New Tricks for this "Old Dog": My Favorite Takeaways from the MUFC

Because of my 25-plus years devoted to best-practice hiring techniques, I may be thought of as an "old dog" by some, but that doesn't mean I can't learn any new tricks, and I picked up a few at the recent Multi-Unit Franchising Conference in Las Vegas.

At an HR roundtable session, we polled those in attendance about the hiring techniques that are working best for this diverse group of franchise holders. Our objective was to tap into what James Surowiecki described in his book The Wisdom of Crowds. Some of the learning also came out of the HR track presentations on pre-employment testing by Cultural Index and automation of the hiring process by While much of what was shared simply confirmed what I already teach, some new information was put forward that I'll happily add to my repertoire. My favorite takeaways:

1. The convenience of mediocrity trumps the inconvenience of change. It's not the dishonest or irresponsible people who keep our organizations from excelling. No, we're smart enough to fire those losers fast. It's the mediocre people who keep us from building winning teams that outperform the competition. Too many employers put up with mediocre performers rather than replace them, mainly because they don't have any bench strength. There's no one available to take the mediocre employee's place, get in the game, and play to win.

There are two simple solutions to this problem. The first is to recruit and interview religiously to build a database of high-quality applicants you can call when needed. The second is to hire over-qualified people for entry-level jobs and promote them.

Of course, it's important to exhaust all remedies that might improve a mediocre player's performance (additional performance reviews, warnings, etc.). But, if these measures fail, it will come as no surprise to this person when you hand them a pink slip.

2. The best source of new employees is referrals. Even with the advent of the Internet, job boards, online applications, and social media it's a fact that employee referrals still the deliver the best new hires. That's why practically every employer has an employee referral reward program. The problem is that few do it right.

The biggest mistake is to delay the reward until the new hire has been on board 60, 90, or even 120 days. This is nonsense. Good behavior needs to be reinforced immediately to encourage more of the same. Does the job board or recruiter agree to bill you only if your new hire stays for a set number of days? Why penalize your employees when they do you this huge favor? Give the reward the day the new person starts.

The second biggest mistake is adding a monetary reward to the referrer's paycheck or having a merchandise reward delivered to their home. These awards should be made in front of as many people as possible. It's the best way to turn every employee in your company into a top-notch recruiter.

3. Testing is the best predictor of success on the job. Many of the roundtable participants are enjoying improved hiring success rates and lower employee turnover since adding testing to the pre-employment screening process. They are using testing as another interview and told us that once someone is hired, the test results help them do a better job of managing that person.

The interest in automated hourly employee application tracking and hiring processes is way up. Both SnagAJob and the JobApp Network are adding to their client rosters because franchisees find these systems make it much easier for applicants to get into their systems. They also save management time, help build needed "bench strength," and minimize bad hiring decisions and employee turnover.

4. Most hiring decisions are based on gut instinct. While the use of testing is on the increase, most still "wing it" rather than use best practice to conduct interviews. Very few use a structured interview question set, and not many have had any substantive in interview techniques. When asked how they go about hiring, many say: "We look for people who fit our culture," and then freely admit they first tell applicants all about the job, company culture, and the kind of people who best fit before asking any questions. Only the dullest applicants then have any trouble telling interviewers exactly what it is they want to hear!

5. Keep raising the bar. Two organizations that were already using testing kicked it up a notch for even better results. Both added SnagAJob to the mix. Even though the system they had was working, they continued to look for better ways to get things done. Now turnover is down and productivity is up for both. Even if you're happy with what you have, it's wise to look for ways to get even better.

6. The #1 way people try to find new hires is "posting and praying." At the unit level, a person gets hired if they walk in just when they're needed. (No matter that the person may not be a good fit.) At the multi-unit level, most promote from within. (The only problem is these employees are promoted without training and are often left to sink or swim.)

There are only three pools of new recruits to fish in. Active job seekers are about 18 percent of the pool; this is where most fish. Sixty percent are working and not looking, but, if offered something better, would take the bait. The remaining 22 percent are totally satisfied with their situation and not looking to change it. Most of the best talent is in the 60 percent not looking, but few employers tap into this source. They just post and pray instead.

Mel Kleiman is a consultant, author, and Certified Speaking Professional on strategies for hiring and retaining the best employees. He is president of Humetrics, a developer of systems, training processes, and tools for recruiting, selecting, and retaining the best. You can reach him at 713-771-4401 or

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