Better Hiring, Team Building and Employee Retention

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From The MRA Newsletter
Avoid Hiring Mistakes - Throw Away the Dartboard!

By Leon A. McBride, CPA, CFP
My employee selection and hiring process was revolutionized when I met Larry Sartor, President of MRA, a human resources development firm. Larry introduced me to the MRA process that not only changed my selection process, but helped me understand how to capitalize on my own strengths and compensate for my always-present restraints.

A few years ago, the CEO of a large pharmaceutical company, who at the time was a client of mine, asked me to assist in selecting a new executive vice-president. After determining what this person's job description would be, I began by placing ads in some of the national newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal. In less than a week, I was inundated with responses.

Next I had to figure out some way to rank them. After reading every resume, I made a strategic decision to try to classify the applicants. My grand strategy was nothing more than an uneducated guess, much like tossing darts at a dartboard. Methodically, each applicant's resume was placed in a pile marked "A", "B", or "C." It was somewhat easy to determine that a number of them belonged on the "C" pile, because they either did not have the academic qualifications or lacked the requisite job experience, or both.

The "A" and "B" stacks were another matter. There were several that I felt strongly enough about to include them in the "A's." However, I had no objective criteria to assist me in making my selections. As a result, there were a number of applicants that ended up in the "B" stack, literally by guess or by chance. Conversely, there were a number of applicants in the "A" group that I knew did not belong there.

Ultimately, I ended up interviewing about 15 applicants and one was finally chosen. Whether that person was the very best one for the job, I'll never know. At that time, I felt that my dartboard approach had been somewhat successful. If nothing else, my fee realization during that period was greatly enhanced. Not because I did such a great job, but because my client paid for each and every minute that I spent fitfully working through the maze.

Then about fifteen years ago my employee selection and hiring process was revolutionized. It was at that time that I met Larry Sartor, President of MRA, a human resources development firm, organized in 1945. Larry introduced me to the MRA process that not only changed my selection process, but helped me understand how to capitalize on my own strengths and compensate for the always present restraints.

The CPA firm that I co-founded in 1978, had by 1990, become one of the leading regional CPA firms in the Wilmington, Delaware area. We had grown to 35 members, including 5 partners. However, we were suffering from growing pains. The partners felt there was a lack of team spirit and cohesiveness. At that time we decided to engage Larry to profile the entire staff, including each of the partners. The results were astounding. To my amazement, I learned that a significant restraint (weakness) of my personality type was that I had a tendency to "shoot the messenger." This trait was especially dominant when I was under stress; Hardly a plus when trying to build a winning team. I have since learned that to encourage interaction among my peers and my staff, I must constantly strive to be a good listener.

Stephen Covey, in his classic book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, devotes one entire chapter to the art of being a good listener. Understanding my MRA profile has helped me apply Covey's most important principle found in that chapter: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." While continually struggling to become a better listener, I try to reflect on Larry's admonition to always be sure I understand what was being said. His counsel was to reflect back on what the speaker was trying to communicate. A helpful exercise is to rephrase in my own words what is being said by saying, "let me see if I understand what you just said ..."

While this process has helped me tounderstand myself bettrer, as well as understanding others, its greatest benefits are:
  1. Assisting in making the right hiring decisions
  2. Retaining good people
  3. Helping key personnel become more effective leaders
  4. Reducing the cost of turnover (estimated at $50,000 per employee*)
  5. (for CPA Firms) Increasing profits
I have since learned that MRA has several large CPA firms in different parts of the country that have turned the MRA system into a profit center. They help their clients avoid costly hiring mistakes. MRA's Executive Leadership training gives you the tools to succeed. Without these tools, your hiring decisions are no better than throwing a dart at the resumes.

If poor hiring decisions and high turnover have hampered your company's growth, then you need to throw away the dartboard.

*Business Week, March 1, 1999.

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