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8 Keys To Decrease Staffing Costs & Mistakes

Cut costs and increase staff performance. Get more done through fewer people. These are the pressures we all face. But where to start and how to succeed?

Interview, hire, orient and train more effectively. Manage new and current staff more easily, with better results. Help troubling staff decide to find employment elsewhere. Impossible tasks? No! Deliverable? ABSOLUTELY!

The above are keys to having efficient and effective staff. Let me show you eight (8) things our clients do to reduce staffing costs and mistakes without having painful staff layoffs or firing. Then, I will share with you one tool that guided each of them to their successful solution.

Key #1 – Interview only people who will perform the job well.

Many organizations advertise the position in a general way (via job title or general roles required of the job) and then have current staff spend exhaustive hours screening interview candidates. The first candidate cut is usually easy, but it usually gets very difficult to get to the final cut of the few people to actually interview. The more potential job candidates, the more difficult the task. Our tool helps you get to that final cut more quickly and have better candidates to interview.

A large multinational corporation invited The Abelson Group in to do an organizational assessment. They had just gone through a significant expansion and it was creating internal issues. As part of the solution they asked us to help them identify and hire a new Vice President for Sales & Marketing to replace the current Vice President who was retiring after many years of admirable service. We took them through our process and identified six key core competencies necessary to successfully do that job. Knowing these six key competencies helped the company save incredible amounts of time and energy by focusing on who in the external labor market best met their needs. They only approached or entertained learning more about executives who were known to have most, if not all, of the six core competencies. The person they hired was extremely effective in our client’s very competitive and changing market. (If you would like us to assist you implement this solution in your organization click here.)

Key #2 – Ask the right questions during the interview to identify the candidate’s true skills.

With resume, job application, and references in hand, you come face-to-face with the candidate. You then ask questions that seem logical to ask. After the job interview others ask you questions about the candidate that are logical to them, but which you didn’t ask. Ops! You then use logic to try to answer their question or admit, “I don’t know. I didn’t ask.” Our one tool helps you ask the right questions that identify whether the candidate can do the job effectively.

This client example had a huge sales force and was having a turnover problem. They came to us to try to decrease turnover and increase sales staff performance. We showed them how to use our tool to do a number of things. One was to hire the right people. We created a model that, when followed, was able to predict low performers with a very high level of accuracy and top performers with over 80% accuracy. As part of the hiring process we built a four-page instruction manual to use during their selection process. One of the four pages was a full page of the right questions to ask the job candidate which increased the accuracy of our already very accurate objective internet based assessment tools. The process we developed for them continues to work marvelously even through two evaluations, each three years apart. Our hiring success rate continues to be phenomenal and they continue to be a very active client as they expand their business. (If you would like us to assist you implement this solution in your organization click here.)

Key #3 - Hire people with the skills and talents that best match job needs.

The actual hiring process is probably the most difficult, but most important function or any organization. Ask any coach the key to their success and they will say recruiting and getting the right athletes and the right assistant coaches.

You painstakingly develop your recruiting materials, you put together your job announcement that includes the primary responsibilities from the job description, and you hand pick job candidates. Interviewing went well and you hire the best candidate. Six months later you realized you hired the wrong person. Why? Most likely, because you hired someone who was just like the last person who successfully did the job. The requirements to succeed at the job, however, had changed since then. You were so focused on getting the right person for the job that you did not take time to fully understand the “new” job and how it had changed. You hired the right person, but for the wrong job.

One of our clients was on a school board of a large school district. They needed to hire a new Superintendent of schools. The Board knew they were about to face a number of budgetary issues, so hiring the right person was crucial. I had several conversations with Board members and they decided to use our services. We guided them in first better understanding the competencies required of the changing Superintendent’s position. We then assisted them to identify three candidates that seemed to effectively match the required competencies. Each of these candidates took about 30 minutes to answer questions over the Internet that generated one of our objective reports. We then guided the Board to use the report to ask the right questions to identify and hire the candidate that best matched the characteristics needed to succeed at “new” job. The last time I checked, the Superintendent was doing a marvelously. (If you would like us to assist you implement this solution in your organization click here.)


Key #4 – Orient or train the new hire on the best way to do the real tasks the job requires.

