It seems radical, even borderline insane, to many structured organisations to suggest that employees should have a hand in picking their own colleagues, yet increasingly, the evidence to support it is weighing in.
In a landmark study done by Tel Aviv University, tracking 820 people over 20 years, 62% said that co-workers cause them more stress than their bosses.
Since workplace stress is a major cause of employee disengagement, that number should scare the hell out of HR departments and business leaders alike. Yet, while the research is helpful, it actually serves only to highlight that which we already know to be true: when random people are shoved together into groups, many of them will utterly fail to get along.
OfficeVibe has a great infographic on employee happiness numbers using the traditional workplace model of ‘the boss slash system slash vetting software knows best’ and it’s a revealing look at why we need to address this.
If you’re brave enough to turn your employment process on its head, try doing these things:
1. Get a better grip on what you’re looking for. What kind of employee really fits your business? You probably have an idea in mind, but how closely does that actually match what you’re looking for? Do you really want go-getters? Really want details-oriented people? Really want workhorses? Really? The problem with most of our hiring choices is because we have a poor understanding of how we manage people, and how our teams of people interoperate on a personal level, we’re basically just hiring warm bodies and hoping they don’t clash.
2. Always be hiring. The worst time to go looking for a great employee is the day you need one. The result of most hiring processes is that you take the best of the bunch presented to you and hope they work out. But this is backwards. When you’re desperate for someone, you have to take what you can get, often knowing full well that there are better people out there. Better people for you, that is. If you’ve got to grips with step number one however, you’re better situated to vet each new person you meet in terms of their characteristics. Better to snap up a great person before you need them than to have to take a mediocre one when you do.
3. Let employees choose their own colleagues. Who is going to work with your new hire exactly? You? Not likely. The people who are going to be saddled with your next lousy hire, or strengthened by your next great one, are the people already in the group or department that they join. One bad fit can screw everything up for everyone, and cost you dearly, so why not just obviate the risk and let them make the decision? Odds are they’re a lot less likely to pick someone that drives them to drink than you are.
4. Ask existing employees for a wish list. Of course, your company isn’t a punk rock concert and there have to be some controls. To include your employees in the process, make sure they’re not being random about it. Ask them each for a wish list of ten characteristics they would like for any employee that joins them. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it absolutely will allow you to avoid making stupid mistakes. You probably know how easy it is to hire people who aren’t actually even nice because you think you’re being flimsy in worrying about such trivial matters. Those matters are not trivial to your employees however, so encode them.
If employee engagement is what you seek, and you wish for your good people to choose to play with you for a long time, the time has come to start shaking things up.