Monday, June 25, 2012

Adding New People to a LEARNING Organization

OK. You are now a fast, lean company. People are doing continuous improvement projects all over the place. Working in groups. Learning, then teaching. The role of "boss" has been changed to teacher. You are well on your way to becoming a learning organization. You've been at it for quite awhile now. Now you need to hire someone. 

How do you matriculate new people into this type of culture? What does the process of "hiring" look like? One of my goals for my company was to make it a pretty exclusive club to get into. At its worst, before becoming a learning organization, it was a revolving door of people. Don't get too attached to the new guy in shipping, because, chances are, he would be gone. Particularly when your company is growing REALLY fast, the tendency is to find bodies to throw at demand and overburden. Relatives and friends of employees. People from temporary agencies. People who answered newspaper ads, or just popped in to fill out an application. If they showed up on time for more than one week in a row, they were in. The problem was, back then, we weren't following the 2nd P=Develop your People and Partners. Other than the introductory tour, a trip to HR to find out about benefits, and a morning training with a supervisor, we spent very little time developing them. 

As we got closer to being a LEAN learning organization, that all changed. First, we made the hiring process much harder. We were looking for people with good ATTITUDE first, APTITUDE second. Have they demonstrated they were good team players who played well with others? Based on the fact we completed over 300 A3s in one year, THAT seemed important. Have they demonstrated they were willing to be learners? Continuously? During their probationary period as a condition for full-time employment, we required they read 'Lean Thinking" and "The Toyota Way", and do all of the quizzes closed book. Have they demonstrated a willingness to do multiple things, not just their specialty? People did it. And the revolving door stopped. 

Make darn sure that the new people fully understand the culture they are walking into. Victims and clock watchers need not apply. My company was selected as "One of the Best Companies in Connecticut" to work" four times. That would not have happened without our leadership having a laser-like focus on the 2nd P.  


  1. Bill,
    I enjoyed that post. It really is about quality people, who care about the direction of the company, who have focus, desire and determination. You can teach the job responsibilities, but a person's nature is who they are. And you can't make them inot something they're not.
    Erik Shaffer/Dymax Corp.

  2. Erik,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post and comment. You are too kind!!
    Best regards,