Today, we have Trisha Ridenour from The Employers Association. By the end of our conversation, you’ll have the tools you need to find people who are just as passionate about your business as you are.
Andrew: Hi, everybody. This is Andrew Bowen, your host of CBR’s B2U podcast, bringing business resources directly to you. As always, this podcast is presented by cbrbiz.com. Also, if you haven’t yet, please be sure to subscribe. It’s available on Android and iTunes.
An American business consultant once said, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” That was Jim Collins. And that’s what today’s show is all about. If you’re a business owner, you know that your business is only as strong as the people behind it. This is why hiring the right people is so important and also why it can be so stressful.
Today, we have Trisha Ridenour from The Employers Association. She is here to help us walk through the process of finding, hiring, and onboarding employees. By the end of our conversation, you’ll have the tools you need to find people who are just as passionate about your business as you are. So, Trisha, thank you for being here with us today.
Trisha: Thank you.
Andrew: Awesome, so you’re from The Employers Association. But before we get really deep into the content, can you tell us just a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today.
Trisha: How I got to where I am today! I am an HR advisor with The Employers Association. We are a member-based organization for companies throughout the Carolinas. We offer consulting services and support to organizations in the area who need help with HR guidance, employment law. We also offer training–leadership and management training, computer training, and, again, the HR support activities.
Andrew: That’s great. So do you work with every size business, or just small, or just large?
Trisha: We do work with many sizes of organizations. We have over 900 member organizations throughout both Carolinas. Probably, 90% of them are what we would call a small- to medium-sized company. Their typical footprint looks like about 50 to 100 employees. And they may not have an HR department, or they have very few in an HR department. But we do also have a number of large organizations with several thousand employees. I won’t name names. But you can probably think of a few that may be on our roster.
Andrew: Trisha, thank you again for coming on the show. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and how you landed at The Employers Association so that all these great answers you’re going to give in this interview about interviews are meaningful to business owners in Charlotte.
Trisha: Sure, I’d be happy to. I guess I’ll start back at the beginning. I do have a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources. And I started out my career in staffing many years ago. I think staffing is a great way to really begin to understand the process of recruiting and hiring. And I was actually working in an organization that was placing a lot of individuals in industrial manufacturing type of roles. And that can sometimes just be a much more challenging path to recruit.
I spent a number of years in a consumer finance company as their employment specialist and HR representative. That’s where I began getting a lot of training in recruiting and in interviewing as well as beginning to take on a lot of activities around creative ways to find individuals through open houses, job fairs, doing panel interviews, and structured interviews. I’ve also spent time in a manufacturing environment, warehousing and distribution, aerospace. I have a pretty eclectic background and have been responsible for recruiting and onboarding in most of those organizations.
I’ve been with The Employers Association for about a year now as an HR advisor. My role is really a consultant to our member companies. The most visible part of my role is for our companies to call the advice line that we have available. And they can ask any questions, whether it’s about recruiting and onboarding and employment law–FMLA, workers comp, OSHA–or employee relations. “The employee kind of smells funny, and we need to talk with them about that.” So I answer those types of questions in addition to other activities related to supporting our member organizations.
Andrew: You didn’t bring up the “smells funny” part because of me. Did you?
Trisha: No. And I was thinking, “Should I take that out?”
Andrew: No, we don’t usually have fun on the show. I’m just kidding.
Are you a Charlotte native like me, Trisha? Are you a unicorn?
Trisha: I am not. I have been in the Charlotte area for about 18 years. So I think that makes me close to one. That’s a pretty long time. I was born and raised in the Midwest. I went to school in Arkansas. And then after going back to the Midwest for several years, I came out here about 18 years ago.
Andrew: Well, that’s perfect. Like most people in businesses here, you didn’t start here, which is totally okay. We’re happy to have you.
Trisha: That’s right, that’s right.
Andrew: Okay, great. So in dealing with all the small businesses throughout your organizations, what are some of the challenges you see business owners facing when they’re finding, hiring, and, I guess, potentially firing employees?
Trisha: Oh, you bring [firing] in. I do think that finding the right kind of employee–somebody who’s qualified, who has the right skill set–is a challenge, especially for a smaller organization. Finding employees who are committed, who are willing to come in and to do the work…oftentimes with a small organization, you need people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and with a very specific type of skill set; that can sometimes be a challenge for an organization.
