I am starting a series about the management of QC inspectors in China.
Part 1 is about hiring a team of inspectors. I listed before the types of backgrounds of most quality inspectors. But what profiles should you look for, how should you evaluate them, and who should manage them?
1. The psychological profile
For simple QC inspectors, it often makes sense to hire young graduates with no experience, to teach them your product requirements, and to ensure they follow the right inspection procedure. So the most important is to select people with the right profile.
I often refer to the “Whole Brain Model” designed by Ned Hermann (source: Whole Brain Business Book). Every one has preference(s) that span 1, 2, 3, or all 4 of these quadrants in a significant way.
A good QC inspector tends to have a strong preference for the B quadrant. He/she must give strong attention to details, be very organized, and strictly follow the procedure.
When it comes to quality auditors, who look for loopholes in systems, I think a preference in quadrant A and/or B is fine. And they should not be very weak in quadrant C (relating with other people), or it would affect their effectiveness at work.
Quality engineers, who work on improvement tasks, need strong analytical skills (A) but also good interpersonal skills (C) to make sure the factory representatives understand and agree with suggested improvements.
How to get an idea of a candidate’s preferred quadrant? For example, if you are looking for an individual with a B quadrant preference, here are a few indicators:
- Did he/she arrive on time in the interview?
- Are there typos in the resume or in the letter(s)?
- Is the formatting consistent across his resume and letter(s)?
- If he/she had a job as inspector in the past, can he/she outline the 5 (or whatever other number) steps each inspection consists of, without much hesitation?
- Is he/she looking for a stable job (if so, he/she is rather conservative, likes to plan things, etc.) or does he/she like new challenges (in which case, he/she might be more on the “creative” side)?
2. Observations in real working conditions
You don’t want QC inspectors who empathize a lot with factory employees and who won’t mind following strict rules. I guess everybody will agree on this. That’s the point of checking the psychological profile. Unfortunately, that’s not sufficient.
When it comes to hiring Chinese employees, I don’t trust hiring interviews. I have concluded that I should always observe a candidate at work before taking a decision. My best hires are people I saw working in a factory or for a trading company.
Fortunately, there are other options:
- Ask them to do 1 or 2 inspections for your company and observe them. Unfortunately, they may not be exposed to special situations that constitute a significant test of their aptitude and general approach.
- Have a specialized training company put them in simulated situations. This approach works well. You can read more about it here.
3. Who should manage the inspectors?
I have seen mostly three types of successful cases:
- An employee who has demonstrated his/her ability to coach inspectors, improve procedures, and give feedback to suppliers was promoted to the QC manager position.
- The general manager of the buying office acts as QC manager (in a smaller structure).
- Inspectors are parts of small teams, along with purchasers, merchandisers, etc. in a type of organization I described here.
The main pitfall I have observed is to base the decision of whom to hire as QC manager on the number of years of experience. Seniority or technical competency have little correlation with one’s suitability as QC manager.
Note that the “problem manager in chief” can be a QC supervisor or a team leader. It doesn’t need to be the same person as the QC manager.
4. A few more tips
Here are a few more considerations when hiring a quality controller:
- Make sure they sign a confidentiality agreement. Any leak that you can prove is cause for dismissal.
- Similarly, have them sign a clause related to independence within, or in addition to, their labor contract. Many behaviors are unwelcome and you should list them out.
- Finally, I prefer to give a low fixed salary to inspectors + a fixed allowance + some work-based of performance-based bonus. This way, if you need to fire one (and it will happen), the compensation will be based on the low “official” salary. Inspection companies do this, so don’t hesitate to do the same.
What do you think?