Canadian Consulting Engineer

Don’t hire senior staff in a hurry

June 3, 2005
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

ZweigWhite , a U.S. firm specializing in advising companies in the engineering, architecture, and construction indu...

ZweigWhite , a U.S. firm specializing in advising companies in the engineering, architecture, and construction industries, has just issued advice for consulting firms hiring top management people.
They suggest that as firms get busy they are often in too much of a rush to hire senior staff to help them through the pressure of overflowing workbooks.
Sarita Pent, a principal with ZweigWhite says: “Many firm leaders feel the pressure to fill these types of positions promptly and ignore the advice of hiring slowly and firing quickly. Then when the new hire doesn’t work out the rationalization is that an employee giving 50% is better than having no one at all.”
She says that every firm with many principles should expect to make a blunder in hiring an executive level person, and they should have strategies in place to deal with the mess that can ensue.
Before hiring a high-level employees, Peng suggests the doing the following:
* Establish clear performance metrics. Holding principals and senior management accountable is difficult if there’s no way to measure success.
Track project performance (whether projects are brought in within budget and on time), revenue generation in new sales, and the ability to successfully retain the staff.
* Conduct regular performance reviews. Performance reviews for senior people should should occur at least once a year. They can be conducted by the CEO, president, or principal’s supervisor; by two other principals; or by the board of directors.
* Confront problem principals. Senior-level staff who are not pulling their weight bring down morale. Issues that may need to be addressed can be anything from poor performance, to indiscretions, to a drop in productivity.
* Create a paper trail. It’s critical to have proper documentation of a problem and its progression. Sit down formally with the principal to give a warning and let him or her know what needs improvement. Set a specific timeline for which progress needs to be demonstrated and if conditions should continue, put the principal on formal probation.



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