One of the most commonly voiced secrets of success that business have shared with mover the years is the idea of hiring the right people. But, this notion always starts with knowing who or what that is.
In much the same way a business might research and attempt to attract the ideal customer, healthy businesses also focus on attracting the ideal employee.
Here’s the thinking that is behind this powerful idea – If the company takes care of the staff, the staff takes care of the customer, and the customer takes care of the business.
Southwest Airlines is famous for their service. They openly admit they “hire for attitude, and train for skill.” One of the ways they hire for attitude is through a thorough and somewhat offbeat interview process.
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Part of the process requires applicants to fill out and read aloud a personal “Coat of Arms”—a questionnaire on which applicants complete statements such as: “One time my sense of humor helped me was”; “A time I reached my peak performance was”; and “My personal motto is.”
Applicants are often put into groups and given a group task aimed at sorting out attitudes and leadership qualities.
Many Southwest employees have their own hiring stories; Scott Kirk, a Southwest pilot, shared on the company’s blog that he even used his “celebrity” name (Captain Kirk of TV’s Star Trek) to help him get the job at Southwest.
“When I first applied for a pilot position at Southwest, I sent a photograph of one of the Boeing 737 aircrafts painted as the USS Enterprise,” said Scott. “At the bottom of the photo I wrote, ‘Hey Herb, beam me aboard will ya?’ I was shocked when I received a personal letter from Mr. Kelleher himself wishing me luck in the interview and warm wishes to hopefully beam me aboard soon. From that moment on, I knew that I had chosen the right airline.”
Mike McDerment, founder of FreshBooks, an online time-tracking and invoicing service located in Toronto, Canada, shared these thoughts on how he addresses the customer-employee relationship: “First, we try to find people for fit, shared values, and a passion for excellence. That doesn’t mean we have some preconceived idea of what they look like. It’s more that they match our brand in some way. We’re not in the billing business, we’re in the service business, and we like to have fun. It really makes things easy if we surround our customers with employees that like to serve and like to have fun as well.”
FreshBooks also encourages internal innovation by hosting biweekly opportunities for its software developers to contribute to the company through something they call “Hack-Offs.”
In a nutshell, a hack-off is a day of unstructured time for developers to work on any project they like. “Sometimes it’s improvements to the product,” McDerment explained. “Things nagging customers but that we just haven’t gotten to.
Sometimes it’s things nagging the developers that they just want to fix and no one else will see. And other times it’s a proof of concept of some new technology. The only guiding rule about what to work on is that they should be able to finish it in a day.”
Whatever the developers are working on throughout the day, at 4:30 p.m. they stop. At that point, the entire company moves through the office, from screen to screen, and gets demos from each developer on what they’ve created. Once all the demos are done, they vote for their favorite. Beyond peer recognition, the company usually bestows movie tickets or Raptors basketball tickets on the winner.
This brilliant tactic is a highlight of the workweek and puts the focus on innovation and constant improvement of the product and service experience. In doing so, it turns work into a game, a game with a few simple rules and a clear way to win.
Image credit: Mr.Thomas
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.