Building a better business: Hiring ducks and eagles for the right jobs

This entry was posted by on Wednesday, 5 September, 2012 at

I’ll get to the title metaphor in a while, but first, let me start with a brief story about the hiring practices of a company long gone and a support team that has survived.

Back in the day, when I was a new wet-behind-the-ears Technical Support Engineer, I was hired into a team that exhibited a brilliant hiring practices. A practice, which was so powerful, it caused me to back out of an employment opportunity at the last hour. The money wasn’t better in this new job, the benefits were comparable, the companies on even ground, and the role itself was exactly the same. So what was it that swayed me? It was the team interviews.

When hiring into this new job, I interviewed with no fewer than five team members including the supervising manager. Sure, it was a daunting process, but what I saw as a result of those interviews was a deep commitment to the team by the team. Each one of the support engineers with whom I spoke exemplified the ownership they felt over their own success as a team and the desire to ensure whomever was hired in shared the same attitude. I also saw a team that had been together for over 5 years in the same roles; a time span of remarkable length in the support industry at the time. This was a group devoted to customer service at their core, a team which collectively understood the need to hire in members who shared that same driving desire to help. This is what swayed my decision, and I considered it an honour to join them.

Over the years working on this team I had opportunity to again be involved in the hiring process, this time from the other side where I got to ask the questions. I soon realized the depth of responsibility I had to the team as well as the candidate; after all, it would do none of us any favours to hire in the wrong fit for the role. But what was the *right* fit and how did I do my best to see it? I’d sit down with the candidate after having looked over their resume in preparation. I’d glance over their resume once more, then toss it aside. Admittedly, perhaps a tad cruel to do to a nervous interviewee, but it helped bring my purpose and point to focus as I noted to them: “I am not too interested in what tech skills your resume tells me about. We can teach you tech, we can teach you the products. What I care about more are your soft skills; your abilities to communicate and provide exceptional service to the clients, as those are skills I can’t teach you….”  The interview would commence from there as we chatted about scenarios and I listened intently, not to what they were telling me, but how. Did they have the drive to help? The ability to communicate effectively and with empathy? To be warm, but professional? Those were all the things that made this team so great and what we needed to protect and foster in the team moving forward.

I’m happy to say that through some ups and downs, the team stood strong and remained together through the years, having just come upon 15 years for some of the core members. This isn’t to say there hasn’t been turnover, and in fact I left a few years back to pursue my own goals in the content creation and knowledge management fields. But the core team still stands strong and solid as it ever has been; a testament to the ideals that make their team a truly best in breed group.

It is this kind of focus, this inherent empathy for the customer and driving desire, or even need to help. They are problem solvers at their core with a fundamental capability to understand a client’s plight and work tirelessly to solve their issues along side them. What some may call “going the extra mile”, these tech support engineers see it as doing what’s right, making sure their clients are successful in their endeavors. That is empathy and caring in big business, and that is what we need more of in today’s markets. It is achievable, but it all comes down to hiring the right people for the right jobs, not just a body to fill a seat who happens to have the technical skills to accomplish the tasks. The right people not only have the skills for the tasks, but the capabilities to see beyond the tasks and truly empathize and care about the client’s success and struggles.  Hire to your needs, but also to the candidate’s strengths and abilities. It isn’t easy, but the rewards and your future success depend upon it.

All this dove-tailed nicely this morning into the following link and inspiration for this post that I liberally borrowed  from Luis Suarez’ G+ share. (If you aren’t following him there I urge you to do so, as he is constantly challenging the status quo of business today and *will* be on the forefront driving change whether the focus is on social business specifically or business transformation in more general aspects.)

This video below wholly captures (in just the first minute) the main component we looked at when hiring new people into our technical support crew back in the day, and more concisely explains why that same crew saw the lowest turnover rates for most any technical support group in the industry.  Please, take a moment, or three, and reflect on how these platitudes directly impact business today:

You Can’t Send A Duck To Eagle School:
http://play.simpletruths.com/movie/cant-send-a-duck-to-eagle-school/

Further, when the video is over, I urge you to reflect on how we can continue to drive business in the right directions through empathy and caring to become more authentic, transparent, and effective at achieving our goals.

3 Responses to “Building a better business: Hiring ducks and eagles for the right jobs”

  1. Hi Jason! What an absolutely delightful read! Just brilliant! Having been in tech support myself at the beginning of my career for over 4 years I can truly relate to plenty of the superb ideas you have shared above, and along with your insightful conclusion RE: “drive business in the right directions through empathy and caring to become more authentic, transparent, and effective at achieving our goals” I think there is one other key term that permeates throughout the entire blog post that I have found just spot on! That term would be ownership. Or, better said, taking ownership, in this case of the end-user’s problem(s) and find a solution for it soon enough. I think we would need plenty of that activity, i.e. taking ownership for us to be able to up the game towards becoming more authentic, transparent and effective where empathy will rule the interaction, but it certainly will be coming along in the right direction! I am really glad you have put together this article, because it just highlights the true success towards meaningful tech support: passion, caring, understanding, solving a problem effectively :)

    Excellent stuff! Thanks much for sharing it along!

  2. You’re absolutely right, Luis: taking ownership, or even just *feeling* ownership is a critical piece to any employee’s success. It is a base building block upon which we can grow into a more socially transformed business. Without that sense of ownership, employees merely wallow in the tasks of the job and miss the bigger picture which prevents any shift towards becoming an empathetic, caring business.
    And thanks for the kind words! They mean a lot, especially from someone who’s been there himself! ;)

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