November 29, 2021

CultureProfessional Development

Lessons from Potty Training: 6 Hiring Mistakes Nonprofits Make

By: Katelynn Barbosa

Labor Day weekend of this year, my husband and I decided that it was time to get serious about potty training our two-year old and we decided to commit to the three-day method. For the uninitiated (untraumatized), the three-day method is a very popular potty training method where you stay home with your toddler for three straight days, never take your eyes off of them, and anytime they start to do their numbers, you rush them to the bathroom. The idea is that they will catch on, eventually discover they are unhappy being covered in their own bodily fluids, and start going to the bathroom on their own. By the end of the three days, you will have a fully potty-trained toddler and can throw away the diapers forever! Yeah!

Well, when I dropped off my daughter at daycare this morning, I can assure you she was very much wearing a diaper. Why? Because try as we did, she simply wasn’t ready for potty training. She didn’t mind being covered in filth, no amount of reminding her to use the potty was effective, and the only thing we accomplished in three days was teaching her to say “I made a bad decision” when she relived herself on the floor.

I know what you’re thinking: Katelynn, what in the heavens does this have to do with hiring? Well, it turns out that lessons from potty training also apply to hiring!

How so?

1. Don’t start until you are ready. This is the first lesson of both potty training and hiring. If you try to hire before your organization is ready, you’re going to be extremely frustrated, waste a lot of time, and have lots of metaphorical pee on the floor. So before launching a search, make sure you have full approval from the powers that be and funding for the role. Finally, talk to your team about the search so they are not blind-sided by a parade of candidates coming in to interview.

2. Don’t launch a search unless you have the time to devote to it. Potty training doesn’t happen overnight (or even in three days!), and neither does hiring. These things take time.

With hiring, involved parties will need to devote at least several hours per week to be fully engaged in the process.

So, if a team member  essential to the interviewing process will be going on his dream trip to Turkey rendering you unable to schedule interviews for three weeks, it’s probably not the best time to launch a search. Or, if your organization’s biggest annual event is coming up and you won’t have time to open your email for the next month, launching a search right now is a bad decision. See what I did there?

3. Communicate regularly. I am pleased to report that a couple of weeks ago, we attempted the three-day method again and were a lot more successful this time! But every time we take our toddler out of the house, we have to communicate with her and encourage her to use the potty before she leaves and when she gets to a new destination. Otherwise, she will have an accident.

Similarly, you will want to remain in regular communication with candidates throughout the search.  If you don’t let candidates know what is going on with the search, they will get frustrated, contemplate if you are really serious about filling the opening, and worse, wonder if your organization is just so disorganized that it’s about as fun to work there as it is to potty train a toddler.

4. Don’t get distracted. As successful as our toddler is using the bathroom at home, as soon as she is hanging out with other kids and having fun, she gets so distracted that she forgets everything she’s learned and makes a mess.

Likewise, when hiring, it’s easy to get distracted. That big grant proposal is due next week. You’re launching a new program next month. Expense reports were due yesterday. Performance reviews are coming up. Before you know it, three weeks have gone by since you even thought about the search. And when you finally come back to it, you learn your top candidate accepted another job and your other two finalists are disillusioned with your absence. Now that’s a mess.

5. Don’t get hyper-focused, either. When our toddler is successful using the ladies’ room, she gets an M&M. Unfortunately, she has figured out how to game the system: she insists that she has to use the bathroom every few minutes to the exclusion of all other activities. Sure, she gets a lot of M&Ms, but eventually she finds that she is tired and has wasted a perfectly good evening spending all of her time on the porcelain throne.

Likewise, when hiring, you don’t want to get hyper-focused on one candidate to the exclusion of all others.  Even if one candidate looks stronger than the rest, it’s usually wise to keep all solid contenders in the mix until a decision is made. Otherwise, you might find yourself with soiled pantaloons and no change of clothes. You didn’t really think I would take the analogy this far, huh?

6. Don’t wait! When our toddler says it is time to go potty, we better deliver her to a latrine  within five minutes or we’re in trouble.

With hiring, you want to employ this same sense of urgency. It’s a candidate’s market right now, and dilly-dallying can cost you a candidate or three.

In fact, we’ve had several clients recently who understand this and have made a hire within 30 days of launching the search. They didn’t cut corners; they just moved efficiently because they knew they would miss out on good candidates if they didn’t.

By now, our darling toddler terrorist is doing pretty well on the potty training front (with the exception of daycare…anyone have advice?) and it is all because she was ready, we seriously committed time to the process, we always communicate with her regularly, we don’t let her get distracted, and we move quickly when it’s time. So if you want to have success in your search, approach it like potty training!