Andrew: So in finding employees, businesses have to go somewhere, right? It isn’t usually people banging down the door saying, “I want to work for your two-person company.” What are the main strategies, I guess, or how do people find employees?
Trisha: For any size organization, I always recommend that networking is going to be key. And how you do that can look a number of different ways. With a small organization, definitely reaching out to industry groups and your network through the business that you do; other people who are competitors or who you have used as a mentor might have individuals that they know about who also have that same kind of skill set. There are some social media platforms that have ways for people to connect–again, won’t name any. But there can be some useful resources there. For example, with human resources, if I were looking for somebody, there is an organization nationwide called Society for Human Resource Management. And I would reach out to that organization to begin a network process.
Andrew: That’s great. So it sounds like there’s a formal process kind of when you’re working through those larger networks and building out a job description, versus an informal process where you’re talking to folks in the community who are doing similar work…your vendors or your suppliers. So when it comes to writing a job description for the formal piece, can you talk about how this job description works into the actual hiring process and its relevance, and how it helps the business owner as they’re really trying to put on paper what it is they’re looking for?
Trisha: A well-written job description is going to be key for any organization. And a lot of times, small companies won’t necessarily have those for their organization, for their individual roles. But there are a number of employment laws and compliance that would be supported and defended should you have any issues after you’ve employed somebody. But when it comes to recruiting, the job description is going to communicate what the key essential functions of the job are so that, as you are creating a job posting or speaking to people in your network as you’re making referrals, you can provide that information. It’s also going to communicate the kind of experience, education, skill set that you’re looking for. And, again, once you’ve hired this person, if it’s well-written, it’s going to be a defense against accusations and issues that may come up. And it’s also going to help out with making accommodation requests and so forth.
Andrew: Okay. So once job descriptions get out into formal networks or informal, you find a couple of people you’re interested in bringing on to your company; that’s usually a good problem, I imagine, if you say, “I have one position, and I have three people who seem well-qualified, and I want to figure out which one is the best.” Can you talk a little bit about the interviewing process for someone who may either not have done it before or clearly may not have a human resources department to help guide them through that?
Trisha: Sort of the step-by-step process for recruiting oftentimes is going to be sourcing resumes and applications, however you do that, if you post a job to a job board, if you get a referral from other employees, or use your network. Once you’ve received applications and resumes–reviewing that for, again, those essential functions, for the kind of experience and education you’re looking for–I recommend doing a phone screen where you spend a short amount of time with the candidate just to make sure you’re on the same page, money-wise.
What kind of role is this? Are there interesting hours? Is this job working outside in the cold, in the rain? Make sure that there are no red flags for either side. And then bringing in that candidate for an interview, making a contingent job offer, doing their pre-employment testing that you may have, checking references, and then eventually negotiating the final offer and bringing the person on board. That’s the overall picture of what it should look like.
Andrew: That sounds like a lot of work. And some of the small businesses, I think…well, and a lot of the topics that we have discussed over the podcast series have really revolved around how do I do all of these different things with my very, very limited amount of time? I know there are no guidelines necessarily on how long it should take to hire someone in terms of the number of hours–work hours–it would take or calendar time from start to beginning. Do you have any sense of how long it sometimes takes or how much work it can actually take if it’s just a one-person job?
Trisha: It can vary. It really is going to depend a lot on just the things you’ve pointed out: the kind of role that it is, the kind of industry, the people who are involved in the process. How much time do they have to give to that? If you have someone who is able to move pretty quickly through the process, reviewing and sourcing resumes can take some time depending on exactly what kind of skill you’re looking for.
Setting up the phone screen, spending that 15 to 20 minutes to 30 minutes having that conversation–those are going to be the keys to get you to the process of bringing someone in for the interview. You know, if you’re focused on it, and if you have a candidate who is willing, you can probably turn something around in as little as a week. If not, if you have holidays, if you have other things that are taking up your time, if the candidate is traveling or unavailable, it could take several weeks. And, again, depending on the kind of role, there might be others who are involved in the interview process.
