Jumpstarting Process Improvement in Your Organization: The Top 10 Essentials (Part 6 of 10)

Essential #6:  Strategy for finding and retaining the best people.  As in any industry, subject matter experts often command salaries commensurate with the results they achieve.  So, when a process improvement specialist reproduces his or her salary anywhere from five to twenty times, their skills become highly sought after.  Below is a brief snapshot of best practices I have seen in hiring and retaining top-level process improvement specialists.

  1. Hiring – Hiring the right person is always a tough task.  Behavior-based interviewing reduces the risk of hiring “good talkers.” [“Good talkers” – people who say the right things, but have not actually delivered meaningful results.]  This style of interview requires the candidate to provide specific examples of past experiences (usually successes) and relate those experiences to the job qualifications.  A well-qualified candidate should do well in this type of interview as his or her expertise is in achieving and articulating results.
  2. Tool kit – The best process improvement specialists should not be tied to any one set of tools.  It is important that they be trained, certified, and qualified in at least 2 or 3 methods.  There are about half a dozen worthwhile methodologies.  However, any candidate overly loyal to just one method may lack the openness of thought to solve the variety of problems the job often requires. Here’s a few methodologies I’m familiar with: Six Sigma, Lean, Theory of Constraints, Project Management, Industrial Engineering, Process Engineering, and Failure Modes and Effects Analysis.
  3. Pay – The topic no one likes to talk about.  There are two sides to this issue.  First, the employer should attempt to maintain a fair and equitable salary structure among all employees.  However, process improvement specialists rarely fit into an established job description, especially in service industries.  Secondly, the candidate has already researched and calculated the fair market value of the skill set he or she brings to the table.  Granted, their expectation hedges on the high side, but in general, if they are worth what they are asking, they have done their homework.  It is therefore up to the employer to do the requisite amount of homework.  This will allow the employer to speak intelligently to the topic and to have realistic expectations going in.

Hiring the right person for any position is a difficult task. Finding the right person or people to anchor your process improvement initiative is doubly daunting.  First off, it’s a specialized field full of jargon, no universal licensure, and diversity of methods.  Secondly, there is an ocean full of academically qualified candidates lacking the communication skills and emotional intelligence required to lead meaningful projects in service-related industries.  Finally, finding the optimal person requires research, asking the right questions, and – most of all – patience.

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