Hire for Attitude

When “happy” matters, hire “happy!”

Writing for QSR Magazine online (Quick Service Restaurants), columnist George Green discussed understanding the difference between what you say your business delivers (“good food”) and what you need in order to achieve that target (“the right people”).

Plenty of quick service, franchise restaurants have a well-defined operations manual that describes how everything happens as the food moves from the cooler to the carry-out bag.  In a perfect world, the dinner you get in Des Moines will be identical to the one you get in Decatur (or Goldston and Goldsboro, to use an example closer to home).  If only executing a process was as easy as documenting it!

At some point, I’ll write more about the on-line system that Green uses to pre-screen applicants.  It’s possible to create something functionally similar, if not quite so automated, for micro businesses that are still dreaming of having franchisees.

George Green knows what a lot of new employers spend a lot of time and money learning:

… most of what our team members do is pretty simple and easy to teach. A positive outlook and happiness, however, cannot be taught.

When you identify what skills or attitudes a candidate MUST have to do your work, you need to build your selection process around finding people with those attributes.  If you’ve ever had the misfortune of stopping at a quick service restaurant where the staff didn’t get along, you know how important “hiring for happy” can be!

While “happy” may not be the decisive attitude for every position, it is important that you think about how attitude matters to a position, and also whether any attitudes are deal-breakers.  Include questions to look for both types of attitude in your interview plan.

Limits to training

Traditionally, HR advice is to “hire for attitude and train for skill,” but there is a limit on how much you can (afford to) do with training.  When George says,

Call me crazy, but I’d also rather have a rookie I can teach than someone who learned the wrong way.

you need to remember what job it is that he’s talking about–burgers or sandwiches or pizza, not accounting or paralegal or child care. Quick service restaurant franchise business models are designed to accommodate turnover that would make your head spin (between 60% and 140%) and rapid training of new employees. When you’re just starting out, you don’t have the time for much training.

For businesses with fewer than 10 employees, time spent training new employees is generally time not spent generating revenue.  More than one new employer has discovered that the money saved on a “low cost” employee was swamped by the cost of training that person to work at the level the business needed.

Understanding where your business falls on the ladder between solopreneurship / start-up and “too big for the Small Business Administration” can help you process other people’s advice about hiring and systems.  In the beginning, you generally need people who can build systems more than people who can be trained to follow systems.

What’s more important in your business–finding people with the right attitude, or a particular skill set?  Let me know in the comments!  thx