By Ernest J. Paolini

Everyone wants to be able to hire the right people because in business, it all starts with building a great team. For an organizational leader, hiring the right people is critical, and not always easy to accomplish. When we look at today’s employment landscape, and the workforce at large, there will soon be more job openings than candidates to fill them (pandemic economic interruptions notwithstanding). 

It will be a difficult environment for employers to fill positions across the board. When we consider hearing healthcare, things will get even more difficult because of pent up patient demand, employees opting out of jobs or environments deemed risky, and the general dearth of licensed providers.    

Estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) suggest that by 2029 the audiology field will experience job growth of 13 percent, which should result in 15,600 open audiologist positions. 

The reality suggests that there will not be enough candidates to fill those jobs because there will not be enough licensed professionals in the field. There are only 74 four-year AuD programs in the United States (Academy, 2021) and class sizes are generally small. There may well be more audiologists retiring from, than entering, the profession over the next decade. 

When we couple the dearth of provider talent with both the financial cost of bad hires, i.e., the cost of employee churn (e.g., fees paid, human capital involved with the onboarding process, and downtime to train), and the social costs (e.g., damage to staff morale, patients’ perceptions), we can see that the price of failure is quiet. 

Ultimately, to have a successful business, you need to be competitive in identifying, attracting, and hiring top talent. If you do not hire the best people, your competitors surely will. The upside is that when you get it right and hire the best, you will be in a great position to develop the culture you need and then become an “Employer of Choice” in hearing healthcare.  

Hiring for Attitude and Culture

Your organization’s brand is a reflection to competitors, patients, and the community at large of your culture. It is how you are perceived and does not happen accidentally. Culture is defined by the team that you have assembled, for better or for worse. 

Think about your culture. Is it the culture you want? How did you get there? And remember that you can control it. Should you desire a different culture and a better brand, you can create these things by hiring the right people.

When defining “the right people” in the context of hiring, a good place to start is by reviewing the difference between skills and traits. This is a distinction that Mark Murphy, founder and CEO of research and consulting firm Leadership IQ, explains in his “Hiring for Attitude” study and subsequent book, Hiring for Attitude (Murphy, 2016). The underlying premises are relatively easy to teach and develop, while traits are very difficult to teach and develop. 

Murphy’s three-year study on hiring showed that among 20,000 new hires at over 312 organizations, most of the “misses” (bad hires) were not due to issues of technical competence (i.e., lacking skills) but of issues around attitude, attributes, and emotional intelligence (i.e., traits). 

Forty-six percent of all the new hires failed (9,200), and a full 81 percent of those 9,200 people failed due to not having the right traits for the job based upon subsequent interviews with hiring managers. This should not be surprising skills are relatively easy to vet. 

Consider how you vet candidates when hiring an audiologist, audiology assistant, front office manager, and other positions. You probably review academic credentials, ask questions about diagnostics and fitting procedures, perhaps ask them to explain the results on an audiogram. 

These are all good observations and questions. The answers a candidate provides will tell us a great deal about their skills. But these answers tell us virtually nothing about the candidates’ traits and attributes. 

Did you ever hire an audiologist or other positions who did not work out? Did this person have the skills for the job or was it something else that led to the failure? Was it their attitude, work ethic, or emotional intelligence? 

It is important to identify the traits most important to your organization’s culture and then vet for them during the selection process. Remember that the traits of your employees will rarely change, and that the collection of traits across your entire staff is your culture. And your culture is what defines your brand.  

Below is a list I comprised, but you can modify:

  • Respect
  • Work Ethic
  • Coachability
  • Empathy (EQ)
  • Self-Awareness (EQ)
  • Passion
  • Energy
  • Positivity

When I have hired with these traits in mind, I am more confident in the culture that I am building and maintaining.  

Due to cognitive biases, it is not always easy to resist the urge to overvalue skills. Those same biases can also cause us to minimize the importance of traits when we make hiring decisions. 

