How to Assess the Skills, Strengths, and Weaknesses of the Employees in New Business Acquisitions
Knowing Your New Team as Well as Possible Is Good Business – Here’s How to Do It
Are you in the market to buy a business? One of the most important steps in business acquisition is to assess its current assets. One of the most valuable assets is the personnel, the current employees.
Whether you’re looking at a smaller business with less than 10 employees, or a business with up to 100 or more, part of your due diligence as a buyer is to identify the strengths, weaknesses, and skills of the existing workers. This begins with the leadership team, and extends out to all the other employees.
What is working well right now? What strengths appear to be missing? Is everyone currently placed in the role best suited to their abilities, passions, and expertise? Something must be working well or you wouldn’t be considering buying the business. But there are always areas to improve.
If you can leverage those strengths while filling in the gaps, you can turn a good purchase into a greatly profitable business.
The Objective Approach to Strengths and Skills Assessments
It’s not enough to rely on self-assessments. Interviews are good, but again, there will be a lot of subjectivity and bias, especially for people who have stronger or more agreeable personalities.
To truly identify the strengths, skills, and personality attributes in play within the business you are about to buy, we recommend using third-party assessments.
For many years, PainLess Hire has been using a proprietary set of assessments for soft and hard skills, as well as personality tests, to help employers hire the best talent for their open positions.
But those same assessments can be used on existing employees. As an incoming business owner, this is the single best way to evaluate the true quality of your personnel. We can help you create a customized array of assessments specifically tailored to the business you are about to acquire.
With the Employee Assessment Service, you can employ:
How to Assess the Employees and Leaders at Your Newly Acquired Business
It’s hard to find good information about this. Most of what you will find is for helping existing managers and leaders assess their own teams. But those ideas presume some degree of pre-existing institutional knowledge and relationships.
As a new buyer, you don’t have that luxury, and the timeline for earning the trust and respect of your existing employees doesn’t last very long.
For instance, a person who has owned or managed a business for a while but who wants to take their staff to the next level can assess strengths and weaknesses by doing one-on-one interviews. They could also give their team writing exercises where they list out what they perceive as their best qualities, and the areas they need to improve.
As a business buyer, you could use these approaches as well, and it would help you get to know your new employees. But there are problems with both.
For interviews to be valuable, it helps if the person being interviewed trusts and respects the interviewer. As the incoming owner, you haven’t had a chance to establish that trust. So using this approach runs the risk of your new employees feeling like they are interviewing for their own jobs.
For self-assessments, you must rely on the employee having good self-awareness. But the reality is, we all have blind spots. We have strengths and weaknesses we may not be aware of. People also tend to over-estimate their abilities. What they believe to be a strength may in fact be a fairly average ability. And, as the incoming owner, employees will be more likely to deliberately over-state their strengths and minimize their weaknesses because they want to impress you.
You need to know the hard skills of your team. But even more important, you need a way to discover the soft skills of your newly acquired employees.
Soft Skills Assessments
These include personality tests, as well as assessments about business-positive traits such as perseverance, resilience, ability to handle negative feedback, critical thinking, cognitive flexibility, service orientation, people management, and many others.
These sorts of soft skills actually play a far greater role in the success of a business than hard skills. The reason is simple: Hard skills can be trained fairly easily, as long as the person is willing to learn (being teachable is a soft skill).
But soft skills are much harder to train.
One study found that leaders who center their business operations around soft skills like these increased their team performance by as much as 30%. See our 5-step soft skills hiring guide for more.
How Soft Skills Assessments Make You a Better Owner and Leader
If you can begin ownership of your new business acquisition with a clear picture of the soft skills and strengths already present in your team, and the areas that are missing, this gives you a huge advantage. You’ll be able to:
- Target new hires around any missing strengths your team needs
- Create opportunities for employees to flourish around their strengths
- Tailor trainings and coaching to people who need it for particular areas
- Improve company culture by celebrating and recognizing strengths of team members
Imagine showing up your first week after acquiring a business, and highlighting the top 3 soft skill strengths of every team member. You as the new owner would be instantly appreciated, trusted, and respected to a far greater extent than the typical experience of a new owner.
You’ll be positioned for success as an effective leader.
Normally, there’s that guarded uncertainty, moderate suspicion, and lingering anxiety of whether this new owner will fire all of us and bring in their own people.
Knowing you team’s strengths, before you even set foot in the building, would be a game changer for any owner purchasing an existing business.
Hard Skills Assessments
Hard skills will look different for different businesses. These can include a variety of computer skills, as well as more fundamental skills like math and writing, and many other skills. Again, the specific hard skills assessments you want to use will depend on the business you’re acquiring and what you want to know about your team.
Perhaps they use a particular CRM, but you favor a different one. We can help you find a skills test to assess your team’s ability to work with these sorts of platforms.
But again, even here the soft skills matter much more. Some people are resistant to change and will dislike any new system, just because it’s new. A soft skills assessment may reveal that sort of attitude. If you find a number of team members who feel that way, it doesn’t mean you won’t switch CRMs. It just means you’ll approach the issue differently.
Hard skills assessments will reveal if your team has the ability to carry out the tasks you believe the business you’re buying needs to engage in to grow and be successful.
Here’s the process we use for the Employee Assessment Service:
- Create the array of testing that is appropriate for your goals and the business you’re buying.
- Administer the assessments to all relevant staff, including leadership and lower level employees
- Analyze results
- Prepare a report on the results and send to you for discussion and recommendations of next steps
With the report in hand, you’ll be able to determine if you need to hire anyone new, move people around, or make other changes to the personnel, training, or coaching in your new business acquisition.