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Selection matters

Posted on September 29, 2015

Mark is the CEO of an SME in the engineering industry. He has just recruited a key member of staff, John, and is beginning to regret it. Instead of getting on with the job the new recruit seems to be needing an awful lot of Mark’s time – time that is already in short supply.

John, who is in his late twenties, is nearing the end of his probationary period and Mark is seriously concerned. If he doesn’t sort John out quickly, Mark will have lost the exorbitant fee paid to the head-hunter, relocation and visa costs, as well as having to face the disruption of hiring a replacement.

John, the new recruit, is now demanding a structured onboarding process, a career ladder, KPIs, training, insights into the local business culture – the list goes on. Mark, as CEO, has far more important things to worry about than one new recruit…

Mark would dearly love to blame his small HR team for this mess but they are so busy processing visas and paying salaries that he rarely sees them.

Mark is representative of many executives who have impressive technical expertise and business acumen but who have insufficient training or in-house resources to be able to design and manage a company-wide talent management strategy.

Talent is usually an organisation’s biggest asset. The challenge is to have the right people in the right place at the right time (with the right skills and motivation). Adopting a holistic approach to the talent lifecycle means ensuring that five aspects are covered: planning for the future; acquiring the right people; engaging and motivating them; managing their performance; and developing them for the future.

With the words ‘horse’ and ‘bolted’ running through his mind, Mark reflects on the methods he used to recruit John. Having come up through the ranks, Mark, now CEO, knows the job and the industry inside-out. He knows the kind of skills, knowledge and attitude it takes to be successful – in fact, if he could just find someone like he used to be 20 years ago, how could he go wrong? With that in mind, he found a job description on the internet and sent it off to the head-hunter who liaised with Mark’s PA from then on until Mark was given a shortlist of three candidates.

Instead of seeing recruitment as part of a holistic approach to managing his workforce, Mark thought that if he could only find the best person for the job, the rest would fall into place.

Mark set aside an hour to prepare for the shortlist interviews. He read the CVs carefully, looking for gaps and inconsistencies and jotted down a couple of questions for each candidate. Mark put the candidates at ease by telling them all about the requirements of the job. This took quite a lot of time but he estimates that each candidate did about 10% of the talking.

All three were smart, well-educated and professionally qualified but Candidate A (John) stood out – Mark hit it off with him straight away. John reminded Mark of himself when he was that age. He knew instinctively that John was the one but being a courteous, caring sort of guy Mark went through the motions of interviewing Candidates B and C. He couldn’t resist giving John a pat on the back and saying, “Well done, lad” as he left.

Mark asked HR to send out the contract, and to arrange a desk, laptop and mobile phone. A month later John was in place. And then the problems started.

If Mark had had the resources to link recruitment to his company’s strategic goals, use selection methods with proven reliability (unstructured interviews as described above are only slightly more effective in selecting the right person than graphology) and put in place an effective onboarding programme, he would have had a fighting chance.

A specialist could help him to focus on the remaining three aspects of the talent lifecycle quickly but the chances are that John will not stay long. And that is likely to cost the company 90 to 200% of his annual salary.

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