To hire right, ask “why.”

 

Find out what really motivates your peeps.


Read Time: 3 minutes

I've been on a productivity vs. creativity kick lately. This morning I read a Fast Company article about "how to convince your boss to let you work from home on Fridays." The gist of the piece was that you had to convince your boss to trust that you would be just as productive, if not more so, completing you're weekly tasks from the uninterrupted environment of your house as opposed to a bustling office.

This got me to thinking about the "flex schedule" world into which our occupational lives are evolving. I'm all for this, obviously. Many employers are suspicious because they believe that employees will game the system when not under direct management scrutiny. And in some cases this is a valid concern. But I think ultimately the burden of "productivity" and value of work falls on the shoulders of the employer, not the employee. Simply put, many employees had no business being hired in the workplace in which they find themselves. But you can't blame an individual for taking a paycheck. I think that the hiring process is intrinsically built for bad hires. 

The flaw in the hiring process.

As with most other aspects of contemporary business, the hiring process often focuses on checking the boxes of supporting bullet point and misses the most important aspect that makes someone a valuable employee. Hiring systems focus on things like technical skills, areas of expertise, efficiency, work flow habits, interpersonal communications, etc. In short, the WHAT that you do (skillz), and the HOW that you do it (work flow/efficiency).  The important component that is often either glossed over or not considered at all is the WHY a prospective employee does what they do.

Disclaimer: I talk about this "Why" aspect a lot in my work. And I always give credit where credit is due. I TOTALLY ripped this concept off from rockstar consultant Simon Sinek. Mr. Sinek first popularized this strategy as a way to evaluate and develop brands and marketing campaigns. The more I utilize the methodology the more I realize that it applies to so many other areas of doing business.

Here is Mr. Sinek's original TEDx talk that popularized the "start with why" philosophy.

 

WHY should you care?

Many employers may take the position that motivation is really a non-starter, as long as the employee accomplishes their job. True enough. But as Office Space Peter said, some things only suffice to make you work just hard enough to not get fired.

And really, as an employer, you don't want or need employees who have to be "made" to work. This is where the "why" comes in. Understanding what motivates an employee is key and a great predictor of the quality and value of the work they produce. It is also a great predictor of how long an employee's tenure may be.

The right "why" fit is also not the same for every employee for every organization. Some employees are motivated mostly by financial gain. I'm a captialist...nothing wrong with this at all. BUT if you company doesn't have a clear path to financial promotions, bonuses, and scalable salaries, regardless of the talent level of the individual it won't be a great fit. If a potential employee is motivated by creativity, and your organization operates according to strict processes and a set of rules, the fit will not be great.

My Advice to Employers

Your very first question in an interview process should seek to uncover "why" a prospective employee does what he or she does. This is NOT the same as "where do you see yourself in five years," or "what do you hope to accomplish in your career." It is much more psychological. It is much more motivational. There is no one single magic question that will help you determine the "why." In fact, it is more of an amalgamation of questions and reading between the lines. There is no exact science, but it is possible to determine.

Find out "why" your employees do what they do. Then evaluate if this motivation is in alignment with your company goals. You will notice a big difference in the value of your company's product.

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