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A Tool for Hiring, a Concept for Growing

Posted by Barbara O'Connor on Jan 5, 2016 8:30:00 AM

man-and-woman-collaborating.jpgI'm excited about a new hiring tool PSDA is introducing to members, and I've also been thinking lately about smart ways to help employees grow. These topics are joined at the hip — getting the right people in the door, and then cultivating a culture that helps them stay engaged and productive.

Let's not forget that ours is a service industry. The success of companies individually, and the association collectively, is predicated on people.

That point was made during a lively discussion at the Small Distributor Summit, held Sept. 26, 2015 in Nashville. When attendees shared their hiring experiences and challenges, the message was clear: The right hires can boost a company's sales and enthusiasm, but recruiting those people is a headache, and predicting their long-term impact is a guessing game.

But it's a game where a win can catapult a company, and a loss can set it back for months. Whatever we can do to make the recruiting game more manageable and predictable, the better. To that end, PSDA and the Print Education Research Foundation (PERF) have funded the development of the TriMetrix HD Candidate Assessment and Industry Benchmark. It's a behavioral assessment tool that's in-depth, yet easy to implement.

The tool is tailored to help distributors improve their hiring results for three employee types: 1) junior salespeople, 2) senior salespeople and 3) CSRs. With the input of PSDA members who currently either hold these positions or oversee individuals who do, we've identified the skills, motivations and behaviors essential to job performance in each of the three roles. Candidates take an online assessment, and hiring managers then receive a report that ranks the candidate against the industry benchmark, including sample interview questions based on how the candidate compares against the benchmark. The reports give members concrete resources to make hiring less of a guessing game, dramatically increasing the chances of making the right hire. Developed by Affinity HR Group LLC, this is a straightforward resource with a huge potential payoff.

The benchmark tool can help you land better candidates, but what about the folks who are already at their desks (or in the field)? I've been following the so-called "strengths movement," especially works by author and speaker Marcus Buckingham, and I believe in its premise.

Here's the gist: We're guided by the belief that good is the opposite of bad, so we're fixated on faults. Doctors study disease to learn about health. Psychologists investigate sadness to learn about joy. In schools, we've been encouraged to identify, analyze and correct our weaknesses to become well-rounded. If our kid brings home a report card with one A, three Bs and an F, we automatically (and understandably) focus on the F.

Applied to your business, the strength movement says, "Focus on the A!" It's more profitable to uncover and unleash employees' strengths — their talents and passions on the job — than to help them incrementally get better at roles they aren't good at, or don't care about. According to the Gallup Organization, only 17 percent of people use their strengths at work. Burnout is rampant.

Some thriving organizations don't legislate work styles or dump money into fixing "skill gaps" (weaknesses). Instead, they accommodate for the fact that each employee is different, and then capitalize on these differences. They realize that each person's greatest room for growth, surprisingly, is improving his or her greatest strength. There's more value and higher performance in taking an A to an A+ than taking an F all the way to a B-.

At your company, whose strength in communication is going untapped? Whose passion for team-building is being ignored? Hopefully PSDA's new benchmark tool will help you hire the right people, and your consideration of individual strengths will help your team succeed and grow.


Barbara O'Connor is the executive vice president of PSDA.

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