Promoting success Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2008

Katrina M. Boss has a system to find great employees and keep them.

The human resources manager at Invacare HCS — formerly Bargmann Management LLC — says she’s looked for the magic formula for finding star employees, and the most reliable trait she’s identified is certain internal drive.

To determine if a potential employee has that drive to succeed, the first place you have to look is at the job candidate’s work history.

“Even if they worked at a gas station, if they’ve moved their way up to manager of a gas station, they’re someone who wants to learn more about the processes or wants to develop professionally,” she says.

Once you’ve vetted someone’s work history, the next step is the interview. Boss says that one of the most common things she hears from job candidates is, “I want a company I can grow with.” While it’s true that many employees leave jobs because there was no opportunity for advancement, you have to determine whether that statement is simply lip service.

“We try to dig a little bit deeper and find out why there wasn’t an opportunity,” she says. “Was there not opportunity because they weren’t applying themselves, or was there truly not opportunity? Because in some companies, there isn’t; you hit a brick wall, and that’s as far as it will go.”

But there may have been other reasons an employee wasn’t promoted. To determine whether a candidate took the initiative to grow within his or her previous company, Boss considers three components: attitude, productivity and attendance. She digs to find out an employee’s performance in those three areas, because if the person’s prior employer really did limit upward movement, she knows Invacare HCS offers an environment that will allow them to grow.

“If you give us those three things, opportunities will come your way,” she says.

The three key components continue to be measuring posts for employee success even after someone is hired. Boss keeps tabs on attendance, attitude and production for Invacare HCS’ nearly 100 employees. And while attendance is self-explanatory and productivity can be measured by call volume, as well as length of calls and time between calls, measuring attitude can be more difficult. To do this, Boss looks at how an employee handles stress in his or her job.

This is important because the higher someone moves up in the company, the more important stress management becomes. If you can’t prove that you can handle your current workload, you won’t be given additional responsibilities, Boss says.

“We’ve found a successful formula in making people prove themselves before they get promoted,” she says. “We don’t promote them and hope they do well — we ask them to do well first, then the promotion will come.”

The process begins when the company communicates the standard career path to employees. Boss says it takes at least six months for new employees to learn their job and the company well enough to prepare them for what would happen at the next level. So the company has established a six-month time frame to give employees an idea of when they can start thinking about a promotion.

“After they have been here for six months, that’s when they can apply for that senior-level position,” she says. “We give them those steppingstones.”

By checking measurable metrics before and after you hire, then giving your employees a set timetable for promotion, you can do a better job of keeping your star performers, Boss says.

Be candid

As Invacare HCS grows, more than 20 of its nearly 100 employees have been promoted from their original posts, says Katrina M. Boss.

However, when an employee receives a promotion, it can create resentment with co-workers, says the company’s human resources manager.

To soften these potentially difficult situations, Boss constantly has candid communications with employees to help them understand why someone else is being promoted and they are not.

“If someone comes to us and says, ‘I want to grow within the company,’ and they’re not meeting one of those three expectations that we set forth, we’re very direct in communications to let them know why they aren’t growing,” she says.

By being direct, you may uncover issues that employees didn’t know about that are holding them back.

“Sometimes those shortcomings are blind spots to people,” Boss says. “Especially if it’s an attitude issue, they may not realize how they’re coming across or how people perceive them. So we have that conversation with them, then they understand it and they’re more aware, because it’s hard to fix the problem that you’re unaware of.”

If an employee has problems with productivity or attendance, Boss presents hard facts that are tough to argue against. But if there are less immediately identifiable issues, such as stress management, a bad attitude or poor people skills, you’ll be helping both your employee and your company by bringing those issues to his or her attention.

HOW TO REACH: Invacare HCS, (330) 645-8200 or