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Vital Strategy oft' ignored

 by Mark Deavall

A short while ago I addressed a conference where there were about 1500 managers and owners of businesses present. I was just on time, and therefore did not have the opportunity to listen to the speakers before me, so I wasn’t able to dovetail to my talk into theirs. I decided therefore to just jump in with both feet, and hope I floated.

“The reason that I have a job, is because you keep screwing up by employing the wrong people, and then you pay me lots of money to come in and try to fix them!” was my opening statement. There was a stunned silence. You could hear a pin drop. Then a murmer of disapproval started, which turned into a noise of people arguing with each other. I let it carry on.

Eventually one man, who had a louder voice than any of the others said, “He’s right! I hire the most technically competent people I can find, yet I still can’t get productivity. I thought that my managers were the problem, now I realise that although these guys are technically competent, their behaviour causes me more problems than I had before! They cause more problems than what I had before!”

“Its because we’re recruiting for competence and not quality” I replied. “I can take a person and teach them the fundamentals of my business pretty quickly, but I can’t teach them integrity, punctuality, honour, integrity, the ability to see around corners, team skills etc. Technical competence indicates that they can do the job. The qualities of the individual indicate how WELL they will do the job.” I continued. “Recruit for qualities, and train for competence.”

It amazes me how we go on all sorts of courses and get all kinds of degrees in order to better ourselves, but when it comes to the skill of recruiting, it doesn’t even feature on the skills plan. Oh, I see Interviewing Skills, but that only forms a very small part of the recruiting process. Worse still is that I see recruiting being relegated to junior people with absolutely no life and business experience at all! This is a bit like a 23 year old teacher giving a life skills class to 17 year olds!

Here’s a thought. How much does it cost your company, as a multiple of their annual salary, to replace a person that has left your company after two years, and you were happy to see that person go? Well the estimate is between three and five times, AND THAT MONEY COMES DIRECTLY OFF THE BOTTOM LINE. There are directly measurable costs of a recruiting agent and training. But what about the non-measurable costs of how many customers were made unhappy and left, how many people in your business were negatively influenced etc.

So then let’s go so far as to say that, if our recruiting processes and criteria were right, we would have far less people management problems, right? Absolutely! We would be recruiting people that are self managed, and therefore are performers.

The watchword is, “Recruit for quality and train for competence”. Learn this skill. Anything else is a recipe for pain.

I trust that you have found benefit in this article. If you would like to contact me or have me talk to the people in your company, please call me on 27 11 609-1264, or e-mail me

For more articles, go to Mark’s blogs and on Twitter at

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