I enjoy gardening, beautiful flowers, and being in the fresh air outdoors. As I was weeding my flower bed this weekend, I thought about how the principles relate to HR. At the time I planted the flowers I bought, they looked beautiful (although they were small and just beginning to bloom). Over time, instead of growing and prospering, they began to look weak and like they were struggling to survive. Weeds had crept in the garden, and were draining the nutrients from the flowers. That is when I thought about the analogy to what can happen in business. Take a look at what happens from a different perspective.
Recruitment and Selection
When you go to the garden shop or farmers market, there are so many beautiful flowers that it is hard to decide which to buy. What should be considered? At garden shops, plants have tags that identify what environment they need to thrive: amount of sun, amount of water, heat or cold tolerance. If you don’t consider the needs of the plant and the environment you will put it in, you won’t get the results you desire. The same for employees. It is important in recruitment and selection to understand the needs of the person and what environment works best for them, and to share honestly what your expectations and culture are for optimal results.
Just as you need to determine the conditions that will help a plant to thrive, applicants need to understand the culture of your company, the management style, opportunities for growth, and communication flow within the company. Culture fit is very important, and many argue it is most important. You can teach employees many things but you can’t teach fit. You can take a thriving plant and put it in a toxic environment and it will wilt and falter. Interviews should include questions about the position/company/manager thus far that the employee has considered the best and why. Assessments can also help in determining culture fit. Someone who is an idea person and wants to contribute and share ideas for process/product improvement will not be happy in a company that is top down management unreceptive to employee input.
Once you know the needs of the plant and have purchased it, place it where it can bloom best. That means providing proper orientation. It needs proper soil, water, plant food and more attention as it gets oriented to the new surroundings. Likewise with new employees. It may be helpful to have an employee assigned to help orient them to where things are, who to go to for various issues, and just to orient them to the day-to-day. We sometimes forget that things we take for granted everyday will be new and strange and take time to absorb for new employees. Identify expectations early on. Employees, like plants, that get off to a good start are more likely to thrive.
The work doesn’t end after orientation. Plants need ongoing attention. Sometimes plants may need pruning to help them grow better. Others may flourish and need a trellis to support their growth. Each is unique, just like employees. Supervisors need to be trained to recognize that one size doesn’t fit all. Some employees may need more guidance in their development. We need to help supervisors understand the important role they have in recognizing the uniqueness of each employee and giving appropriate feedback, coaching, training, development and pruning. Sometimes, employee failure can be attributed to supervisor failure; and in those cases, the supervisor should be held accountable as well.
Have you noticed that gardens that have different types of plants– various sizes, shapes, textures, and a variety of colors and leaf structure, are more pleasing to the eye than those that are all the same? Diversity can inspire new ideas. And since our customers and our world are diverse, we need diversity to thrive.
Some plants (perennials) come back year after year. Annuals only last one season, even with the best of care. Hopefully you have more perennials in your workplace than annuals. But we all have some annuals (sometimes quarters). Sometimes they just don’t thrive in the environment. Sometimes we only hire them for a season for projects and then they move on. In other cases, they grow stronger, develop new branches and flowers and someone else admires the attributes and wants to acquire them. There is a life cycle for employees. For some, you may make the decision that despite your best efforts, they are not a fit for your company. Sometimes, even with your best efforts at describing the job and your culture, and trying to ascertain what the employee has to offer, what they need, and under what conditions they thrive; you determine it was a bad decision. It happens. Sometimes the beautiful plant that looks healthy and has the most blooms can have underlying aphids (pests) that you can’t see that will eventually destroy the plant.
Keep in mind that even perennials that come back every year need attention: fresh soil, weeding, water, mulch. Don’t take your perennial employees for granted. They still need nurturing and opportunities for growth, as well as recognition for jobs well done.
And lastly, we all know that a garden will not flourish if is overrun by weeds. As hard as I try to prevent weeds from even starting, they eventually creep in to the garden starting small. If I don’t deal with the weeds, or wait too long to start dealing with them, I will have lost many beautiful flowers. The same holds true at work. Whether your “weeds” are bad fits, or can’t do the jobs you’re asking them to do, or have lousy attitudes, they will slowly take over and drive out your good employees, much like kudzu. Don’t let the kudzu take over your thriving workplace. Avoid the many reasons we find to not deal with weeds at work…lack of time, fear of a suit, trying to be “too consistent,” poor managers, etc.
I hope taking a look from a fresh perspective gives you some inspiration to work in your garden…at home and at work. For over 50 years North Carolina employers have trusted CAI to be their #1 HR partner. Learn how we can help you too!