Andrew: Because it’s such a complex process, outside of legality, what’s one of the biggest mistakes you see people making in the hiring process?
Andrew: Asking those tough questions!
Trisha: Yes. Outside of legality, there are a number of things to keep in mind. I do know that going with a gut feel is something that I hear a lot when I am doing training with HR managers and others who are involved in the hiring process. And while I do think that there is definitely value in “Did we click? Does this person seem like they were sincere? Do they feel like they really do want to work in this organization?” There is absolutely value in that.
But hanging too much on that gut feeling and not really doing a good interview that is going to provide you with good information… Too many times, interviewers do the majority of the talking during an interview, and they come away spending 45 minutes where they spoke for 40 minutes of that, and the candidate only answered a few questions. And what they have shared is the challenges, the difficulties, the company culture, what the expectations are, and they haven’t really found out anything about this candidate.
Andrew: It sounds like hiring people is one of the things a business owner wants to do the most, right? Because if you’re hiring people, it means you’re growing. But at what point does a business owner know that they need to hire somebody because they just can’t do everything anymore? I know that’s a tough question, because every business is a little bit different. But do you have some highlights or triggers maybe?
Trisha: I do think that if you, as a business owner, can step back and really look at your workforce, whether that’s two people or five people or somewhere in between, and really evaluate how well those individuals are working, what they’re saying directly, and what they’re not saying about their workload… What is their performance like? Are they meeting the deadlines and the goals? Or does it feel like that they’re always chasing after the next fire? Those could be indicators that it’s time to add additional support. Also, if you have people who are feeling overwhelmed and who are not able to meet all of the requirements that you have for the role, that could be an indicator that maybe it’s not that they lack the skill or the ability. They just have too many things going on.
Andrew: That’s great. So we’ve gotten through the process of hiring somebody, looking for somebody. What about once they’re hired? How about bringing them on to the team or getting them up to speed, which I think the word is onboarding, which sounds pretty important? So can you say a little bit about what exactly it is and how it’s beneficial to business owners?
Trisha: Onboarding is the process of bringing the new person that you’ve hired on to your payroll system, adding them into your benefits, and introducing them to the company. I think that that is also a key that business owners need to keep in mind. This is going to be the first impression that this new employee has as an employee. And so that first day, that first week, having a plan of not only gathering the required documents to add them to your payroll, but also telling them about your corporate culture, telling them what the organizational structure looks like, where are the bathrooms, where’s the kitchen, what are some key dates or some information that might be useful, acronyms that the company uses, that you spend weeks trying to figure out, making sure that the employee feels like they are now becoming part of this organization. Sometimes in our harried attempts to get them on the payroll and their first project in front of them, we forget about some of those other things that the employee just needs to know.
Andrew: Yeah. So there’s the important paperwork part of tax forms and HR and getting everybody set up in benefits. And then there’s the cultural part and the actual work day, day-to-day kind of things that are really important.
I was actually onboarded here at the City with a buddy. I had a buddy system. So I thought that was very beneficial. Luckily, I didn’t have to go around and introduce myself to everyone. He was able to come around and say, “This is this person. This is their job.” You know, I forgot all the names, but it was really helpful. And I know that not every organization has something like that where you have someone you can go to when you have those really strange questions, so you don’t feel like you’re going to the boss every time and saying, “I don’t know what TEA stands for.” You know? “It’s ‘ The Employer Association, right?” something like that.
Trisha: Absolutely, I actually joined an organization once where there was not a seat. There was not a phone. There was not a computer. And while I had accepted the offer weeks before, I went home that first day and actually said, “Did they know I was coming?” So, absolutely, having a buddy, having somebody, you know, introduce a little bit about the company, give a tour, “Here’s some information,” so you can ask a question, that’s going to be key to a great relationship.
Andrew: Yup, first impression, essentially.
Trisha: There we go.
Andrew: So through The Employers Association, is there any assistance you offer through this entire process, whether it’s the job description, the hiring process, or the onboarding process to small businesses or just members?
Trisha: We do. Our member organizations have access to a number of services. Companies who are not part of the Association can come to training courses that we do offer on interviewing, on onboarding, what some of the employment law is related to some of these activities. Those that are members have access to our online resources. Everything from building job descriptions, interviews, necessary onboarding forms, and those kinds of samples are available online, as well as it’s part of my job to take these phone calls from member organizations and provide them with the information they’re looking for.
