Strengthening your company with a diversified work force: Hiring your "Slash"
Back in the 90’s the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted a young man by the name of Kordell Stewart. Coming out of college, Kordell was a quarterback by trade but had the talent to fill multiple positions at the NFL level. During one season in Pittsburgh, Stewart found himself playing quarterback, wide receiver and running back, as it was this diverse skill set of Stewart’s that would allow him to earn the nickname “Slash.” When there was an opportunity to make plays at other positions, Stewart could get the job done and did so with success.
When I listen to some of the issues being faced by business owners in various industries, the problem of labor shortage has become an all-too-common theme. From retail and fast food to manufacturing, business owners are looking for viable solutions to fill their production gaps to meet the demands of their respective markets. Whether in times of tight labor markets or an industry that is simply known for high turnover, having the ability to employ individuals who have the talent to not only occupy various positions but can accelerate and deliver amazing results is a successful pathway to continuity in times of struggle.
Specialization-The other side
I greatly understand the approach toward specialization, especially when it comes to manufacturing or other like-minded industries. Hire someone with minimal skills for lower pay, train them to be an expert in one area of the company and repeat the process. This procedure helps to keep wages low while allowing the individual to become a master of a specific operation. But is this approach truly the most effective and efficient way to guide your business to the ultimate level of success? When these specialized individuals decide to leave your company, taking with them an exclusive skill set perhaps, and knowledge, what are the true ramifications for production and the fiscal bottom line of the company?
I would prefer to have a team of cross trained all-stars, earning more, who can professionally navigate with extreme efficiency (and confidence) in times of market downturns, labor shortages, and/or the unfortunate circumstance of a revolving door of personnel within the company. A greater investment is required for training along with the wage needed to attract and retain these talented individuals. But placing your business in a position to insulate against turnover, absenteeism and brain-drain while being able to maintain a high level of execution is a much greater reward. I also believe when properly applied and not abused, effective cross-training reduces employee burnout and the complacency that usually accompanies the monotony of a daily routine.
Making the right hire
This approach also requires that the right people are hired to fit the company culture. Making the right investment into the wrong individual can lead to extreme complications and failure down the road. This is where having the culture of the company clearly articulated helps tremendously when making personnel decisions.
At ALA Enterprises, our commitment to communication is strong and we hang our hat on execution, period. No matter the hour of day, when there is something that needs to be done to push us toward success, we don’t subscribe to boundaries. Inviting someone into our company that does not share these characteristics would not be beneficial for our long-term goals. It is valuable to understand the vision that an individual holds as it relates to working for your company. Are they interviewing because they see a fit and potential career opportunity? Or is this merely a pit stop along a road of many that could end within a week? Having a clear understanding of goals and how they align for all parties reduces the risk for destructive disappointment.
Slash: The benefits
The “Jack of many trades” approach is one that I greatly appreciate in standard working environments. When one area of your company is short staffed, proper cross-training allows for the deployment of assistance without sacrificing quality, knowledge and execution. This action also allows for a company to move personnel into other areas when their home department could be low on work. I find this option much more appealing as opposed to sending workers home minus pay or considering layoffs as a first option, cross-training talent allows for individuals to continue to be high contributors to the bottom line of the company in times of uncertainty.
We are all in a better position when we are defined as an asset instead of being categorized as a liability. I acknowledge that there will be some positions in certain industries or industries in general where such an approach is not feasible, as specialization could bring along with it many hours of training and certifications that are not easily obtained. But in environments where personnel can be deployed interchangeably without a high cost and an arduous commitment of time, I would prefer a highly diversified workforce with the capabilities to execute in various skill positions of the business, while being tremendously successful in the process when the opportunities arise.
Lamont Anderson is a business consultant and President of ALA Enterprises. He is an entrepreneurial dreamer with accredited educational success with a master's and bachelor's in business with over 10 years of quality experience in the world of aviation. If you are need business growth strategy, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org