During the past two years, I have heard more plant and operations managers praise and credit their workforce (repeatedly and sincerely) for their companies’ continuing success than I have heard during my decades in covering this industry. This was very gratifying to hear because such sincere praise was few and far between in the past. It clearly is the employees who will either make or break any company.

No doubt, one of the most important things a company must do is hire new employees. I don’t envy managers, particularly new ones, who are responsible for hiring employees because there’s such a huge pool of good people who are looking for work. There’s nothing more important than hiring the right person for the job.

Yet, I’ve had colleagues tell me over the years that hiring new employees is nothing more than a “crap shoot” — “You never know what you’re going to get,” they said wringing their hands, but they shouldn’t feel this way.

What should you look for in hiring a new employee? Different jobs require different skills and experience, and sometimes getting a skilled/experienced worker to meet your needs requires training and educating that person “on the job.”

Basically, two types of managers handle new hires. One type is the “Here’s your desk, here’s your phone — lots of luck, you’re on your own” manager who offers little or no direction or feedback. The other type is someone who genuinely wants to see new hires succeed and he or she works very hard to help the new hire achieve that end.

Some new managers are anxious about hiring new people because they have never done it before. Here are some suggestions they might consider:

• Hire someone you really feel has the potential to ascend to a more elevated position within the company in the future. I have known some managers who have hired only those they felt would be comfortable in the open position long-term because they didn’t want to replace that particular position over and over again …..nor did they want competition for their own job down the road.

• Each job description must be clearly explained, written on paper and given to the new hire. Once a new person is hired, go over the job description with that person to clear up any potential confusion that may exist.

• If possible, have final contenders meet other members of the plant or corporate team he or she would be working with and get each of their opinions on the contender.

• Assign someone to supervise the new hire during his or her orientation period. These supervisors should ensure new hires learn to handle various responsibilities the right way and they should help new hires feel comfortable asking questions.

• Managing supervisors must track the progress of new hires and list in writing any points he or she needs to improve upon. Review progress on these points within reasonable intervals.

• Delegate. One of the major weaknesses many managers have is delegating duties. Once the new hire gets the hang of things, delegate new duties to this person as soon as possible. This will help clear your plate of duties and help raise the self-worth and value of the new employee.

• Routinely follow-up on the progress of news hires — don’t leave them treading water on the plant floor or in the corporate office. Schedule six month and one year performance reviews of each new hire. Be tough but fair in your reviews.

• Praise them for jobs well done and be very clear on any areas needing improvement.

• Seek out input from all employees, including new hires, when looking for improvement ideas or whenever faced with challenges. Million-dollar ideas can come from anyone.

• Perhaps most difficult, don’t delay in terminating new hires who are unable or unwilling to satisfactorily handle their job after a reasonable amount of time. Place unsatisfactory employees on probation with clearly stated goals for improvement and a deadline for making improvements. If an employee does not improve by this deadline, termination is needed. Keeping someone on the job who doesn’t carry his or her own weight is a drag on the entire company — and it causes great resentment among employees who are forced to work harder to cover the inadequacies of underperforming new hires.

• Don’t let questions, emails and voice mails from newly hired employees go unanswered and respond to queries within a reasonable amount of time.

• If possible (depending on your needs), give inexperienced folks a chance. Many employers claim they can’t hire people with no experience — but how can a young, inexperienced person get experience if a hiring manager doesn’t take a chance on an inexperienced-but-promising job contender? While in college, I had to get an internship to get my degree — and it was up to me to find it. Many doors slammed in my face because I had no experience. One of my last interviews was with a grizzled, veteran editor-in-chief of a local newspaper chain. For whatever reason, he gave me a chance and hired me as a cub reporter on the spot, for which I will be forever grateful.

You might hire a diamond-in the-rough — do whatever you can to help him or her succeed.