The attitude adjustment

hiringI’m all too frequently amazed by this; and not in a good way. In this day and age, considering all we know about the importance of cultural fit and the known costs of poor hiring decisions, too many retailers still utilise outdated and ineffective hiring practices, and are still intent on hiring solely for experience and skill without considering attitude.

While the first two are important, research has overwhelmingly declared attitude to be the more critical attribute.

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A leopard can’t change its spots

A person’s attitude is a constant, whereas skills learning is in constant flux. The former you cannot teach, the latter you can, and have to. A person’s attitude, especially in retail, will immediately indicate whether this person will enhance your company culture or diminish it. And if the role is customer-facing, that attitude can make or break the relationship with your customer.  

A good attitude is as infectious as a good mood and the natural anathema to negativity. Company culture benefits enormously from having these types of people on your team. In fact, your company culture is the very result of having these individuals on your team. And the more you skew toward that great attitude in your ranks, the better the benchmark you will have for future hires.

Who wouldn’t want to work in an environment like this?

Another advantage in training your teams up is a homogenised knowledge of your brand and processes. There’s less ingrained poor learning to overcome, and if you’re doing it right, your team’s development should be ongoing, keeping all of your teams performing at their best.

A numbers game

A cheap approach to hiring that leads to poor hires is one of the worst decisions one could possibly make, given all the possible costs associated with making a bad hire and all the benefits of good hires.” Peter Capelli, Harvard Business Review.

Conditions in retail are harsh, so aside from hiring for cultural fit, the importance of ensuring your hiring techniques are right is also about your bottom line. A recent study from UC Berkeley in the US estimates that the associated costs of new recruits can reach as high as 150 per cent of their annual salary.

If we then pair this knowledge with research from LeadershipIQ, which shows that of the 46 per cent of new recruits that failed during the first 18 months, 89 per cent of them failed due to attitudinal reasons. Only 11 per cent failed for skills related issues.

The other reason to hire for attitude

Once upon a time, you had a skill set and you worked in your sector, trudging upward, until someone gave you a gold watch. In a post-GFC economy, with innovation and disruption running rampant, those days are long gone.

But instead, we’ve got a lot of professionals with a lot of transferrable skills great attitudes, fresh thinking, enthusiasm and commitment. This is also what’s leading the uptick in contracting work, but as far as hiring full time from other sectors into retail goes, if the attitude is right, it would be foolish not to consider talent from across the way.

Asking the right questions

If your frontline teams are your customer’s first impression of your organisation, then it stands to reason that your hiring process is also your prospective hire’s first impression of your company. It’s just as important for you to put your best foot forward if you want to attract the best talent.

Tell me about yourself, What are your strengths? What are you weaknesses? If you are still asking these three questions, stop immediately.

On the surface they might seem like reasonable, self-awareness questions, but trust me, they’re not. Everyone knows how to fudge these answers to appear adequately humble and sufficiently skilled, so they’re not telling you anything. Worse though, if you have a great candidate, you risk turning them off with such pointless questions.

Instead, if you ask questions that reveal a person’s true nature, their attitude toward life, you get a far more indicative response as to who they really are.

César Melgoza, founder and CEO of Geoscape asks which magazine the person has recently read – he’s interested in knowing how these individuals invest in themselves.

Lars Dalgaard, former CEO of SuccessFactors wants to know how human his candidates are by asking, “What did you learn from your mum?”

Yasmin Green, head of R&D at Google can tell how people think on their feet by asking how they’d make money from an ice-cream stand in Central Park.

A lot of business leaders ask about previous failures and some ask about childhood dreams, so there are all manner of questions you could and should ask to assess your candidates’ attitudes. You can observe them; how they treat others, the security guard, a waiter, the taxi driver are wholly indicative of the sort of person they are.

Putting it all together

Ideally, your hiring checklist should feature skills, culture fit, beliefs, experience and their ideas. When you have that shortlist of the most qualified applicants, attitude should have the majority stake in your final decision.

By hiring for attitude you can gauge a person’s inclination toward learning, resilience, tenacity, perseverance and their ‘fit’ with your current team. You can also gauge the likelihood of bringing about perpetual growth, both for themselves as well as the organisation.



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