Do we really tell people what we are measuring them against?
When an organization is looking to recruit new talent (or people in normal business language), do you think they are looking for people with the skills they need or are they looking to see if potential employees can guess the rules of the game you are trying to get them to play?
When asking or expecting someone to play football, golf or tennis you would think you begin by explaining the basic rules of the game to give them a fair shot… so why in HR & recruitment do we like to make life difficult for potential employees and ourselves?
A case study on highly effective talent
A colleague of mine contacted me earlier in the week to say that they had just been turned down from yet another selection process. Despondent, he was starting to question his competence and ability to find employment again after being without a permanent role for some 2+ years when he was made redundant.
Let’s look at this individual.
He is in his mid 50’s, well qualified in his field. Over the years he has held senior change management roles in several blue chip organizations. Each in a different sector, and each for between 2-7 years (so stays the distance). In each case he received glowing appraisals, achieved all goals set and was a well respected professional by his peers and internal customers alike.
Let’s take the last recruitment process, having got through initial selection (something he feels due to his age is increasingly difficult) he attended a selection assessment centre. This comprised three activities, an interview and two half hour roles plays.
At the feedback he was told that he interviewed well, but at the role plays he did not show what they were looking for. Now in his mind he was limited to 30 minutes and managed the meeting as best he could to get to a conclusion. There were other issues which he briefly highlighted, but due to time constraints did not fully explore. In reality he felt that a one-to-two hour meeting was required to really meet the needs, but working within the constraints given he prioritised for the sake of exercise.
Because of this both he lost out on a role, and the employer on an experienced professional. It transpires the person that got the role was some 20 years his junior. How someone with less than 10 years post grad experience can offer insight greater is beyond him… and me.
Why was he not successful?
Simple – he was playing the game to one set of rules – the employer another set – but at the end of the day the rules” required for the job were in fact commonly understood.
Why are HR functions increasingly hiding behind unrealistic role play, and not looking at the whole.
This is like a football club asking a potential player to come for a trial, having them undertake some activities, but not telling them that the assessment criteria is not the rules of football but that of basketball!…. even though they want a football player!
What transpired in feedback he received was that the selection process was there to help reduce the staff turnover they had experienced over the last few years… mmm well if you select basket ball players to a football club of course people will leave sooner than expected. The sad thing is some of these employers just do not realise that they are measuring the right things in the wrong context so by default will recruit the wrong people.
It’s all very well having a paragraph of what a “competency” means, but unless you know the context and how this will be assessed it is meaningless to the average job hunter. Worse, if you are in HR you may consciously or unconsciously try to second guess what the competency means and how it will be assessed putting the applicant at an even greater disadvantage.
Where is this all going?
Now there is the $64M question. What we see in most industries is the most experienced people unable to stay in a sector, and people 2climbing the ladder” younger and younger. That is all very well now, but what happens when these 20 & 30 something’s get to be 45-55 and beyond? Where will they go? What will they do? For if the current trend increases we will have less and less experienced people in more and more senior roles, with little experience. How many senior managers in the current major recession experienced and carried the lessons from the 1980’s? Who of the current crop of people will be in post for the next big crash?
The business and recruitment world needs to look carefully at what it is doing if it wants sustainability and the right people with appropriate experience in post.