Help Wanted! Good Attitudes Only Need To Apply

The hiring pool for small businesses in the future may be faced with a growing “good attitude” shortage. How can this be dealt with? Learn more about how to elicit proper behavior out of whatever personnel are available.

In an earlier article I talked about the need to train people and develop processes for employees to perform successfully. Several people exchanged e-mails over how difficult it is to find good people with good work ethics, attitudes and communication skills. I had one reader who really has a good grasp of reality. I think his message is worth reading and thinking about. “I’ve enjoyed the banter on attitude & motivation. Certainly, I’d prefer to hire someone with a great attitude. I believe, however, we’re faced with a growing “good attitude” shortage. I’m going to wade in over my head here so y’all pull me out if I get too deep.

It seems to me that our hiring pool in the future will not have the work ethic we were raised with. I’m sure that’s no news to anyone. These kids who hear KISS (punk rock) on OLDIES stations have a different worldview than we do. They are motivated differently than we are. Many were raised by day care centers and came home to single parents. Many are dating at the same time their parents are. Their whole life has been one “entertainment baby sitter” after another.

I believe the successful businesses of the future will have a good handle on how to direct the behavior of these attitude basket cases. We won’t have the luxury of hiring new people with the attitudes and people skills we prefer.

That’s why I think we need to be learning how to elicit proper behavior out of whatever personnel we have. Behavior, not attitude, is what puts beans in the pot. Consider this personal example:

I believe I have a great attitude. I care about people and I love to bring them together with the things they want or need. That’s how I make my living and according to the numbers, I’m good at it. However, it’s not just my attitude that sells. I’m sure I could just walk out the door in my Bermuda shorts, unshaven, wearing a T-shirt and I’d be able to sell something to somebody. It would be slim pickings, though. I certainly wouldn’t sell much that way.

So, I use behaviors to “grease things up” a bit. Being polite, using floor protectors and rugs, wearing neat uniforms, properly writing work orders, using price books ad infinitum are all behaviors that can be taught, monitored and inspected. Granted, many of these behaviors are simply common courtesy but apparently, common courtesy is in short supply these days.  

You might be able to recognize my good attitude because it’s almost always there but you wouldn’t be able to quantify it or make adjustments to it. That’s up to me. You can, however, document every little behavior you expect me to perform. Further, you can demonstrate that my performance rides on how well I execute the behavior you expect. Whether I’m late for work because of a bad attitude or a flat tire, the numbers will show that a late start usually means missed opportunities. In other words, it’s not the attitude; it’s the action (behavior) that determines success or failure.

Have you noticed that fast food franchises have pretty much “behaviorized” every step of the selling process? From “you want fries with that?” to the way they wrap a burrito is all boiled down to a process. People with good attitudes certainly excel but the majority of the revenue is generated by gen-X kids with a blank stare.

In our industry, we have the same hiring pool. By providing trouble shooting check lists and procedures (behaviors) we can narrow down most technical problems to find a reasonable solution. Sure, there’s a desperate need for technical expertise as well and those who have it will excel. But the majority of our revenue can be generated by “average” people who follow the rules.

By implementing service call procedures (behaviors) we can insure that our valuable customer gets the treatment they deserve. Again, great attitudes will rise to the top but the majority of our revenue will come from average people who simply follow our rules. How well we develop and manage these rules will determine how successful our businesses will be.

I’ll leave you with this thought: Have you noticed the trend toward consolidation? I thought so. I think part of the driving force toward consolidation is that there are fewer and fewer business people out there that understand how to develop their people. Inability to manage people (direct their behavior) could be the biggest growth inhibitor small businesses face. After all, if a business was growing, profitable and had it’s people working like a team, who would sell it?

So, if my premise is correct, where do we go from here? If I’m out in left field, where do we go from there? -RH

I think he is right on target. The secret of success is learning how to create the behaviors the business needs for success.

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