But will you do windows?
May 27, 2010 3:26 PM Subscribe
We find it exceptionally hard to find and hire people who are not only good at management, strategy and planning, but who are also exceptional at the hands-on tasks that are in their field of expertise. Most people we speak with, or even hire, tend to only be good at one or the other, or are only willing to do one or the other. How do we figure out if someone that we want to hire will truly be decent at both?
posted by I EAT TAPAS to work & money (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
A bit of context: I work for a mid-sized but still fairly small business that engages in a lot of philosophically similar but tactically different activities. We're the kind of organization you hear about where it's not quite a startup, certainly not a big company, but an established firm with limited staffing where "everyone wears a lot of hats."
The problem is that we often have positions that are appropriate for just one or maybe two people, but where there's both high-level management activity (forecasting, budgeting, evaluations, responsibilty for major decisions) and a range of basic tasks, where they'd have to perform hands-on work with high attention to detail. In essence, we sort of need people who can be their own micro-manager.
When hiring, we've found that a lot of people who have been in high-level management positions for a long time tend to exhibit one of two qualities:
1) They resent doing the kind of basic work that they've delegated to other staff in the past
2) They're actually not good at doing that basic work -- they're only skilled at high-level tasks, not the activities that they've been previously asked to manage.
(Michael Moore did a bit about this on one of his TV shows years ago. He asked the head of Ford to change his oil, and the president of IBM to format a floppy, to point out that management was often out of touch with the necessary day to day tasks involving the products they sell.)
It works the same way going the other direction. People who may be qualified to do the hands-on lower-level work may have trouble grasping the responsibilities and tasks of middle or upper management. Extremely qualified people at the hands-on tasks may be deliberately avoiding taking on management tasks.
Making matters worse, we've made the nature of these positions clear during interviews, and people have indicated with much enthusiasm that they can bridge the gap between higher-level duties and hands-on work -- only, when they actually start working, don't actually display that kind of acuity, falling back mostly on one or the other.
Now, we have hired people who can do both high-level and hands-on work -- lots of people, actually -- so I know they exist. I mean, I hope I'm one of them. But we don't know how to determine whether someone new is that kind of person quickly or reliably.
Assuming that the company I'm working with is offering fair pay and benefits, and that this is an issue that goes beyond any one area of expertise (each of the departments of the company are like this, from HR, to accounting, to business divisions), how do you attract and then actually test for the ability to both manage and do detail-oriented hands-on work? Actual examples from hiring managers in a similar situation appreciated.