Hire people to think. ?Don?t hire people to follow a recipe book. If you do the latter, and you Employee Handbookare a small business in today?s world, you are hiring the wrong people. ?And hiring the wrong people is a huge time suck. ?Huge! ?It?s easy to hire someone, but try getting rid of them. ?Not so easy. And you will justify why it?s ok to keep the wrong person around, even when your gut tells you otherwise. ?So do it right from the beginning.

No one has a crystal ball and can tell if the prospect you are interviewing and about to hire will turn out well for you. That?s a subject for another blog, not this one. ?What I?d like to discuss here is the difference between someone who follows a user guide, employee handbook, or some sort of ?cookbook? to get things done at work, and someone who doesn?t. ?As Joel Spolsky always says, you want to find people that are smart and get things done.

A Cook Is Not a Chef
Cooks are not chefs. But all chefs can cook. That?s what my wife always says. ?She loves to watch Top Chef, Chopped, and all of those cooking shows, and she also happens to be an amazingly good cook herself. ?So what?s the difference between a chef and a cook? ?A chef is a professional who creates. A cook follows directions.

In a small business, especially in this rapidly evolving new economy, you need chefs?people who can create things, who can react rapidly to change?people who are not just smart, but also get things done. ?You don?t need ?cooks?. ?Cooks are people who follow a set of instructions laid out by others. ?The problem with employees that act more like cooks is that if there is a deviation from the norm, it is difficult for them to adjust or react, especially when difficulties arise. ?Deer in the headlights syndrome. ?All you get is ?um, what do I do now, boss??

Employee Handbooks Lead to Less Thinking
Most people prefer not to think too much at work. They would prefer to simply follow a guidance document or set of instructions on what their employment duties are, get their paycheck, and move on with their real life. ?After all, if it?s written down and you can check off those things as being done, then in your mind, you have ?succeeded? in your work.

Employee Handbooks Are Static, but the Marketplace Is Not
But in a small business, and especially in today?s new economy, where change occurs every day, where entire industries are being disrupted and implode in a single year, where Kodak files for bankruptcy protection, Blockbuster Video is on life support, and now even RIM ? a Wall Street darling just 5 years ago ? is predicted to bite the dust, employee user guides are obsolete. ?I would dare to say that employee user guides and handbooks are also dangerous, because they encourage employees to simply ?follow the rules and stick with the plan?, even when that plan may not be what is best for the firm anymore. ?Employee handbooks don?t encourage employees to be creative, because all of the duties, all of the rules, are written down?they are static. ?And in this new economy, static is NOT where you want to be.

What worked 1 year ago might not work so well now, and certainly not in a couple of years. ?But it?s not the employee manual you need to worry about. ?It?s the mindset of the employee. ?Your employees need to be able to adjust to changes, all the time. They need to be able to perform different kinds of functions when needed. ?To sum it up, you need smart people on your team who can actually think and get things done without having to refer to some sort of checklist of duties written down by the human resources department or a department head.

So?what do you do with those employee handbooks? ?Chuck them. ?Burn them. ?Recycle them. ?After all, if you hire smart people who can think and get things done, chances are that your best work in fast-changing times will come from those employees and not from the ones that are merely following those ?rules?.

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