Job Fit Lessons - Dangerous Job

Job Fit Lessons Learned From the Most Dangerous Job in the World

While I was watching the season premiere of Deadliest Catch on DVR the other night, I was reminded that in the years that I’ve been viewing this show, how appalled I’ve sometimes been at the fact that we’re watching people in their jobs that don’t always behave in a way that would make a typical human resources person smile. And while I know that its a TV show, and so it must entertain in order to stay on the air, something tells me that its not too far from the truth compared to some other reality shows. As much as I might cringe at the blatant hazing of Greenhorns and gruesome worker’s compensation situations that present themselves on-screen, there are still some important lessons learned that can be applied to our own (likely calmer) work environments. Plus, who wouldn’t want the smooth intonations of Mike Rowe narrating his or her daily life?

In this blog, I’ll discuss three practices I glean from Deadliest Catch that can definitely help the rest of us improve job fit across our businesses.

Set Expectations Early & Often

Nevermind that Greenhorns should already know what they are getting themselves into because the show has been on air for eleven seasons, but the captains of our favorite crab boats are shockingly candid in preparing newbies for what they’ll encounter on the Bering Sea. From rough weather and potential death to aggressive demands from the crew to the essential need to stay well fed and drink water often, on this stage employees have to know these things in order not just to thrive, but to straight up survive. Furthermore, they are trained in how to access survival gear by professionals before the boat ever leaves shore. They understand what they are getting themselves into (though sometimes the extent of that is lost on those who don’t end up making it), and choose to sign up for the job anyway.

In our own organizations, we have many opportunities to follow suit…even though the stakes may not be life and death necessarily (depending on the job/industry of course). What an opportunity you have to tell applicants what they would be getting themselves into in an effort to reduce the likelihood that they will turnover in the position later! Here are some ideas on how to set expectations early and often:

  • On your careers website, do you feature content-rich information about what individuals can expect from the interviewing process and from the daily life of an employee? Tell them what to expect by sharing employee testimonials, videos, blogs and stories of how your company is impacted by the role of its most valuable asset – the employees.
  • During each stage of the interviewing process, make sure that you continuously remind candidates of what steps are involved in the process; as well as, about how long each might take. Interviewees appreciate this information as it is rarely shared, and can reciprocate better communication with you, too, if it comes to them needing to alert you that they are weighing options from other organizations. Plus, if your time frame is not a match for their own job seeking timeline, they may choose to withdraw an application and save you the time of considering them further.
  • During a new hire’s first few weeks, share with them the “unwritten rules” of your culture to help him/her assimilate more quickly. Pair a new employee with a mentor/buddy in your organization…a peer to which he/she may turn for advice.

Just like the crew members of the boats need to be told to avoid the coiler rope and mind the weight of the crab pots, you need to tell your applicants and new employees what to expect from the roles they accept. It helps them feel more confident and it benefits you because they will be productive more quickly.

Probationary Period – Train & Nurture Them

I’ve taken a little creative license on this one because while there’s certainly no argument that the Deck Boss, Captain and Engineer train the new crew members, I think its a stretch to (or outright lie really) to say they nurture them. However, the correlation I want to make here is that just like on the deck of the Northwestern or perhaps the Time Bandit, new hires at your company shouldn’t be left to sink or swim. Even if you don’t call it a probationary period, which can have a negative connotation to it, you should think about the initial months of a new employee’s work experience and how you can build in different milestones to more intentionally check in with him/her to make sure the learning curve is where it should be, he/she is feeling more confident and productive every day, and to further set expectations (see, it doesn’t just happen pre hire and in the first few weeks) about where you would like the employee’s proficiency to be in six months, a year, etc…or whatever time frame intervals are appropriate for your business.

If your organization is more than just a few employees, it may make sense to have a talent university to standardize the curriculum that all new employees experience in their first year. New hires might look forward to “graduating” from your series of courses as a means of recognition for having officially “made it”…in much the same way that Greenhorns on the Wizard look forward to earning a “full share” in the boat’s profits once they’ve survived their sea-bound apprenticeship. While the parallels between the show and our own work lives may not be immediately apparent, the fundamentals must still be learned by the crew members…baiting the pots, operating the coiler, and throwing the hook to pull in the pots.

Culture Is As Culture Does

Forrest Gump is one of my favorite movies of all time. I watched it again recently and was reminded of Tom Hanks’ character’s comeback for remarks made about his intelligence. The same mantra can apply to defining an organization’s culture. You can talk about it and try to shape it all you want with words; however, it is only by a company’s actions that a culture truly emerges. Each crab boat on the Deadliest Catch has its own unique culture…evident by the inter-boat transfers of various individuals over the past seasons…sometimes the switcheroo works, sometimes it doesn’t depending on the personality and work ethic of the person.

Doesn’t the same ring so obviously true in our own organizations…even if we aren’t (thankfully) biting the head off a cod fish to welcome someone onboard or pulling pranks on our co-workers? Culture in itself sets implicit expectations with people and, along with the other verbal discussions and training experiences mentioned previously, helps a new employee determine if he/she will “fit” into this living organism that is a business. The more your organization embraces the practices in this blog, the more true or passionate the company culture will be. I argue that a strong culture is to your advantage because it helps outliers self-select out of your process and out of your organization long before they might have otherwise…minimizing the costs of turnover for your organization.

So, is your organization applying these concepts like the Hillstrand brothers break through the ice pack; or, is your company barely leaving a wake in its path?

ExactHire works with small- to medium-sized organizations to apply technology to processes to improve overall job fit. For more information about our software solutions, please visit our resources page or contact us today.

Image credit: King Crab by Eric Heath (contact)

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