One of the common mantras when hiring people is that you should employ for attitude and train for skills. I strongly agree with this, but do want to explore a little proviso I often give managers who are employing staff.
Attitude is really great and incredibly important, but it must be accompanied by an ability and willingness to actually do the work. The risk (if you did not get this) is you land up with what business writer Patrick Lencioni terms "a lovable slacker". They are a really nice person, but because they don't pull their weight they can end up frustrating the team and holding them back because their uncompleted workload has to be split among those people who are prepared to do what it takes to get results.
Work ethic is one of the hardest things to train. It is a trait children often get from role models as they grow up and/or from what they have had to go through in their upbringing. Kids who have had to do chores to earn their pocket money, do paper runs and get jobs after school often have a far greater appreciation for money and what is required to earn it. They understand you get rewards in proportion to the value you add.
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I have the privilege of speaking to Year 13 students in their last term at school, as they prepare to enter the workforce. Part of the presentation involves previous students who come and speak to the current students. Over the years, the most common comment concerns the shock of working a full day, waking up early, and how tired they get. They also comment on how hard you are expected to work.
A year into the job, their perspective on work and work ethic has matured to the point where they advise the up-and-coming work entrants to apply themselves with diligence, because that is a key element that makes them stand out.
There is so much written about business plans and strategies, vision and values, business missions and team culture. Without the ability to execute what needs to be done, all of this is in vain. As with so much of business, all of these factors intertwine and are interdependent. Some studies report that up to 80 per cent of business strategies never get fully executed because the teams lack the drive and the ability to execute the plan.
What success rate does your team have when it comes to delivering on the commitments made? Can you trust and rely on your team to do what they say they're going to do? Do you have to follow up and check on people? Teams who can stay focused and keep the "main thing the main thing", working through to completion, can have a substantial impact on business profitability.
How do you instil work ethic? Set a standard of excellence. Tell people through effective feedback loops when they are on or off track. Help them learn the skills they need and ensure they have the tools, equipment and systems required. Inspire the team - people want to know they matter, and that what they do makes a positive difference. Challenge people to always bring the best version of themself to work and consistently hold everyone to that higher standard. People rise to meet the standards set.
A small team with a great work ethic will often outperform larger, more well-equipped teams. Make the investment in your people, your culture and your company, and hire for attitude that wants to work hard!
• Mike Clark is director and lead trainer and facilitator at Think Right business training company.