Book Takeaway Post: Hire Slowly

There’s a reason he always wins the race…

This is the first in a series of posts related to my book Building a Winning Business: 70 Takeaways for Creating a Strong Company during Good and Bad Economic Times.  The first Takeaway is Hire Slowly.  It’s related to a recent Harvard Business Review post on hiring.  The post makes three points:

  1. Always be hiring
  2. It’s more than HR
  3. Hire fast

I agree lock-stock-and-barrel with point #1.  In interviews, a common question for me is “Why are you hiring for this position?” My response is the same, “We’re always hiring.” It’s true.  We’re always hiring top talent.  I also agree on the second point that “It’s more than HR.”

The post suggests managers should actively be involved with hiring and hiring isn’t just the job of HR.  Our managers have a “virtual bench” of candidates.  The virtual bench concept is defined in the book Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People.  In summary, it’s actively seeking out top talent who are happy in their current jobs and not looking to leave.  We stay in touch with these top performers, in one example for more than five years, over lunches and coffee meetings.  We do this because things change… the company they love today could be bought and all of its software development outsourced to India.  Or, the manager they’d follow to the end of the earth ends up leaving the firm under duress and they employee now questions the firm and its leaders. I disagree with the last point of the Harvard Business Review post.  Surprisingly, it was at Harvard that I developed this opinion.

The course leading professional service firms led by faculty chair Jay Lorsch repeatedly stressed the opposite… don’t hire fast.  In the course they shared, “Top firms spend an inordinate amount of time in the recruiting process.” As an example, they shared an executive recruiting firm does 25-40 interviews per hire.  25-40 is a lot more than the six steps we run a candidate thru but the goal in a good hiring process is the same:  Make prospects self-select out of the process if they’re not a good fit.  More on this in my next Takeaway-related post.

#7: Teamwork

Do you solicit input from everyone on the team? Do you support all team members and encourage cooperation? These are tough questions from the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory and they’re worth exploring. I discussed Intertech’s process for soliciting input from all of our team members in my earlier post on attunement so I won’t revisit that here.

We encourage cooperation and support for all team members in a variety of ways, including our ACE program. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that ACE is an acronym for Intertech’s core values: Attitude, Commitment and Excellent. The ACE program allows team members to nominate other team members  who exhibit those values in meaningful ways.  ACE “awards” are simple, fun items we purchase at But as you’ve probably surmised, the award itself is not the point.

Recognition by a peer or supervisor is what makes ACE special. The “awards” are presented during a monthly company-wide meeting  and they are given both to those who are nominated and to those who do the nominating. We feel this is important because it takes time to catch others doing a good job and it takes effort to fill out a nomination form. Nominating others helps build our positive culture and we want to reward that value right aong with whatever the nominee did so well.

#6: Inspiration

Inspiring group pride and fostering a positive emotional tone is another key quality in the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory. There are many ways for leaders to inspire and encourage positive emotions, but one of the best we’ve found is to give employees a way to give back to others.

Intertech has a long history of volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House, which provides housing for families of terminally ill children. Four to six times per year for the past five years, Intertech employees have taken time off during the workday to host birthday parties at the RMH. We bring cake and treats, we play games, we sing songs and we generally act like goofy kids ourselves while helping sad children forget about hospitals and critically ill siblings for a little while.

Not only do we help them; they help us too. Our parties make us feel happy and they bring us together as a team. Employees have told us consistently that the chance to participate in this special activity is one of the best parts of their association with Intertech.

 Next post: Teamwork

#5: Developing Others

The Emotional and Social Competency Inventory asks leaders to assess how well they coach and mentor others “with compassion” and whether they “personally invest time and energy in mentoring.” Most importantly, the inventory asks whether you “provide feedback that helps people with their professional development.” Call it enlightened self-interest, but developing others is something we’re totally passionate about at Intertech. 

Every team member here participates in an annual review that covers four simple areas: (1) strengths/accomplishments in the review period; (2) defining an area for improvement; (3) what could help to make these improvements; (4) what role will you grow into within two years?

Those four simple questions are powerful because the major focus is on where an employee is heading and how we can help him or her get there. We also strongly encourage ongoing professional development through training and new skill development. Our people know that we are willing to invest in them and that we want them to stay professionally vital. We’re so committed to this value that we offer employees a paid sabbatical after seven years of service.

Our commitment to employee development has been rewarded by their commitment to Intertech and our clients. We have been named a best place to work for seven years. This honor means so much because it is based on confidential employee surveys.

Next post: Inspiration

#4: Influence

In the Inventory by Goleman and Boyatzis they ask “Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interest?  Do you get support from key people?”

Real influence with others is developed over time.  Also, while it ends with someone following, it starts by letting them lead.  A board member shared that for us to truly have influence and work with others we must “Seek first to understand before being understood.” I agree.

For me, authenticity and altruism are traits I require for influence (on me).  Those who consistently put the firm ahead of themselves and selflessly deliver, make it easy for me to trust, and be influenced, by their ideas.

Next:  Developing Others