By James Osborne

About 12 months ago we were doing some HR consultancy and strategy development work with a medium-sized company in London, when the owner called us into his office and asked, “James, what do we need to do to be successful? I mean, really successful?”

Their products and services they sold were popular with their customers, and the company was comfortably profitable. To the outside world, they were considered to be a reasonably good and stable business. However, we and the owner knew that their monthly figures could be so much better than they were if only they were able to deliver higher margins, lower costs and greater efficiencies in how they worked.

They had spent months tightening their procedures and measuring market trends, but still they were only realising a small part of their real potential. They were clearly ignoring one of the most obvious, and yet often overlooked opportunities available in their toolbox — the potential of their people.

”If you have the right people on board” I replied “and you treat them in the right way, your business can go anywhere you want it to. If you do the opposite, then so will your business! That is the key to being really successful.”

Now this is far from a new revelation. In fact, it’s an idea that every day is thrown around executive networking events, golf clubs and consultancies alike. But what many companies fail to do is respond sufficiently. How do you ensure that the staff you bring on are going to be the right people? And then how do you ensure that they are going to stay and deliver the results that you want?

Obviously, there is no guarantee to any of this, but there are some fairly effortless ways to dramatically reduce the risk, as we successfully demonstrated to this particular client last year.

Step One: Analysis

For a business to be successful, you need to have people on board who are both committed to making it a success and are capable of delivering on (or above) company expectations. In other words, you need to have attitude as well as aptitude.

The first stage, therefore, of any recruitment process is to identify not only the skills and knowledge, but also behaviours and attitude are required to achieve the company’s objectives, and not which jobs are currently vacant.

Often this approach results in a number of new and previously unthought-of “job descriptions” being developed, that cover not only desired skills but also desired personality types.

From here, a quick analysis of what you currently have in the business (the skills and personality styles of your current staff) will then identify the gaps that need filling; often this differs from the original job description. To do this, we use an online personality test which is quick, low cost and impartial.

Start the process by getting one of the senior managers to complete a benchmark personality test to create the standard of the perfect fit for that particular role and then get each of the current staff to do a test about themselves.

Now you know what you really want, you need to go and fill those gaps.

Step Two: Source and Selection

Design the selection criteria based on the skills and behaviours you identified from your benchmarking (previous step).

Use recruitment agencies, headhunt from competitors or like industries, ask friends or family, advertise yourself, get referrals from current employees, recruit graduates from Universities — whatever you do, do them as many of them as you can. Too often we rely on a single source of candidates which minimises our chances of finding the best talent to match our profile.

Ask yourself the question, “where do all the types of people who could do this job, go to in large numbers?” And that’s where you go to find them. I once spent a day headhunting new sales staff at a gym before because one of the criteria I wanted was someone with high amounts of energy!

Look at their CV, and if it matches closely with your skills gap analysis, then you bring them in, profile them to assess their personality style and then interview them.

This is where the profiling comes into its own, providing you with a series of key questions to ask the candidate at interview, known as behavioural based questions – perfect for any non-qualified recruiter. Pinpointing any potential areas of weakness in their behavioural style, you can probe deeper than you will have ever been before!

Step Three: Exercise their Potential

Once you have found your perfect person, and they have started to work for you, you then need to manage and grow them; we call this “exercising their potential”. This is where our recruitment strategy becomes a complete 360∞ process.

After your initial analysis, you know what the business needs, and what it was missing. From your selection process you now know everything about your new staff, including what drives them, how they like to be managed, what they are like under pressure etc. Now you have everything you need to know to effectively manage them and develop them.

From day one of their employment with you, spend time with them to create a management and development plan based on what you now know about them and what they will need to do to build on their individual strengths and overcome any potential weaknesses they may have. This will automatically become part of the performance measurement framework for their ongoing appraisals.

Back in London, our client has since enjoyed a substantial increase in the quality of new recruits to the business. Motivation of their existing staff has increased within just a few months, which in turn has resulted in a decline in staff turnover.

In a nutshell, revenues have increased, and costs have gone down thanks to a simple 360∞ recruitment process and a little clever planning that any company can do tomorrow. The profiling component is just one element that helps minimise making costly recruitment errors.

In the next newsletter, we’ll go into some more detail of how you can better manage, motivate and retain these new skills and attitudes that you have just recruited!

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