Perhaps the following have been said to a recruiter when describing the requirements for a position to be filled:  

I want someone who…

  • Can “hit the ground running.” 
  • Will require a shorter “learning curve.” 
  • Has all the required skills, competencies, and then some. 
  • Requires minimal supervision because I do not have time to manage them (one of my personal favorites).

As a recruiter, I hear these things too often. And when I do hear these, it tells me more about the hiring manager and the organization’s culture, than about the candidate they are seeking. 

Think about what can be taught and what can be developed as opposed to whether you want to be bothered by having to teach. If you have a sound grasp of what is teachable, and are willing to teach it, you will stand a much greater chance of hiring the right people and building your best culture. 

While it may seem an arduous task to build skills in an employee, it is almost impossible to build or change traits, attributes, or attitude. Ask yourself, what kind of culture you want. And, is the best way to get there by building the right team? 

Brand, Culture, and Leadership

Your culture becomes your brand. You have a team that exudes the right traits all the time. Now you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What will the community think of your practice? 
  • How will your patients feel when they visit your office? 
  • How will each team member feel about being a part of something like this, and how will you feel about having this kind of brand? 
  • Is it a brand that you will want to leverage through social media, lunch-and-learn events, open houses, and other events that celebrate your team?   

And do not forget that you also have a role as the owner or practice manager. You are required to lead. Be mindful of your interaction with your team and customers because all of your actions and behaviors matter.

These are some of the behaviors that most leaders exhibit on a regular basis:

  • Exude unerring positivity.
  • Express gratitude.
  • Possess a clear vision and work tirelessly to gain alignment to that vision.
  • Listen with compassion and empathy.
  • Communicate with utmost clarity.
  • Build trusting relationships with words and actions.

Intentionally engage in these actions, behaviors, and attitudes every day. Great leadership is not accidental.  

Congratulations! Using the steps recommended in this article, you built the right team. They are highly engaged, and you finally have the business culture you deserved. It is now time to become an “Employer of Choice.” To do this:

  • Identify your “brand champions” or the best of the best and most engaged team members. They are easy to find. Look for team members who: 
    • Enjoy their job, do not merely do it for the money.
    • Look for opportunities to mentor.
    • Demonstrate the behaviors of leaders (see above).
  • Give more responsibility to your brand champions. They may embrace the added responsibility and thrive when things are difficult and challenging.

When you give the brand champions opportunities to mentor and lead, encourage them to evangelize your practice through social media, community groups and professional associations. Added responsibilities and accountability may encourage them to value themselves even more, and they will thrive. Identifying individual strengths within your organization will help you to maintain the culture that you worked so hard to build.  

Creating a great culture, one that emphasizes growth and development, will demonstrate your organization’s value to candidates. Your organization should offer opportunities to learn and grow. You should speak to the policies and procedures that you have in place that encourage growth. 

Be prepared to cite examples and relate real-life stories of employee development. Identify the evangelist within your organization who can speak to your culture of growth and involve that person in the interview process. Do these things and you will be in a great position to attract additional, like-minded employees. 

When interviewing candidates, always consider how you would answer the following question:

Why should I come to work here?

Typically, a candidate will not ask this question directly. Then, formulate an answer based upon everything that you or your interview team express or imply during the hiring process. 

Be mindful, honest, and intentional. Coach your interview team well. You should leave each candidate with no doubt as to why your organization is the best fit for them, and the best place to build their careers. 

This article is a part of the July/August 2021 Audiology Today issue.

References

American Academy of Audiology. (2021) Doctoral Programs. https://www.audiology.org/careers/programs-and-externships/doctoral-programs-in-audiology/audiology-doctoral-programs-by-state/ (accessed June 20. 2021).

Murphy M. (2016) Hiring for Attitude. McGraw Hill: New York.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) Audiologists. www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/audiologists.htm (accessed June 20, 2021).

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