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Hospitality Employee Selection and the Venus Fly Trap –
A Study in Floral Business Acumen


By Jim Hartigan
December 2010

Employee Selection and my pet Venus Fly Trap - what could these two things possibly have in common?  As I watched a fly cruise through my living room a few days ago, it occurred to me that they have quite a bit in common, actually.  Cue up your best Sir David Attenborough internal monologue as you read the following parenthetical: 

“Witness the fly circling frantically about the living room, bumping into windows and the television as it slowly, yet inexorably, advances towards the kitchen.  It’s sensed something ... irresistible.  The fly continues its journey through the living room until it finally crosses the threshold of the kitchen.  For in the kitchen lies the object of the fly’s attention: the deadly Venus Fly Trap.”

So as not to upset any “Fly Rights” advocates in the audience, I’ll stop right there.

But, you can imagine how it all ends.  And that, readers, finally brings me to today’s topic.  What I really want to talk to you about is Employee Selection and how I think we can learn a thing or two from the noble Venus Fly Trap with respect to this subject.  Just hear me out.  Previously, I introduced you to the Competency Model we use at OrgWide (noted here) - a tool whose objective it is to define the “tasks” or job duties within the job family that are completed on a regular basis by incumbents and have been validated as critical to overall success in the job.

Remember these Core Competencies are the foundation to ensuring customer satisfaction by improving four sets of interrelated Human Resources activities: Assessment, Performance Management, Coaching – and Employee Selection.  Today I’m going to put the “Employee Selection” section under the microscope by offering you a few tips.  So where does the Venus Fly Trap come in to play?  Well, as I observed this fly being drawn to its demise, I couldn’t help but think of this carnivorous plant as one of nature’s masters of selection.  Of course, the Venus Fly Trap is not attracting and selecting employees; rather, it’s after juicy bugs.  But, one cannot deny the parallels between these two.  Or perhaps I’m just crazy.  Either way, I’ve stalled long enough...

Employee Selection Tip #1: Assess What Your Company Does to Attract the Best Talent
Before you select a potential employee, you have to get one interested in working for you in the first place.  In fact, the goal is the have more than one interested in working for you.  A large pool of highly-qualified would-be employees from which to choose is the objective of every manager.  It just so happens that this is an area where my Venus Fly Trap excels.  Maybe it’s because he’s got the fly market cornered in my house, but I’m thoroughly convinced that, based on his happy, healthy, almost two years on this planet, his fly-attracting nectar is top notch.  So, what should be one of your organization’s irresistible draws?  According to many successful Human Resources professionals, flexibility is among the most desirable organizational characteristics for today’s workforce.

The Millennial generation – sometimes referred to as Generation Y or Echo Boomers – is much more focused on “life balance” than the preceding two generations.  Providing the flexibility in the workplace appeals to these family-focused new parents who have only lived in and known a state of constant connectivity – to family, to work, to friends, to everything!  To the Millenials – being “at work” doesn’t necessarily have to mean being “AT” work. 

You may find that, in order to attract the ... ahem ... “juiciest” of candidates, your “bait” must evolve somewhat—it must go beyond the highest salary or other traditional means of garnering interest in the company.

Employee Selection Tip #2: Evaluate the Tools You Use to Select the Top Candidates
True story: my Venus Fly Trap moonlights as a food critic for a high-brow haute cuisine publication.  Okay, not true.  But, he actually does have what appears to be a highly-discriminating palate.  If he chomps down on something, that he finds unpleasant ... PA-TOOEY!  He spits it out so as not to waste the valuable energy it takes to digest it (gross, I know).  However, herein lies another valuable lesson we can learn.  By implementing rigorous testing and assessment standards during the interview process, your organization can help to mitigate the risk of selecting a less-than-ideal meal ... I mean, employee.

In their article “Would the Best Candidate Please Step Forward,” authors Robert Gandossy and Tina Kao explore this subject in detail.  Gandossy and Kao describe the thorough employee selection process used by one organization as “sometimes grueling,” although highly successful.  Gandossy and Kao describe how this company begins by sending all potential candidates through a web-based application the company refers to as a “managerial situation analysis.”  If successful, candidates pass on to the next stage in a series of talent assessments that further narrows down the candidate pool to the very best.

The tools your organization uses during the interview process are critical.  Spend some time reviewing what’s currently in your arsenal.  You may be surprised at the number of opportunities for improvement.

Employee Selection Tip #3: Set Your New Employee Up for Success with a Solid On-boarding Program
Okay, I don’t have a Venus Fly Trap analogy for on-boarding, but two out of three ain’t bad, right?  Anyhow, let’s do a quick recap: you’ve attracted the best and brightest and you’ve run them through a rigorous series of interviews to narrow the field.  Now you’re ready to extend an offer letter to the best of the best and begin the on-boarding process.  This is a critical time in creating a positive outlook on the part of the new hire and an opportunity where you can increase the odds for the employee’s success.

In her article entitled “Why Employer Brand is Critical to Retention and Engagement,” author Julie Norquist Roy describes a scenario in which a newly-hired employee goes through a bad on-boarding process and is generally set up for failure from the starting gun.  She goes on to say “(t)hen imagine an employee arrives for the first day of employment and finds a solid company message on the organizational culture and mission.  Colleagues are upbeat, and company product and service information is clearly and consistently presented.  This employee likely would be more excited to be part of that team than the former.  Further, the employee presented with a positive, consistent employer brand message is more likely to refer a skilled peer to the organization.”

Now is the time to demonstrate to the new employee the values, mission and culture that define your organization.  Again, a traditional “new hire” packet may simply not be enough.  Formal on-boarding programs that utilize mentors and embrace new technologies will help employees flourish in their new roles.

In closing, when you start thinking about hiring a new employee(s), simply ask yourself how a dignified Venus Fly Trap would handle the situation.  Chances are good that it would eat whatever triggered the cilia on its leaves.  On second thought, forget the Venus Fly Trap.  Rather, maybe think a little more about these three (hopefully) helpful tips.  When you’re ready to examine what you do further – give us a call, we’d love to help. 

Until next time, remember to Take Care of your Customers, Take Care of Each Other, and Take Care of Yourself!



About the Author:
Jim Hartigan, Chief Business Development Officer and Partner joined OrgWide Services, a Training/e-Learning, Communications, Surveys and Consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim’s last position was that of Senior Vice President – Global Brand Services where he provided strategic leadership and business development and support to the $22B enterprise of 10 brands and more than 3,400 hotels in 80 countries around the world. His team was responsible for ensuring excellence in system product quality, customer satisfaction, market research, brand management, media planning, and sustainability.
 
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Contact:

Jim Hartigan
Chief Business Development Officer & Partner
OrgWide Services
165 N. Main Street, Suite 202
Collierville, TN 38017
office: 901.850.8190  Ext. 230
mobile: 901.628.6586
jim.hartigan@orgwide.com
www.orgwide.com


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Recent Articles:

The Right Tool for the job makes all the difference in the world! / Jim Hartigan / October 2010
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For Everything There is a Season - Including Budgets / Jim Hartigan / August 2010
Say What? Listen, Learn, and Act–Why Guess, When You Can Know Redux / Jim Hartigan / August 2010
Why Guess When You Can Know - Maximizing the Effectiveness of Your Workplace Surveys / Jim Hartigan / August 2010
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The Power of Effective Communication in the Workplace (and our Founding Fathers’ unrivaled Tweeting abilities) / Jim Hartigan / July 2010

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