In the time it’s taken you to read this title, another few seconds have passed from your life. That time is gone forever, and it’s never coming back. As time ticks by, we sit in front of computers, we watch meaningless shows on TV, we play meaningless games on our iPads, we eat, we sleep, and then repeat.
When will you make your mark on the world? At what point will you stand up and fight for something that matters? At what point will you take back your life?
Years ago, I worked at a supermarket chain. On the surface, my job didn’t seem to matter much. I sat in a windowless office, that was walled up inside another larger windowless office, which sat within a windowless building that had been converted from a warehouse. Work started at 8:00, but I showed up every day at 5:00 AM, because I was grateful for the job. As I analyzed data, typed reports, and did many other equally meaningless things, I had an epiphany. The impact of my job, my individual efforts, could only matter so much. However, if I could influence others to up their game by even a small margin, the impact would become enormous.
Personnel selection is a path toward having that level of impact. In the supermarket business there’s something called grating fruit. When you grate fruit, you rotate it and check for bumps and scrapes. Any bad fruit is discarded. Grating fruit matters, because if you go to a grocery store and notice damaged fruit, you might not go back there again. In fact, in the supermarket industry everything matters. Margins are so thin, that buyers need to negotiate good contracts, purchasers at the store level need to maintain inventory without overbuying, virtually everything they sell is perishable (especially beansprouts), and planograms need to be flawless, lest profits will tank. A single supermarket might employ 300 people. Multiply that across 1,000 locations and you’ve got 300,000 employees that need to be on their game. According to Hearst Newspapers (2016), average turnover in the supermarket industry is 100%, and the cost of replacing even just one cashier is more than $3,600. At the industry level, retailers lose more than $23 billion a year due to turnover (Nextera, 2005).
Hiring better people matters. Hiring people who get up to speed faster, perform better, and stay on the job longer, has a significant impact on organizational success (Cascio & Ramos, 1986; McKinsey, 2000; Schmidt & Hunter, 1983). My epiphany? One person can only grate so much fruit. However, all it takes is one person to put a selection process in place that ensures that you hire better employees. It’s those new employees, tens of thousands of exceptional workers – fruit graters who make sure every fruit is perfect, cashiers who greet guests a little friendlier, purchasers who ensure you’re never out of stock, and leaders who grew from those entry-level feeder pools, that drive the business toward success.
Today, 15 years later, that business is a Fortune 500 company, and one of my biggest clients. When I think back on that time, I don’t really remember the windowless office. What I remember, with a little smile and a lot of fondness, is that I made a difference.
Brad Schneider, Ph.D., is Senior Vice President of Talent Assessment at PSI. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 818.847.6180
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