When I first started contemplating this column—sharing my experience of how to attract new colleagues, welcome them, train them, and include them in the company's culture and style/methodology of leadership—it hit me hard. This year has been far from normal, and it has taught me a lot about myself, the colleagues I am honored to represent, and our company during unprecedented times. Here, I’ll share how “doing a little extra” often can change a lot.
Have You Identified the Correct Core and Soul of the Company?
Previously, one might have thought of the entity “the company” as the core and soul of the organization; however, these last few months have reminded me that this is not the case. It's the team of colleagues which is “the company,” and only together will individual contributions result in a larger output than separate efforts. One can have big thoughts, ideas, perspectives, and visions, but bringing these to life requires the devoted attention of many colleagues and a wide array of experiences. Simply put, the team that cooperates best will win, and the only competitor a company really has is itself.
Why am I writing this when the topic is staffing? Without the correct staffing, your company will not flourish. To succeed, one requires a team of colleagues with a high degree of responsibility, pride, and dedication toward the company. The fanciest leadership strategies will lead to failure and dissociated colleagues.
How to Welcome Newbies and Engage Employees During a Pandemic
Since January 2020, we have welcomed four new colleagues to Elmatica; some started just before the pandemic erupted, and others began during the first and second waves. How could we ensure that they felt welcome and included when there were distancing guidelines?
Transparency and clear goals and expectations are a good first start. Allowing and actively supporting your colleagues to welcome, include, and train your new colleagues is a good second step. What may be most important is giving the new colleague the freedom and encouragement to fail, learn, and ask any question of anybody. Remember, training during the circumstances we have experienced this year has no precedence.
Keeping and developing the company culture during a pandemic and including new members at the same time has demanded extra internal focus. Imagine starting a new position just weeks before the world shut down. The emotion of being abandoned is not hard to imagine. With openness and transparency, we have tried to avoid this through training online, setting no limit for reaching out to colleagues asking for help, and ensuring extra room for failure.
We developed online social events for employees, provided breakfast delivery, and I even dressed like a monkey on Halloween, handing out cupcakes to every colleague at their doorsteps. When times are challenging, lead by going that extra mile, and do not ask from others what you are not willing to do yourself.
During my career, I have had the pleasure of hiring many great colleagues. Here are the key learning points. First, the hiring process is something one should take very seriously; the cost of failure is severe for both the company and the candidate. As with most things in life, it takes two to tango, and the same goes when hiring.
Second, it's not just about finding the right candidate for you; it's equally important for the candidate to find their match with the company. This is something I strongly emphasize during an interview process. It needs to be a good fit, which is a two-way street. This is when values, goals, and company culture enter the arena.
The Most Important Thing Any CEO Can Bring to the Table
Recently, we planned for a motivational speech by a psychologist to talk about similarities, differences, and strengths among colleagues. After talking with them, we concluded that the most important thing any CEO can bring to a company is culture. This is why it is vital to incorporate new colleagues with the company’s culture as quickly and diligently as possible, as it represents the heart and soul of the organization.
When I took over the helm after Elmatica’s former CEO Arild Bakke, one thing he asked was, “What are your thoughts about company culture? Our people and I have worked together for a long time, and it is vital that you maintain and further strengthen our family culture.” Luckily, the aspect of family culture represents the type of culture I was already connected with. Education is a foundation, and experience is important, but what the company culture represents is key. Ask, “What culture do you represent?”
Staffing, or the process of finding the right candidate for the right position, involves ensuring that the individual has the necessary skills or the ability to be trained to acquire those skills and qualifications. We are indisputably addressing one of the key elements to allow your company to develop on a business and, more importantly, a cultural level. Which processes and safeguards have you implemented to protect your future development?
The process of staffing encompasses a wide array of different challenges one can be confronted with. A few of these challenges might be a lack of experience, time pressure to hire or fill a position, an unclear position, overpromising, or a conflicting culture. If these challenges are not addressed during the staffing process, the probability of a sub-optimal recruitment process will significantly increase.
Another common challenge is treating the process of hiring as a left-hand job or delegating it to someone without the proper experience or understanding of the requirements of the position. There may also be time pressure if the company lost an existing colleague or hires after a demand is evident. Unfortunately, this is quite normal, as one does not wish to add costs before they have the financial predispositions for the position.
In general, staffing should be according to fulfilling the company-approved strategy and future direction. This aspect is often forgotten due to a lack of an overall strategy.
Do Not Jump Into the ‘Friend Mistake’ When Staffing
Challenges during the staffing process may include the “friend mistake,” where one is subject to employ individuals who have many traits in common with the interviewer. This can result in a company composed of individuals with homogenous traits and reduce diversity in the company.
This challenge can be remedied by having clear instructions regarding what one is actually seeking with regard to both personal and professional traits. One should not emphasize personality tests too much during staffing; however, they can provide the interviewer with valuable information regarding how to build the right team with different personality traits.
When the optimal candidate has been identified, one should ensure that the candidate truly understands the requirements of the position. The employer must also provide the candidate with the training and information they communicated to the candidate in the interview. Unfortunately, there are many examples where the employer does not fulfill promises, and the now-employee overexaggerated their experience.
Training Is Not Only Valid for New Colleagues
Regardless of the reason why training is required, the act of educating human capital is essential for any company to remain competitive. As a leader, one is responsible for understanding the competence matrix for current and future demands of the company and the training required by existing and new colleagues to fulfill those demands. This theoretical approach might sound simple, but it is quite challenging and requires constant monitoring of the entire business flow of the company on an internal and external level.
Once the competence matrix has been established, it is a case of addressing the correct resources and implementing the training. As long as it is analyzed and linked to the company as described previously, the implementation should be the lesser challenge.
Leadership Strategies: Buzzwords or Business?
The company should have a continuous focus on aligning the competence matrix with the strategic development of the company and consequently securing the process from staffing to training. There are numerous leadership strategies in the corporate world. Most contain fancy buzzwords and sound impressive, but in the end, it's all about being a good human being, showing respect, focusing on including people, leading by example, and creating a good atmosphere with clear mandates, goals, and objectives. That is what we aim for and what we want all our new and existing colleagues to feel.
This column originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of PCB007 Magazine.