Most organizations do a terrible job of orienting new staff. Some consider orientation assending the new staff to the personnel department and having them complete the appropriate forms. Later that day they are “performing” the job. Other organizations give new staff a tour of the workplace, introduce them to a few fellow staff, and off they go to do their job. Still others have the new hire work with someone else who has done the job for a while. They can’t keep using the most experienced staff to mentor the new person, because the mentor needs to do their job, not babysit new staff people. Or, the orientation lasts a few weeks and off the new hire goes, making mistakes because they weren’t trained for those infrequent situations or not trained properly at all. After all, the great performer isn’t a trainer; they are a great performer.

This particular client example is a large construction company who continued to do well throughout the recession starting in 2008. One of the positions we assist them in hiring is the project manager (PM). Most organizations can’t afford a long orientation or training program for a PM. They need to be able to hit the ground running from day one. Construction is typically a low margin business, especially in hard times, and the PM can’t afford to make costly mistakes. Furthermore, the organization rarely has the resources to have a “PM in training” program. At least our client did not want to spend resources for that. We identified competencies the new staff needed to have. We then developed a PM hiring model after doing some additional internal research that demonstrated there were two different distinct models of characteristics the PM needed to have to be successful on the job. Their selection process hired only people with these needed competencies and characteristics. Having two models that worked allowed our client more freedom in hiring and allowed them to assign the PM who had the characteristics that most effectively aligned with the needs of that particular PM assignment. Additionally, our solution significantly decreased a) the need for orientation or training of core job skills and b) the possibility of a PM making mistakes. (If you would like us to assist you implement this solution in your organization click here.)

Key #5 - Waste less time correcting mistakes and spend more time rewarding the right performance.

Many organizations follow Pareto’s 80/20 Rule (but in the wrong direction); the 20% who are the poorest performers receive 80% of management’s attention. After years of managing this way many managers tend to focus their attention on poor performers and give little attention to the best performers. The better performers leave as the competition pays more attention to them than does their own management.

For one of our clients we actually developed success profiles for seven different positions. Several of the positions actually have more than one success-profile, just like the organizational example in Key #4. This client uses our assessment tools to hire and then match the new staff person’s true skills and talents with the true requirements of that job. Sometimes the assessment suggests their skills and talents are a better match with the success profile of one of the other jobs for which we developed a success profile. In either situation, there is a better match between job needs and employee talents and skills. This leads to fewer mistakes made by staff and more correct actions being taken by the new staff, because the right actions just come naturally to them. With fewer low performers and fewer mistakes being made, the managers of our client have the time to give those top performers the attention they deserve and need. The top performers are happier and stay with the company. Over the eight or so years we have worked with this client, we have seen them grow from a staff of under 30,000 to a staff today of about 80,000 people. That kind of growth doesn’t happen if you have a lot of people leaving. (If you would like us to assist you implement this solution in your organization click here.)

Key #6 – Know how to most effectively communicate and motivate staff.

You are at an office meeting. The person in the front of the room is going on and on. You look around and see other people are as inattentive as you. The person in the front doesn’t seem to have a clue about what is going on for other people in the room, because they are personally very excited about the topic. They are neither effectively communicating to most of the others in the room, nor motivating others to care. It’s a typical outcome of many meetings and people can’t wait to get out of there.

The person in the front of the room was doing what most people do, assume others communicate and are motivated by the same things they are. People who make this assumption often become frustrated when their attempts to communicate and motivate do not have the desired outcome and may even stop trying. Sometimes they even ridicule people for not positively accepting the intended “reward,” whatever it may be. For example, some people respond very positively to praise in front of others, while other people become embarrassed when being praised. When this isn’t realized, the person giving the praise can actually make matters worse by ridiculing the other person when that person doesn’t positively accept the public praise.

One of our clients is an educational institute that teaches police officers how to more effectively manage and lead. They contracted with us because we have a record of developing successful leadership programs. One of the biggest issues is that officers assume others will respond to them no matter how they motivate or communicate with others. Our research identified numerous ways to effectively communicate and non-financially reward officer performance (saving policing organizations money). Our program has been implemented in a training program I do for police officers. Talk about an environment with few financial rewards, a great deal of pressure, and managers who believe in the strict “military” management model. The program is very highly rated because it gives police officers effective tools to better manage their staff without reliance on cash incentives. The response has been phenomenal! (If you would like us to assist you implement this solution in your organization click here.)

