needs to get off of work at 5:01 p.m., that doesn’t mean in five years that when the kid is older, that remains as important to that person. Someone else could be a night owl and doesn’t mind working later or even a night shift.

Being in tune with reviews or one-on-ones is how you find out those crucial details about what’s important to them. But, those meetings are also as important as finding out what’s important to you. The goal is trying to get the two to match up. Why? Because I’m going to take that into consideration with every decision I’m going to make. I will keep that in mind and never forget that. It doesn’t mean you won’t sometimes need to push employees out of their comfort zones, necessarily, but it does mean that you’re aware and that you care. Finding that balance is important.

You can’t have too many Type A or B personalities. Some people use hiring tools that are personality tests. We’ve been pretty successful in the way we hire. Once we get the amount of people we want, we stop there. Everyone’s perspective is so different and we really look for that. We’ve built a culture to where we’re not just looking for one type of personality. Instead, we’re looking for a wide variety of personalities that complement each other and that we can train to work well together.

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