The Importance of an Applicant’s “Ability to Learn”
Making high-quality hires is always important but seldom more so than during “start-ups” when every hire will likely “define” the position for years to come.
The most successful of these workplaces also put the highest premium on an applicant’s “ability to learn.”
The best way to determine if someone actually can learn pertinent job skills and knowledge is to observe them in action (ex. watch them draw a straight bead using MIG or TIG welding). In addition, these companies instituted rigorous formal programs such as: pre-hire training, pay-for-knowledge programs, pay-for-skill programs, internships and apprenticeship programs (both external and internal). Such programs typically worked in conjunction with local educational institutions (high school, tech schools, other). As often as not, “experts” from our own company taught these classes or, in other ways, closely “supervised” progress of enrollees/applicants (some “applicants” were already employees and aspired to higher-level roles).
Similarly, candidates for management roles were expected to participate in management “assessment centers.” By videotaping and closely scrutinizing candidate behaviors during role-playing simulations and various administrative exercises over the course of three days, we had a marvelous structured opportunity to evaluate bonafide occupational qualifications in action. As these were candidates for high-impact roles, we sought extra assurance that these individuals could lead our company and culture to the place we were trying to take it.
We did not adopt all of these programs and practices on Day One. Rather, we evolved, and these programs survived over time because they yielded consistent and significant results.
Schindler Elevator’s escalator division in Clinton, NC, was one such greenfield start-up. Eventually, it was named “America’s Best Plant” by Industry Week Magazine after achieving a 50% USA market share after only five years of existence. Today, many years later, it boasts numerous examples of shop floor employees – each originally selected for their ability to learn – who have advanced into engineering, supervisory, and management roles.
These practices can apply beyond “start-up” situations. Well-established companies right here in the Twin Cities (such as E.J. Ajax, based in Fridley, working collaboratively with Dunwoody College of Technology) provide excellent and contemporary hiring models using new and improved versions of advanced practices I have only alluded to here. Similarly, a great many MPS Technical customers enjoy utilizing our temp-to-hire option as an integral part of their own “screening” processes for prospective employees.
There is no good substitute for actually observing an applicant-for-hire in action. Go the extra mile to put the right person in the right job at the right time.