Recruitment – Five Things Leaders in SME’s Must Do
I recently gave a presentation to a group of business owners and entrepreneurs from the Small & Medium Enterprises sector (SME). The talk focused on the recent Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development’s report “Recruiting & Developing Talented People for SME Growth” (CIPD 2014). If you are an SME business owner and you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend that you get a copy and do (contact me and I’ll send you one). SME’s are a key driver for increased employment and job growth. They account for over 2/3rds of all the jobs in the UK and around 90% of jobs in the private sector.
I started off the conversation with my audience by discussing engagement. Why discuss engagement, when talking about recruitment? Because I firmly believe that it’s almost impossible for a person to be engaged at work, if they are in a job they are not suitable for. Surely that doesn’t happen? It does and more often than you think! It can be the result of a “rushed” recruitment process; or where tasks, duties and relationships have not been clearly defined. In some cases a job description may not have been prepared. Fact! In the 21st century, these things still happen, especially in SME’s where the phrase “we just needed to get it done” is considered “entrepreneurial” and an important driver of success.
The evidence for actively promoting engagement is clear. Improved efficiency, reduced costs, better productivity, less accidents at work. Business owners need to get educated on the benefits of engagement. To start getting engagement right, we have to get recruitment right. The CIPD made an excellent start in recommending a number actions that SME leaders need to take. These are:
1. Hire the right people – this might seem obvious but recruiting organisations tend to focus on finding the technical skills and experience they need to do a job. It is rare that there is any assessment of a candidate’s values and behavioural preferences relating to work. Attention must be paid to understanding:
- How the candidate will impact customers
- How will they work with current employees
- Does the candidate share the organisation’s values
- Will this candidate grow and contribute as the company grows
In my experience, most recruitment campaigns focus solely on assessing candidates “eligibility” for a position (eligibility is the education, skills, qualifications and relevant experience a candidate has). Eligibility is determined, easily enough, by scanning a candidates CV. What is often overlooked is a candidates “suitability” for a position (suitability is interests, work preferences, work values, interpersonal skills, attitudes and motivations). Suitability is not easy to determine from a CV and needs to be accurately assessed and measured. Many recruitment campaigns make no effort to assess candidates “suitability”. If suitability assessments are attempted, they are often done using inaccurate, or invalid processes. On occasions, it may only be done through the”gut feel” of an interviewer.
There are reliable and accurate measuring systems that can help accurately assess candidate suitability. These assessments are relatively inexpensive and quick to use, when considered against the cost and disruption of making a poor recruitment decision. Recruitment of any new position, internal, or external, should use an accurate, reliable and valid assessment process.
2. Find the right recruitment process for your organisation – the CIPD recommend that organisations formalise their recruitment processes. This makes the process repeatable and reliable. The key points are:
- Offer an attractive but realistic employment proposition
- A consistent approach to hiring across the organisation
- A recruitment approach that looks for cultural fit, not just technical skills
- A streamlined recruitment process
Of course, this again looks like common sense but again many SME’s find it hard to do. They may lack the necessary HR skills within their own business to organize and manage a “joined up” recruitment process. To the audience at my presentation, I asked them not to underestimate this recommendation. I gave an example of an organisation, who recruited four male apprentices. Here was part of the conversation with the HR Manager. “Did you interview any female candidates?” “Yes, two” said the HR Manager. “Did you keep copies of the interview questions and notes?” “No!” replied the HR Manager. This HR manager quickly recognised where I was going with this. The key thing about any process, and recruitment in particular, is that you have to also see it in terms of risk management and risk reduction. No organisation need have its reputation tarnished because of lack of care, attention and the keeping of good records, particularly for recruitment. Discrimination accusations are a risk if the process is not fair and transparent and you can prove it. Poor design, or neglect, are not good excuses!
3. Make development a key part of working for your organisation
- Make learning part of you culture
- Development of employees supports growth in your company
Once you have recruited a person, to keep them you have to develop and help them grow. This doesn’t mean expensive external training courses, it means allowing employees the opportunity to learn and grow doing their job and working with others. Every day provides learning opportunities. Do organisations take advantage of this? Simple and effective coaching & guidance works well in this context. All development activity must be based on a clear business need and build capability to innovate and serve customers. It can also build engagement and support staff retention. Remember that cross training can reduce the impact of absence and holidays. Companies can also use strategic projects as an opportunity to develop key talent and high potential employees. Think about the future leadership! If the recruitment process measured an employee’s values and behavioural traits, then important traits can be developed and re-tested. This is low cost and effective development many organisations miss the opportunity to harness.
4. Develop management capability – This is essential for long term business health. Inexperienced, or poorly trained managers can impact staff engagement and business performance negatively.
Gallup suggests that 70% of engagement is directly attributable to the direct supervisor. Too many SME businesses pick managers because of their technical capabilities and ignore their suitability for leadership and management. The CIPD says “don’t let managers fly solo! It’s not down to luck whether your employees have a good manager or not.” Selecting managers for their values and behaviour are key. To be suitable, personal values must match those of your organisation. An excellent recommendation that I agree with 100%, is the creation of dual succession routes. Doing this means the best technical people don’t feel they have to become managers to further their career.
5. Look to your future talent – Finding the right talent in the market-place is becoming harder. With some thought, planning and support businesses can do this for themselves
- Home-growing the future workforce
- Succession planning
A clear business rational is needed when doing this. It has to be linked and related to recruitment so that development plans can be started when hiring new employees, graduates and apprentices. Under the right circumstances hiring young inexperienced people can support long-term productivity and competitiveness. In terms of succession planning, business owners must ask some questions: What new skills will our business need in the future? What would we do if any of our key managers or technical people left? What potential do we have in our current staff? It’s too important to leave these questions unanswered until it is too late. Business owners of SME’s must manage the longer term health of their company as well as meeting today’s customer orders.
In summary the CIPD have made excellent recommendations that SME owners must take on-board. SME leaders’ need to be more strategic in hiring and managing people. When recruiting the suitability of a person for the position and for the company is key and must be assessed. Structured recruitment, selection and people development is an investment with high returns, if done correctly. Management development is key to building a stable and prosperous business. Longer term people planning is a necessity.
David Steele is Director and co-founder of Advance & Develop, whose mission is to help build an engaged and successful workforce. He has over 20 years recruitment and development experience in the manufacturing and service sectors. David has also run a number of businesses of various sizes and has always been able to demonstrate how improvement in employee engagement can have a significant and fast impact on a company’s results. David is also a passionate advocate of the Harrison Assessment Talent Solution (HATS). HATS provides a full talent management solution for no software cost or license fee. Its accuracy, versatility and validity make it a must see for anyone in HR, or Learning & Development. David lives west of Glasgow, with his wife Linda and black labrador Sammy.
CIPD (2014). Recruiting & Developing Talented People for SME Growth. CIPD, London
Gallup (2013). The State of the Gobal Workplace – Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide. Gallup, Washington DC