Hire People Who Can Learn
According to the NY Times, when Siemens Energy opened a gas turbine production plant in North Carolina, some 10,000 people showed up. But fewer than 15 percent of the applicants were able to pass a reading, writing and math screening test geared toward a ninth-grade education. At John Deere dealerships, fixing tractors and grain harvesters now requires advanced math and comprehension skills and the ability to solve problems on the fly. “The toolbox is now a computer,” said the director of the company’s agricultural program. These examples highlight the challenges inherent in hiring capable people in today’s labor market.
We all want to hire people who can “hit the ground running,” so we can boost productivity and profit margins. Unfortunately, many job applicants cannot do the job on Day One. They may be energetic, reliable, and cooperative, but they lack certain key skills or behaviors that are necessary for fully successful work performance. You cannot completely bypass these applicants or you will not be able to hire enough people to get your products ready for delivery.
So, what can you do? Hire people who can learn fast. Learning requires, among other things, the ability to learn and the desire to learn. The ability to learn includes one’s aptitude and one’s natural capacity or equipment. The desire to learn involves one’s curiosity, passion for understanding, and motivation to acquire knowledge. People who learn fast are a supervisor’s dream. They stand-out in the training room, respond well to feedback, and look for ways to improve operations and processes.
Unfortunately, ability and desire to learn are not qualities that easily can be determined from a job interview or a work history, although these are good starting points. Sometimes, a careful reading of an applicant’s resume will reveal a progressive level of responsibility in job assignments or a pattern of success in different departments that require dissimilar skill sets. This is evidence of the ability and desire to learn. During the interview, there may be clues to an applicant’s desire to learn based on answers to direct questions about what one is doing to improve his/her work performance.
There is a more efficient way to determine applicants’ learning capabilities. Psychometric testing, as provided by PSP Metrics, enables hiring managers to gauge applicants’ ability to learn as well as desire to learn. PSP’s tests measure whether applicants have the basic reading, problem solving skills and motivation to undertake the training required to learn necessary job skills. Testing informs managers which applicants can start learning on Day One.