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Hire for attitude

When stats reveal 40 percent of new executive and management recruits fail to deliver on the expected results, who needs to ‘up their game’ the person or the organisation that took them on? Dr William Holden, Chairman of behavioural change experts Sewells, has some insights.

Most organisations, will have a recruitment strategy and 99 percent of the time, the strategy is ok, it’s in its execution where problems start to arise. Increasingly what’s happening is HR Departments are looking at qualifications and experience and not considering how individuals will fit into the culture of the organisation. They’re not focused on looking for the right core ingredients that successful people have. They need to ask, ‘to what degree is this person aligned, not so much to the mission and the vision, but the values that drive everything we do?’ The values of the organisation should be used as a guide to find the right person. Rather than trying to sell the candidate on the company values, the whole recruitment process should be about whether they, for the most part, share them.

The recruitment strategy model that Sewells recommends is based on CCA. That’s Character, Capacity and Attitude. The best definition of character is, ‘Is this the kind of person who will do what they promised to do long after the mood in which they were in, when they said it, has passed?’ In essence, do they deliver on their promises? Do they over-promise and under-deliver or vice versa? When they’re communicating with people do they feel that they have got to use lots of pretentious jargon and impress people, or is it about simplifying it to the point where everybody gets it?

Capacity is twofold. Firstly, do they have the intellectual capacity to do the job, and more importantly, and the thing that is often missed, do they have the emotional capacity? A lot of organisations have got half the people doing twice the amount of work with fewer resources, with less time, to higher standards. That puts all kinds of stresses and strains on people and it’s important to be asking questions about a candidate’s emotional capacity. Can they take the stress, the knocks, the intervention from Government, whoever it might be? These things are as important, if not more important, than the intellectual or technical ability to do the job. Attitude is so crucial. Somebody with all the right skills and all the right qualifications, but with the wrong attitude is usually a complete disaster. A good policy to adopt is, ‘Hire for attitude, and train for success’. If you’ve got somebody with the right attitude you can train them and develop them to get on board with what it is you’re trying to do culturally. The best definition of an attitude is ‘What is an individual’s chosen response to a given set of circumstances?’ Whatever the organisation or the marketplace throws at them, what is their attitude?

Is it a positive attitude where they will look to overcome the obstacles and get the team together to get them engaged, or are they more likely to have a, ‘Here we go again attitude?’ Attitudes are contagious, ask the candidate if theirs is worth catching. Ask them to give you some really good examples of times when it would have been easy for them to have developed a negative attitude but they turned it around and achieved a positive outcome. Someone with a positive attitude will probably be thinking. ‘Where would you like me to start?’ The negative person won’t have an answer for you.

Of course, key to the process of recruiting people who are aligned to the organisations mission and vision and values is to make sure that the people involved in the selection process know the mission and the vision and values of the company themselves. By know, that means they are part of their DNA, and not just something stuck on the wall in reception, the kitchen or staff room. If you’ve got the vast majority of people who have no idea what the vision and values are, the HR strategy cannot be aligned to it.

If the values are integrity, communication and teamwork, they should be the backbone of the interview process. It becomes a very sterile process if you’re just recruiting people based on qualifications and experience. Is it the kind of person who can inspire, is it the kind of person who can educate, the kind of person who can develop and coach, the kind of person who can actually graft and get others to do the same in order to do the job you want them to do? Have you got the right person as opposed to have you got the right profile? Sometimes organisations are guilty of dehumanising the process. Ultimately, the vast majority of the 40 percent that fail do so, not because they can’t do the job, but because culturally they’re a poor fit. Picking somebody with the right Character, Capacity and Attitude will make sure you don’t make that figure rise.

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