Bob Funk says a company is only as great as the quality of people it hires. As chairman and CEO of Express Employment Professionals and affiliated franchises, Funk is a hiring expert.

“I've seen many companies fail; I've seen many companies grow,” Funk says. “And usually, they grow because of their people – not because of the products that are involved.”

His staffing agency, headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla., provides full-time and temporary job placement, human resources services and consulting. Express has put more than 5 million people to work worldwide, and last year generated more than $2.1 billion in sales.

Funk’s focus on hiring employees for loyalty within his own company has helped him expand Express’ staff to almost 5,000 associates nationally.

To ensure a good fit, identify whether a hiring candidate’s core values match those you prioritize. Funk says to look for loyalty and integrity before education level or skill.

“You can teach a loyal person skills, but you can't teach a skilled person loyalty,” Funk says. “If you lack the skills, you can always get the training and skills for them if they have the other personal factors that are important.”

To get a personalized feel for a candidate, the interview should be in person, one-on-one. Have a list of questions that prompt value-related answers.

Start by asking candidates what their motivation is for working every day. Find out if it’s financial, work environment or recognition.

“If you're looking for a sales-type person, you're looking for somebody that recognition is very important to, because they would like to be at the top of the recognition file," he says. "And of course, they're always looking for a good work environment.”

“The next question is, ‘If you had anything to do over again in your life, what would you do over again?’ That usually gives you an idea of what lessons they've learned in life as far as their other jobs are concerned.”

Also communicate your own values and company vision.

“They need to know where we're going to go, and then they need to understand how we're going to get there,” Funk says. “That has to be planned out for them so that it is in easy terms for them to understand where the company wants to go and help them to buy into our visionary process.”

Funk ensures his expectations and vision are clear to potential hires by interviewing all headquarters staff and developers (national sales managers) himself, as well as many new franchisees.

“They have an opportunity to hear where my heart comes from personally, and I think that does help them to understand that I really do care about them as a person,” Funk says.

Also ask for potential hires’ goals. By aligning them with the goals of your company, you foster buy-in for your visionary process, provide motivation and set the foundation for a long-term commitment from the employee. If hired, refresh goals during annual reviews.

“Hire the type of person that does want upward mobility, and then design a program for them on how they can achieve that,” Funk says. “That's what franchising is all about, is finding people that want to learn this business and you’re transferring your years of experience into them.”

Also motivate employee productivity and commitment by showing company loyalty in return.

“Loyalty is a two-way street, not a one-way street,” Funk says. “If you identify the person that has the loyalty and they do stick with you and are loyal to your purpose, which is helping other people, then it's your responsibility to be loyal back to them – which means that they should have more responsibility and more financial income than the norm.

Express offers a variety of reward programs to encourage and recognize employees. In addition to profit sharing, employees can earn bonuses on top of base salaries and vacation trips based on productivity.

“It gives them a sense that they have really contributed when they hit different bonus levels,” Funk says. “They're building a business to last, hopefully for the rest of their lives.”

How to Reach: Express Employment Professionals, (800) 222-4057 or www.expresspros.com

Published in National