“People who pride themselves on their ‘complexity’ and deride others for being ‘simplistic’ should realize that the truth is often not very complicated.” – Thomas Sowell
Last week I had the opportunity to sit with a group of miners at our Rockville quarry and talk a little shop. Blue-collar workers to the core, these front line associates are the heart and soul of our company. They define themselves by their values, their work ethic, and the family like relationships they have with each other. After spending a little time with them, there is one more distinguishable attribute I might add to the list- common sense. As Voltaire said, “common sense is not so common.” In the case of our Rockville miners, I don’t think that could be further from the truth.
Common sense is defined as a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things without any need for debate. There is a special use of the term that is Roman-influenced and is described as a natural human sensitivity for other humans and the community. And during a time where big data, meta-analysis, and statistical relevance are quickly becoming the norm, one has to wonder if there is still a place for common sense, simple truths that usually involve some combination of our head heart and gut. Last week at Rockville, I believe they made a good case in its favor.
One of the greatest challenges leaders face today is the war for talent. Recruiting, hiring, and retaining the right people is at a premium in the future of work and assessments, behavioral modeling, and subsequently data driven decisions are rising as best practices in the human capital space. I took the opportunity to engage the Rockville team in their version of assessing talent by asking them how they know when they have the right person for the role or better said, if the new guy is going to make it. What they looked for seemed so simple yet so true, and they rarely miss on a prediction. In their words:
- Attitude as a Price of Admission. “It starts with a new employee’s desire to fit in with the team. We are together on this site 50+ hours a week and not fitting in is out of the question. You have to come to work ready to be a part of something more than a paycheck. We are like a family here and if you are not willing to interact, that may not be a good sign.”
- We Want to Know How Much You Care Before We Care How Much You Know. “Another thing that drives us crazy is hiring a so called ‘know it all.’ Someone that comes in acting like they are smarter or better then the rest of us. This just never works out real well. Exceptions can be made for someone coming in with experience; it’s all about how they share what they know. Do it from a place of caring, not just trying to one up someone.”
- You Have to Have Thick Skin. “We are going to be on you early, picking and playing, killing two birds with one stone. It’s about having fun and breaking you into the family while at the same time preparing you for what’s to come. These plants and quarries are complicated and lots can go wrong. You can’t take it personally, it is just part of what goes on here.”
- Show Some Initiative and Willingness to Learn. “The main thing that will make you or break you as a new hire is you have to be willing to learn. We don’t want to see you standing there watching while someone else has a shovel in their hand. Jump in, show some initiative and drive, and start asking some questions about how to do something. We don’t care how good you are at first, we just want to see you try.”
- Two Weeks and Two Months. “We can actually tell within a couple of weeks how well you are going to fit in and how well you are going to do. And within a couple of months, your place within the family, good or not so good, is established for quite some time. Either way, we are going to continue to work with you. More than likely however, the effort you get from the guys will align with the effort you give.”
One of the highlights of the day came when one of the miners found the right time in the conversation to give me some in the moment feedback on how I parked my car that morning. In short, he said he liked my SUV however told me they back into parking spaces around here. I smiled, thanked him, and asked him why that was. He said, “think about it Mark, backing up is a bit risky so it’s better to back in toward a concrete barrier than backing out into a lot where other trucks are driving around.” He wrapped the feedback with a simple question asking me, “doesn’t that just make good sense?” I responded, “yes, it does, actually all this stuff does.”