During the recent Solace Summit we launched Finding the Perfect Fit, which is a guide to senior recruitment, produced by Solace and the Local Government Association. The guide pulls out key themes from research undertaken with over 50 elected members and senior officers. Unsurprisingly, ‘fit’ came through clearly as a key consideration for both hiring organisations, as well as individuals looking to move.
Although it is undeniable that cultural fit is a critical component in making a successful appointment, organisations must be careful to ensure this is not considered in isolation. Recruiters who truly get cultural-fit hiring right are those who understand that organisations need a real mix of people. An organisation full of clones does not necessarily create a good culture and may not encourage a diverse leadership team.
Following a Solace Inclusive Workforce event recently, Joanne Roney, chief executive of Manchester City Council, claimed: ‘We must promote the need to think differently and be faithful to our identity’. She believes ‘if we are to help people reach their true potential, they need to be true to themselves rather than fit some sort of consciously or unconsciously imposed template’.
Getting this balance right between achieving cultural fit and not stifling individuality is a crucial part of recruiting senior leaders in today’s context. According to Joanne ‘having a diverse workforce opens up your workplace to a wider array of skills and knowledge [as well as] the potential for increased innovation and enhanced collaboration’. It has never been more important therefore, to ensure that your recruitment process not only tests how a candidate will ‘fit’ with your organisation, but also encourages individuality and promotes inclusivity.
This dichotomy is probably one of the toughest aspects of getting a senior recruitment process right; there are no easy answers and there is currently no tested best practice to follow. We need to continue the conversation around innovation and creativity in recruitment to ensure that we get this right. And this isn’t just about ‘process’; there is a big job to do in terms of engaging with decision makers and wider stakeholders to encourage these principles.
At Solace we favour honesty and transparency throughout the interview process to ensure our candidates perform to their best potential but also perform with authenticity. We ensure full and frank feedback is made available at each stage of the process so that our candidates are able to fully understand the requirements of the hiring organisation but also better understand their own skills and abilities and how to best present them in each circumstance – while always coming from a position of personal truth and honesty.
One of our senior interim managers, currently undertaking a senior role in a county council encourages the prioritisation of preparation in a recruitment process. She feels that fear of the unknown can have a huge impact on a candidate’s performance and advises ensuring you provide the candidate plenty of information about the process and the organisation, therefore giving time to applicants so they can select the most appropriate examples to showcase their skills and experience. She feels this adds more value to the process than creating opportunities to see candidates think on their feet, without enough contextual understanding.
In a recent internal recruitment process at Solace we have trialled bringing the preferred candidate into the office for half a day to see the team in operation, to learn the intricacies of the role and ‘get involved’, meeting potential colleagues.
This was hugely successful in ensuring the fit was right for both parties as it provided a more relaxed environment to encourage individuality, therefore ensuring a more genuine assessment of fit was facilitated (on both parts). Is this something that could be transferred to a senior recruitment process perhaps? Would this be possible in the close knit world of local government? Would it offer benefits on both sides to better assess the opportunity/candidate?
Stakeholder panels are well known to provide an effective way for candidates to become more immersed in the environment they will potentially work in if they are successful. Although this idea is not a new one, it is effective and could possibly be developed or extended to bring in new and innovative ways to provide a more authentic environment in which candidates can be assessed.
Of course, this depends on those stakeholders being engaged and bought into the forward vision and direction of the organisation. If their perspective is one of ‘business as usual’, then they may well expect to be recruiting more of the same. One senior local government leader recently proposed asking candidates to create a “user manual of me”, so that interviewers know which environments they will be comfortable in and which they will not, for assessment purposes.
We are living in a world where artificial intelligence is a growing agenda. Unsurprisingly, it is starting to be used by some organisations, in some recruitment processes in varying ways. For example, the candidate would be recorded via a webcam and have a limited timeframe to answer each question, which is then measured by an algorithm. This is certainly innovative but is it inclusive? Would it ensure that people who are perhaps more introverted or more analytical were given the opportunity to shine? Would it create an environment where you could get a true assessment of the candidate’s abilities and leadership skills? Personally I prefer a living, breathing person on the opposite side of the interview table.
So the conversation is in motion…let’s keep it going. Innovation is crucial in all working environments and recruitment is no exception. Where we are faced with thorny issues like assessing cultural fit, without stifling individuality and stunting diversity, creativity is key.
Beth Roberts works for Solace in the interim recruitment team