Key #7 – Performance appraisals get done, take less time to complete, and are more constructive.

The dreaded performance appraisal! One of those tasks most people hate doing, so they put it off until the last minute or until they can’t put if off any longer. Performance appraisals are difficult usually for two reasons. One reason is that the forms are usually so vague they do not give opportunities for easily given and/or effective feedback. The other reason is that most managers do not give regular feedback to staff and “store up” their feedback until the dreaded performance appraisal conversation with staff.

Our system aids performance appraisal is at least three ways. First, feedback is much more specific and much less vague because the manager knows what performance factors to focus on during the performance appraisal feedback session. Second, the manager gives feedback on a regular basis and in an acceptable manner to the person being evaluated. Third, since there is a better match between staff skills and talents needed on the job (see previous discussions), there is less of a need for negative feedback and more reason for positive feedback.

One of our clients invited me to give a team building session with her and her 13 office managers. Part of the team building was showing everyone how to more effectively communicate when giving feedback. A week after our team building session, the owner called me, telling me how people are now more effectively communicating with each other, how she is more effectively communicating with them, and them with her. Their feedback to each other is more constructive, more specific, more regular, and is having a significant positive impact. (If you would like us to assist you implement this solution in your organization click here.)

Key #8 – When internal reassignment or staff leaving the organization occurs, have employees leave with less conflict and fewer negative organizational outcomes.

Firing people is so offensive that HR has a multitude of names for it; reassignment, down sizing, lay offs, right sizing, etc. Managers typically hate to fire someone and unions frequently make it so difficult to fire staff that managers deal with all kinds of negative staffing issues instead of going through the arguable, frustrating, and difficult process of firing or asking someone to leave. What would happen if you could understand someone well enough that you were able to get them motivated to perform instead of resisting work? Motivating others is easier when you understand the characteristics required of the job and you match the job candidate effectively with a job they can do well. But when all else fails, it may be better just to motivate them to leave. Does this paradise really exist? Yes, it does.

One of our clients was having a difficult time with a number of their staff. We did an analysis of the job and the people the management was most frustrated with. Our objective was to help them improve their behavior or have them leave on their own choosing. In some situations we wanted to transform the ROD (retired on duty) into a VLR (voluntarily leaving retiree).

We examined the job and the job-holder to understand both and then communicate to the job-holder the activities they must do to continue in their job. We determined with them the long-term goals and short-term activities they needed to do to accomplish those goals. Each month we met with them pointing out and documenting what they had done right and what they had done wrong. We kept doing this for three to five months depending on the person and the situation. If their behaviors changed for the better, that was terrific. If their behaviors continue to not meet the needs of the job, we pointed out we would be meeting in this way every month until they either changed in a positive way or left. Those who did not change, we helped to leave by working with them to find another job. We used our assessments to identify their personal strengths and then used that information to help them find other employment. This way their leaving occurred more quickly and more smoothly. (If you would like us to assist you implement this solution in your organization click here.)

Concluding Comment
What one approach can have all of the above positive outcomes? We call it “Competency Aligned Benchmarking.” We use a specific, proven, and objective multi-step process to identify the competencies needed to succeed on the job and then show you how to accomplish any or all of the above eight key behaviors. Our multi-step process works like this. First, we start by working with a small group of experts in your organization to identify the set of true competencies required to be successful on that job. Second, these same experts then answer a series of objectively scored questions that are used to identify the primary characteristics needed by people to fulfill the competencies required by the job. Third, we work with you to determine the set of characteristics needed by staff to fulfill the requirements of the job. Fourth, we work with you to hire that staff OR show you how to integrate our system into your current employment system AND/OR show you how to use the Competency Aligned Benchmark information to meet your organizational needs.

It’s an extremely cost efficient and effective system that actually works! The Competency Aligned Benchmark (CAB) can be determined in a short period of time. Since the system is focused on the job, you can use the CAB for everyone who does that job. Contact us to do a CAB for you and integrate it into your personnel process. Start saving on personnel costs now.