Recruiting for Attitude

What makes a good employee? What makes this person a better bet for efficiency, productivity and excellence over this other, similar person? Is it skill? Is it experience? Is there some predictor that a recruiter can pin down and say “they have what it takes” without a shadow of a doubt?

If there was an easy answer, a lot of those involved in the recruitment process would be out of a job. If there was some kind of single, perfect test that could weed out an excellent candidates from the poor ones, I suspect you would have heard of it already – and likely be using it.

No, the reality is that recruitment remains a sought-after skill because the right candidates are not always immediately obvious to the inexperienced eye. That isn’t to say that there aren’t a few guiding principles that could help you spot that diamond among the glass beads. Attitude, not aptitude, should be the gold standard for anyone looking to find a new entrant to their workforce.

Can they learn the unlearnable?

Let me ask you a question: Would you prefer to have a person who is highly skilled but stuck in the mud, or a willing worker who might need training? Skills can be taught, but outlook is something that goes right down to the bone – or at least, deep enough down that the average employer can’t expect to be able to change it overnight. The way a person perceives the world, positive or negative, can be as fundamental a part of their make-up as an arm or a leg, and you wouldn’t expect to need to remove a limb in order for a person to fit in at your company, regardless of how much experience they have.

Positive emotions drive business success. A happy workforce is a productive one, high morale feeds directly into greater enthusiasm from your employees. Plus, away from the strictly business side, it simply makes your enterprise a more enjoyable place to work. Surrounding yourself with people who are ready and eager to learn makes success that much easier to achieve. Even if they need to be taught, they at least have the personal resources to be able to do so efficiently.

The power of positive

Speaking of personal resources, I’d like to point out that this kind of “positive thinking” isn’t just some kind of ambiguous business-speak that just shows up in slideshows and conferences. Positive psychology has proven effects on the ability of people to do better in the workplace.

Take one study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, aptly titled ‘Open Hearts Build Lives’. This study investigated how an increase in the daily experiences of positive emotions through a specific kind of meditation subsequently increased a person’s personal resources: Willpower, social support, purpose in life and even decreased illness symptoms.

You can see how an increase in these kinds of factors would improve a person’s ability to function in a workplace. Now stretch that out to an entire workforce, and suddenly those feel-good vibrations start taking on a far more tangible form. The above study showed how these kinds of feelings can be induced through a meditative trance; but if you can find a person to whom such emotions come naturally, then surely that is the better option.

Beyond happiness

However, the right attitude towards work isn’t just about being a happy person. They have to have the willingness to learn as well – and that factor has never been more important than it has been in the modern world, as we continue to roar along at an ever-increasing pace. To stay stagnant in your workforce is to stay stuck in your business; and that is a death knell for any enterprise, large or small.

Where can you find such attitudes for learning? Many of you will not be surprised to hear that it is the younger generation where this kind of attitude is concentrated. You might think that, with so many coming out of university, that young people might be a little sick of learning.

However, that is not the case, according to one survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers. It revealed that millennials considered the opportunity for personal development to be the number one reason for their decision to accept a particular role. That, of course, isn’t to say that you can’t find adaptable and reliable people among older generations as well, but it appears that is a major factor in the personality of the new wave of workers.

Ultimately, what does the right worker have? They have a spark, the initiative, and a willingness to learn, though not necessarily a huge amount of skill; you might even find it easier if they don’t! The right attitude is integral to success in the modern workplace. Have you found it yet?

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