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When Perfect is Good (Baltic Training at the 2016 Target Trade Show)

Posted On - 19/08/2016 09:27:52

There's a saying There's a saying "perfection is the enemy of good". It's about how chasing faultless excellence is folly. The pursuit is impossible and will end with nothing getting done. So it's a key principle in time management. Though that's a different story.

But could there be times when perfection is the right thing to aim for? Well, Steve Jobs has some things to say on this. Like to know what they are?

I'm a pear!

OK, we're not suggesting you should try and be Apple. But they are pretty successful and since people make business happen, they must be onto something.

So what is it? Well, we've paraphrased here but this what Steve Jobs said about his success

"I noticed the range between what an average person could accomplish and the best was 50 or 100 to 1. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players. The secret of my success is to hire the best people in the world."

That's pretty clear isn't it?


Of course not everyone can just hire who they want. But we'd say you should shoot for the very best you can. And we don't just mean try and compromise when it gets tough. We mean go after, chase down and not be happy with anything less.

Why so single-minded? What's with the determination? Isn't this just making work?  Well, what's at stake is the Cost Of Non Conformance. It's a formal term used when weighing-up investments in quality – the price of not doing stuff if you like. And you can use it to think about the CONC for recruitment.

Estimates on the cost of recruitment mistakes vary but the most reasonable seems to be in the order of 16% - 20% pay. And note: this cost is additional to what you've wasted in pay and employers NI.

Soft stuff

For a 25+ year old on minimum wage the cost of recruitment mistakes comes in - very roughly - to around £3,000. So not insignificant. Of course, this is based on the more easily quantified costs: advertising, agency fees, training, uniforms, equipment etc.

Note they don't include tribunal penalties if you don't go about things the right way. For advice on that see our blog "The Discipline of Applying Discipline". What it also doesn't include are the softer and harder to quantify costs.

Totting up

Just because costs might be harder to quantify doesn't mean they're not expensive. Now, lost productivity, demotivation and rehiring costs are all hard to estimate. But they're all very real.

As for expensive costs, think about the price of lost customers. Then there's the truly horrific cost of getting a bad reputation. The cost of Facebook posts about the poor or rude service the employee gave. That's why we've seen the cost of recruitment mistakes put as high as 13½ times pay - that's an eye-watering £216,000 for our 25+ year old on minimum wage (see "Make Customers Complain" for more on this). If you thought we were banging on about getting recruitment right perhaps now you understand why?

In search of excellence

Was a worldwide best seller from Tom Peters back in 1982. And it was about all the behavioural, attitudinal, cultural, managerial, organisational and process things that make the best companies just that. Nothing to do with products, services and finance – loads about people. Reinforcing how you will only ever be as good as the people you employ. And that this was the difference between excellent businesses and the rest. So point made.

But if you're out to get great people where's a good place to start? Especially if what you want are bright, enthusiastic and loyal employees that'll make you more productive and competitive for a very reasonable wage?

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