September 4, 2008

The art of the recruiting interview: the S-A-O-L rule

Filed under: HR — Nicola Rowe @ 6:39 am

Want to know how potential employees will perform in a new job? Apply the SAO L formula: Situation – Action – Outcome – Learnings to mine their past behaviour and predict how well they will perform with your company.


The first step is to think of a situation you expect the new employee to encounter at your company and match it with a situation in your applicant’s past. Choose one where it’s crucial that your new hire will excel. For example, you might be filling a position involving dealing with dissatisfied customers. That’s your starting situation. Now, look for a similar situation in your interviewee’s past. Using concrete questions, probe to see whether your interviewee has dealt with angry customers in the past. Ask, “Can you describe a situation where…” or “Tell me about a time when you….”. Note that it’s important not to ask hypothetical questions. Never ask “How would you react if…” That doesn’t tell you anything about what the applicant has done in the past: it only tells you how creative his or her imagination is.


Once you’ve lined up a situation to explore, you’ll need to understand what your applicant did. Press the applicant to be as concrete as possible, using phrases like “Tell me specifically what you did”, or “What exactly did you do”. Question the applicant politely but closely until you understand exactly what steps he or she took in the past. What exactly did the applicant do to handle irate customers? You want to finish this step with concrete examples of what happened.


Next, you want to know how effective the applicant was, so you need to make sure you understand what the outcome was. If your applicant tells you that he or she dealt with angry customers by explaining that the fine print on the warranty meant that the company couldn’t provide product support, you’ll want to know whether that was effective. Was the applicant able to meet the challenge? Applicants who were unsuccessful in meeting common challenges in the past are unlikely to be successful in future.


Finally, you want to understand what the applicant learned from his or her experience. For example, your applicant might say, “Initially, I carefully explained the conditions of our warranty to customers and made clear why we couldn’t support products beyond twelve months. But then I realised that satisfied customers often more than made up for the cost of that support in extra business and referrals, so I started to waive that time limit if they were only one or two months past the expiry date.” Establishing what the employee has learned tells you two things. First, it tells you that the employee was able to adapt and meet the challenge successfully. Secondly, it tells you that the applicant is able to take on and respond to feedback – a characteristic which will make him or her a successful employee in your own workplace.


In sum, the rule to remember is this: Past behaviour predicts future behaviour. To know how applicants will perform at your firm, first define a situation that they are likely to encounter, then probe for a similar situation in their past. Next, find out what they did when that situation occurred. Thirdly, discover how effective they were – once you know what they did, ask what happened next. Finally, ask them what they learned from the situation. 


Five ways to reward employees without spending money

Filed under: HR — Nicola Rowe @ 6:28 am
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Want to reward your employees, but lack the budget to splash out on bonuses or raises? Here are five ways to reward your employees effectively without spending a cent.


1. Praise

Often overlooked, praise is the simplest and most effective way to reward individual acts. Praise should be specific. Explain what the employee has specifically done well and why it matters to the company – not just “well done”, but “You did a good job managing Mr. Jackson’s complaint this morning. You’ve just created another satisfied customer who will bring more business to us.” Praise is more effective when it’s delivered in public, so don’t shy from praising your employees in front of others. Remember, though, that individuals aren’t always the right target for praise. If a group has done well, praise the team, not just the leader.


2. Time

Everyone wishes they had an extra hour or two in the day. So why not give a top employee a well-deserved break? “Anna, it’s great that you’ve finished the library job a week early. I’d like you to go home early this afternoon.” If you’re worried about productivity, schedule the time off for Monday morning or Friday afternoon.


3. Events

People relax when they’re out of the office. Getting your employees together for an activity off-site can be a fun way for them to kick back and enjoy the fruits of their labor. It doesn’t have to be bowling: you can go indoor-climbing, play theatersports, or even learn to make sushi together. If you don’t think employees will stump up the cash to go, why not do something free, like a pot-luck picnic in the park? It doesn’t have to cut into work time, either: arrange to get together one evening after work.


4. Services

Liaise with local businesses to see whether you can swap your services for credit. If you’re an accounting business, can you swap a few hours with a style adviser? For the time it takes you to do her taxes, she gives you a set of one-hour sessions. Your employees would probably never think of “getting their colors done”, but they’ll jump at the chance to have a style consultation for free. Or, if fashion isn’t their thing, why not barter services with a local physiotherapist so you can hand out massage vouchers to staff?


5. Status

There’s nothing more galling to an administrative employee than feeling like a cog in a big machine. Next time you make a supplier visit, take your secretary along. They’ll probably enjoy meeting the people they only know from email headers and the telephone. You’ll benefit, too: once she can put faces to names, you’ll find that communications become warmer and more congenial.


In sum, you don’t have to spend money to show your appreciation for your staff. Recognition, unexpected breaks, get-togethers, unusual services and signs of esteem go a lot further toward applauding your employees than a little extra cash. And they’ll thank you for it, too – not just with words, but with increased motivation and more effective work.

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