We also have assessment tools. We partner with other organizations and give, I guess, discounted rates to our member organizations for things such as drug screening services, background checking, criminal checks, and so forth. So we do have a number of services available.
Andrew: Awesome, so we’re near the end of our scripted questions and discussion points. But I have a gut feeling that there’s more, right? Going back to the gut feeling–very meta of me, I know–that you say is not as good to rely on in the hiring…or interviewing process. Can you talk about what’s the strategy to get away from this whole gut feeling as how I’m going to hire somebody?
Trisha: I’m a big fan of the behavioral interview process. This has been around for a number of years, and many organizations utilize these types of interview processes. The behavioral interview is an interview where you ask the candidate open-ended questions that are designed to elicit answers about how that candidate has actually used the skill on the experience that you’re looking for. This is going to offer you, the interviewer, a better picture of how this person has responded in the past. There’s an adage that says that past behavior is a great indicator of future performance. And if you’ve ever had children or if you have pets, you know that they usually react a certain way if you ring the bell or if you show them the snack, depending on who you’re speaking to. It’s very much a human nature type thing. How has this person actually reacted in the past, in a particular situation?
Andrew: So these are the kind of questions where they start with “Tell us about a time when…” and then fill in the blank?
Trisha: Exactly. So instead of asking someone if they have ever been part of a project team, you might ask them, “Tell me about a time when you led a project team.” And during that conversation, you might prompt them further: “What where your responsibilities for the project? What actions did you actually take on the work? What was the result?” And, again, once you get the candidate to give you specifics about when they actually led a project, you can have much better information than if they are telling you, “But, generally, this is how I act, and this is what I would do.”
I always say stay out of the “woulds,” the W-O-U-L-D-S. If you’re hearing words like would, generally, usually, you’re getting a general answer, and you’re not really hearing how they actually have acted in the past.
Andrew: Yeah. And I think a lot of it too comes back to how they feel about…when you ask them those kinds of questions, they can really talk about their own performance and how they have felt and can kind of open the door to asking the questions about strengths and weaknesses. Because it’s on a specific topic, not general strengths, general weaknesses, but on this one process, “How did you feel about what was going on?”
Trisha: Sure. When you’re speaking to the candidate about their past experience, they do get very excited often to tell you where they have succeeded, where they had a win. And oftentimes, the questions do relate to “When did you do this well? When did that project go well?” I always recommend that you ask them questions about those same activities when the result wasn’t a good result, when things didn’t go well, when the customer really was not happy, and, you know, what that outcome was like and what that employee did, moving forward. Again, this is showing how they’ve actually handled these situations in the past rather than just a general idea of what they would do if they had this hypothetical situation in the future.
Andrew: Probably say they would do.
Andrew: Yes. In the interviewing process, would one bad answer to a question, do you think, eliminate someone from being a good candidate?
Trisha: I don’t think so. Especially with a behavioral interview, hopefully you are asking questions that relate to the job for which you’re hiring. And you want to find out from the candidate when they have experienced this kind of situation, when they’ve displayed this particular trait or characteristic. And you certainly want to see when it doesn’t always go well, because if you’ve worked for any length of time, not every situation is always going to be a win. And so seeing how or understanding how that candidate handled the disappointment or the loss of the account or the upset customer, what their reaction was, what their steps were when that did occur, is going to give you a lot of insight as to how they’re going handle that when they’re working for you.
Andrew: Makes sense. So it is not a right or wrong answer, but it’s really getting you the sense of this person’s personality?
Andrew: Great. Well, unfortunately, our time is up with Trisha Ridenour from The Employers Association. Trisha, thank you again.
Trisha: Thank you.
Andrew: All right. You have given our viewers some very valuable information about the hiring process from beginning to end. Listeners, if you have any questions for Trisha after this episode, tweet them to us @CBRbiz or Google “The Employers Association.”
Trisha: https://www.employersassoc.com/, yeah.
Andrew: All right, thank you, everybody, for being with us. This is Andrew Bowen, your host of CBR’s B2U Podcast, bringing business resources directly to you. As always, we mean business.