A wise machine shop owner once said that his most valuable assets walk out the door at the end of each shift. We all know that our employees are the lifeblood of our companies and one of our largest investments. Which means making good hiring decisions is critical to our success.
So what attributes make a great employee? Naturally, a lot depends on how well the new hire’s capabilities match the needs of the specific job your filling. However, smart employers look beyond the immediate job and consider the long-term contributions each employee can make to the company. This requires determining the job candidate’s underlying strengths and weaknesses.
With this in mind, here is a short list of attributes to consider when hiring a new employee:
Intelligence. Although conventional wisdom is to look for direct experience, it’s often better to hire someone with the smarts to learn the job, even if they have little or no experience with your specific equipment or processes. Just because someone has performed similar tasks doesn’t make them a great candidate. Additionally, because today’s manufacturing involves constant change, you most likely need someone who has the aptitude to learn new technologies and methods quickly and competently.
Critical Thinking. If you believe in constant improvement of your processes and maximizing productivity, you need people who aren’t afraid to question the status quo. Just because things have always been done a certain way doesn’t mean they can’t be done better. Look for the individual who casts a critical eye on all aspects of a process with the aim to make meaningful improvements.
Pride of ownership. The best employees are those who, like the company owners or key executives, treat the business as if it were their own. This means they view their jobs through the prism of what is best for the overall operation, not simply the task at hand.
Plays well with others. It was true in kindergarten and it’s true in the workplace: Ideal employees are comfortable with being part of a team effort. This doesn’t mean they surrender their individuality or independent thinking, but rather see the value in the whole being stronger than its individual parts.
Honesty. Not only in terms of respecting company property and that of fellow employees, but also recognizing that time is a valuable commodity and wasting it is a form of theft. Equally important, you need employees to be honest with you about how the job is going, problems that need to be resolved, and who will take responsibility if things go wrong.
Ambition. Having a strong desire to learn and grow is the mark of employees who will serve the organization well for many years, provided they have the opportunity to advance within the company as their skills and experience warrant.
Fits the culture. It’s important that the individuals you hire are well suited to your overall management style. If you have a laid back, hands off approach, you probably shouldn’t hire someone who needs a good deal of structure and direction. Likewise, if you micromanage your people, or have very strict policies and procedures, an ambitious, independent type will chafe at the restrictions.
All of this presupposes that you have a company culture that respects, recognizes and rewards the above attributes. So before you begin your next employee search, take a good look at the culture you have created. Is it in sync with these traits? If not, perhaps finding the best employees is not your biggest problem.