Employee Experience: Is Bigger Better?

Small businesses provide much of the initial employee experience. We take younger folks and teach them decent work habits like showing up every day, being on time, and working to deadlines.

As owners, our personal skills may not be sufficient. We can’t teach everything necessary to run a growing company. We turn to the outside for experienced employees, people who can bring what they learned elsewhere to our team.

In many cases, we are looking for someone who has performed at the next level, handling more people, more responsibility or higher level functions. Instead of helping someone grow into a job, we want someone who can help the company grow into what they can already do.

Often, those people come from much larger organizations. They may have run a department that was bigger than your whole company. We know that big corporations have a very different culture than small businesses. How can you determine whether a prospective key hire is going to be a fit for your business?

First, there is attitude. I’ve found many veterans of big business are condescending towards “little brother” businesses. They believe that their knowledge should be welcomed with unconditional acceptance, and that the way they learned to do it in BigCorp is the only way to do it.

Be careful of attitudes that indicate the prospect believes that having fewer subordinates or a smaller budget means less work. I’ve had candidates tell me that they wanted to move into small business because they wouldn’t have to work so hard. (!)

Resources drive the managerial employee experience in large organizations. You may not be able to throw personnel, marketing dollars or technology at a problem. Check for resource dependence by asking how the prospective hire would tackle a problem, then remove some of the resources and ask for another approach. They aren’t cut out for small business if they get that “deer in the headlights” look.

The biggest issue in qualifying employee experience from a larger organization is personal responsibility. In BigCorp missing budget means you don’t get a bonus, not that everyone doesn’t get a paycheck. Ask about times he or she failed to reach a goal, and the consequences.

zebrasIn large organizations you can hide in a crowd for a long time. Be wary of resumes that concentrate on credit for group activities. Carefully review claims from a member of an “award-winning team,” “record setting department,” or “nationally recognized initiative.” Such people may be superstars, or they might just be very skilled at standing next to superstars. Examine their personal contributions in detail.

A key employee who brings solid experience to your organization can be a huge boost towards the next level; but if he or she can’t walk the talk, it’s just an expensive drag on your whole company. Don’t get caught up in the halo effect of ‘Bigger is Better.”

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