Recently a friend was venting to me about his coworker, who had spent the better part of the day complaining about missing her morning Zumba class for a company-wide meeting. By the way, this Zumba class is held – wait for it… in the company’s free, on-site gym.
Now, let’s play a little game.
It’s against all kinds of HR policies to ask this, but we’ll keep it between us. How old is the person you were just picturing as I described her behavior?
If the Zumba class didn’t tip you off, I’m not talking about one of those entitled Millennials we’re always hearing about. My friend’s coworker is in her mid-50s and makes almost six figures.
And it gets better. He shared a photo of her sitting at her desk at 4:59, with her bag in her lap and her computer screen blank. You couldn’t tell from the photo, but he confirmed that her mouse was indeed hovering over the shut down button. Apparently this is how she spends the last few minutes of every work day.
I was appalled, amused and intrigued all at once. Of course you’re not going to have meaningful work to do for exactly 8 hours – or whatever the length of your work day is – every single day. But what really gets me is how blatant she is about her lack of productivity and her seeming unwillingness to work a moment longer than is required of her, even if it means working less time than expected.
This kind of attitude may be more evident in the workplace now that hiring has picked back up in many industries and companies are offering increasingly attractive perks to remain competitive and bolster employee satisfaction – and hopefully productivity too. It’s possible that employees may be starting to take these extras – and even their own job security – for granted.
When a long-tenured employee starts displaying these tendencies, it’s a tricky situation. But what really matters for recruiters and hiring managers is how to avoid bringing on a new employee (of any age) with nonexistent work ethic or a can’t-do attitude.
This is one big reason that referrals are so valuable – if you can get them. Any time you have a talented, hard-working employee willing to vouch for an unknown candidate, there’s a much greater chance of them being a quality hire, not to mention a cultural fit. Instead of trying to figure out whether you trust the candidate, you can evaluate how much you trust the referring employee. Which should be much easier, assuming you’ve met them more than once.
Of course, referrals are also hard to come by, so what’s the next best thing? References. Don’t be afraid to ask them direct questions about the candidate’s performance, including their initiative, motivation and work ethic.
And speaking of direct questions, send some the candidate’s way too. Consider asking about how they view work – meaning, is it something they do to pay the bills, something that gives them a deep sense of purpose and accomplishment, or somewhere in between. The way they answer this question will be very telling. Even if they don’t come out and say “I’m just here for the paycheck” it’s very hard to fake passion.
Throughout the process, keep soft skills like work ethic top of mind. It’s easy to get hyper-focused on technical know-how and experience with XYZ software, and in the interview you may be drawn to the person who’s most at ease and outgoing. But what about screening for someone who is going to work hard to make the company better?
Here are some telltale signs: They did their homework. They came to the interview knowing what your company does and maybe even did some research on the people they’d be meeting. If they prepped well for the interview, they’ll likely approach their job the same way.
Another sign? Instead of focusing on what you can do for them, they share their excitement about being part of the company and ideas for how they can contribute. They can easily respond when asked, “Give me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond to help a co-worker or customer.” This question not only gives you insight, it clues them in to what is expected.
Of course you need someone who can do the job, ideally with minimal coaching or teaching. But things like commitment, initiative and energy can’t be taught, and they play just as big a role in the success of a hire – and a company.
Finally, don’t be too quick to judge a Millennial (or a Boomer) by its cover. The Millennial may be burning the midnight oil long after the Boomer hits “shut down” at 4:59.
Nexxt is a recruitment media company that uses today’s most effective marketing tactics to reach the full spectrum of talent – from active to passive, and everything in between. Learn more about hiring with Nexxt.