If employees do not complement the goals of management, no corporate philosophy or progressive labor relations program will help to reach the strategic management goals for high levels of productivity and profitability.
How does one find the right kinds of employees, those who will share management’s goals?
A technique has proven highly effective in creating positive employee attitudes and increasing productivity. It is an employee profile that clearly delineates the positive attributes of the optimum employee.
A profile of essential characteristics and attributes (which are not personality traits) can provide the simplest and most thorough technique for finding and keeping such employees who can establish the necessary leadership and initiative for high levels of productivity. The development of the employee profile begins with a thorough analysis of the employer’s workforce. In an on-going facility, analyzing the existing workforce must be approached from two perspectives. First, the necessary skills required by the employer must be determined; second, the profile must show how the existing workforce can be categorized in regard to specific skills.
Determining skills levels
To determine skill levels, a series of interviews with employees, management, and line supervisors is undertaken. Then comes a detailed survey of employee attitudes toward employers. The results of this process are factored into the creation of the profile, which is then specifically tailored to the needs of the company.
Once the necessary skills and ability levels have been determined and there has been an analysis of employee attitudes, the relevant labor market must be examined. Demographic, general economic, socio-economic, wage, and other labor data for the relevant labor market are gathered and analyzed.
In one scenario involving a start-up facility, as we moved down the hierarchy of skills, the availability of individuals increased. Nevertheless, the analysis of the demographic and labor data indicated that even at the lower end of the skills hierarchy, many of the prospective employees would have either direct or indirect experiences with unionized employers. Since one of the goals of the start-up was to maintain pro-employee management style, the existence of many individuals with prior union experiences was of concern. Based on the information that was available, we would be able to screen out those individuals who would not work well within the company environment, regardless of prior union experience.
The experience in the start-up facility proved highly successful; it demonstrated that the initial cadre of employees exceeded all expectations for productivity and ability. In addition, they worked exceedingly well with supervisors.
It’s All in the Questioning
The most effective means for ascertaining the profile attributes remains the interview process. Interviewers are instructed in how to review employment applications and supporting documents. Interview questions are designed and tested in the early stages of hiring and questions are refined as a result of feedback from the interviewers.
In the start-up situation, a group of core questions involved previous supervision. Interviewers asked the following group of questions: “Tell me about your last supervisor? What were his or hers worst points? Are you interested in becoming a supervisor here? Have you ever been a supervisor?” Such questions were designed to elicit two of the major profile attributes.
The responses to questions concerning the desire to be a supervisor were examined not from the prospective of whether the employee would make a good supervisor, but from how the employee viewed his supervisor’s job. For instance, an applicant who indicated that he would never want to be a supervisor would most likely be indicating distrust of management. Of course, that notion would have to be followed up by interviewers to determine if it was the underlying reason for a lack of desire for a supervisory position. If so, that would indicate a negative attribute.
Stephen J. Cabot, Chairman of The Cabot Institute for Labor Relations (www.cabotinstitute.com), is a nationally renowned management-labor lawyer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julius M. Steiner is Chairman of the Labor Relations and Employment Law Department at the Philadelphia-based law firm of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel, LLP (www.obermayer.com). Reach him at email@example.com