We have had several discussions in our teams about how we continue to attract, develop and keep good talent so that our organization can thrive. People are the ingredient X that will either propel your team or sink the ship. When you have been able to identify motivated individuals who bring new perspectives into your company the first thing you should ask as a leadership team is how to we find more of these caliber of people?

1. Start with a blank slate

In our setting, our work experience is primarily in the construction/property restoration industry which involves manual labor, skilled services and the ability to adapt to new situations with care. Like most sectors, the common practice is to attempt to find employees who have existing skills and incorporate them into the organization. We have often found that hiring those who have been trained by others can be as much of a project, if not more, than training someone from the ground up

In many ways it is easier as well as more beneficial in the long run to train someone who has little specific work experience, but who will be a blank slate for your culture and develop their good habits over time than it is to try to break an individual of their bad habits. The time spent in training can yield great and lasting results in employees who are eager to make a difference with the disciplines and values that matter to your organization.

It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them. — Benjamin Franklin

2. Relevant vs. direct experience

Our industry is a dynamic blend of manual labor that is service based which requires technical knowledge, industrial skills and people intelligence. Our technicians have to learn to deal with messy situations with a smile while relaying data in several forms about the work they perform. When we sat down to attempt to analyze where our best performers were coming from we had trouble nailing down specific traits as so many have come from diverse backgrounds. 

We have hired people with no prior experience who have transitioned from fast food service, baking, auto service, cleaning, agriculture and milling, each has some transitional skills but not directly related to the work we do. As noted, the blank slates of those with no direct experience but also none of the industry related bad habits or short cuts have been some of the best additions to our team.

3. Fresh perspectives

Fresh perspectives and inquisitive minds are valuable. People who ask, “Why do you do it that way,” are in the right frame of mind; the question is will they receive the information when you have a sound reason as well as be willing to be a responsible party to change if something needs to be fixed? For our team, one thing that seems to be a common trait is a bit of a chip on the shoulder; the idea that individuals have great potential and are just looking for the right opportunity that others may not have given them. 

To be clear, we are not looking for individuals who are angry at the world, the chip we are looking for is those who have that innate sense that they want to make a difference, they express this in different ways, but it is noticeable if you are looking for it.

Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws. — Plato

4. Three key characteristics 

We feel that we can teach anyone the skills of our trade, but there are three things that we tell every potential hire that walks through the door that we need from them. There are three essential traits that we cannot train or provide an individual, we need you to be honest, hard working and willing to learn

Those things sound simple enough, but if a potential hire is missing any one of those elements they will not be a long term contributor to the culture that we have built nor will they be a value to our clients. These are also three traits that a person either brings to the table or they don’t, they cannot be given to someone. 

Be clear about what your organization is looking for. Recruit, hire, train and discipline based upon your values. Seek out candidates who will embrace and enhance your team's culture.