My company will double in size over the next year, which means we need to bring on lots of employees (as in hundreds) very quickly. Hiring is hard enough at a normal pace. Any suggestion on getting it right while going so fast?
—Lars Dalgaard, Palo Alto, California
To start with, congratulations are in order. First, on your success. And second, for facing the reality that you could blow it.
If there is one way that rapidly growing businesses tend to self-destruct, it is by taking on hordes of new people who cannot deliver the “goods” that made the companies take off in the first place. You seem to know that. Now, you just need to know how to stop yourself anyway.
Look, we know growth is thrilling, especially when you’ve worked for months, or more likely years, laying its groundwork. If you’re starting something inside a company, maybe it feels like your whole career depends on your new product or service going from gamble to money-gusher. If you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you’ve poured your life savings into making your dream a reality, or you’ve borrowed more money than you ever imagined from friends and strangers.
Regardless, for anyone who is at the controls as an enterprise finally lifts off, the last thing you want to do is throttle back.
But if you don’t get this big new wave of hiring right, you will wish you had. As you note, hiring in normal times is not easy. In a growth spurt like yours, it is really hard. Companies just tend to drop all their defences, open the gates and let the masses flow in.
One way to combat that tendency is to make sure you get religious about all the usual hiring best practices. Test all candidates against your core values, conduct multiple interviews for each candidate and when checking references, be sure your people listen carefully for what is being said.... and what is not.
With your massive hiring requirements, though, we would suggest you also add a simple but galvanizing technique to the hiring process: the Hiring Batting Average (HBA).
This technique is something we have discussed with several groups of rapidly growing companies like yours. And, while new, we think it can really improve the chances of hiring correctly under high-pressure, high-speed circumstances. Here’s how it works.
Every candidate for a job at your company must be interviewed by at least three people in the organization beyond the hiring manager, and each interviewer must sign off afterward with a “Hire” or “Don’t Hire” vote. No maybes allowed.
Fast-forward six months. Every new hire gets evaluated by his manager on how he has performed against expectations: below, meets or exceeds.
Soon enough, and with enough critical mass, you can start to compare every interviewer’s “Hire” recommendations with actual performance. For instance, say a manager named Emily has interviewed and approved 10 candidates and, six months out, eight of them are performing at or above expectations. Emily's HBA would be .800. That impressive score lets you know Emily is a first-rate evaluator of talent and she should be rewarded accordingly.
By contrast, say Emily’s colleague John has given the nod to 12 hires and, after six months, only four are working out, for an HBA of .333.
That average might be very good in baseball, but not in hiring. Keep John in his day job and away from picking people!
Along with improving hiring effectiveness, the HBA also delivers two other powerful benefits. At the front end, it has a way of getting current employees to actually engage—brain and soul—in the interview process.
The last thing busy employees want to do is sit down for half an hour with some randomcandidate. After a while, all the shiny faces begin to look and sound the same.
But if employees know they will ultimately be held accountable for their “verdicts”—with a hard number, no less—interviews take a different and more intense light. They go from chit-chat to real conversation.
After the hiring, the HBA has a way of motivating interviewers to stay in closer contact with the people to whom they’ve given their “Hire” stamp, and can even prompt them into ad hoc mentoring relationships. After all, when more of their hires succeed, the higher their average goes. It’s a win-win for them and the company.
Ultimately, for a fast-growing company to hire correctly, every old employee has to care passionately about every new employee coming aboard. And for that to happen, employees have to own the hiring process, taking responsibility for picking the best people and integrating them successfully.
The HBA gives you a way to measure and to inspire both. And for you right now, that’s the whole ball game.
Jack and Suzy are eager to hear about your career dilemmas and challenges at work, and look forward to answering some of your questions in future columns. Jack and Suzy Welch are the authors of the international best-seller,‘Winning’.Campaign readers can email them questions at winning @livemint.com. Please include your name, occupation and city. Only select questions will be answered.