We get the leaders we deserve

Many, many years ago I was sat in a room with a CEO and a number of their employees, it was a “meet the ordinary people” type affair. There was a debate about the visibility and availability of the CEO in the various parts of the business, with one of the managers saying that she would like to see them spend more time out on the floor with her team.

It’s the kind of challenge that you hear pretty regularly raised towards leaders and leadership teams. What struck me, on this occasion, was the reply of the CEO.

They went on to explain that they’d very much like to do so. That they’d love to have the opportunity to get to speak to people and interact with them. But they found it really hard to just roll up out of the blue and just start talking and people never really invited them to anything that was going on to help them overcome this challenge.

You mean, CEOs have weaknesses? Well, of course they do. We all do and just because you’ve risen to a position of power doesn’t mean you’re perfect. In the kitchens and copier rooms across the country, we’re busy identifying and outlining the weaknesses of our management teams. We’re incredibly good at diagnosing and highlighting the shortcomings, but what are we doing to help them?

That’s their problem though, you’re not paid to make them better. Right? If you work in HR, I’d thoroughly dispute this but in fact I’d dispute it wherever you work. In many ways, you get the leaders you deserve.

Think about that meeting when you struggled with the P&L for the investment proposal. How would it have felt if someone from finance had come up to you afterwards and kindly offered to take you through the numbers to make sure you were up to speed? What about the time that you were struggling to get your point across in that important meeting? What if someone had asked you questions to help you break it down?

It doesn’t matter what level you are, what seniority you are, how much experience you have, you’re going to have areas of weakness and you’re most likely going to know about them. People pointing them out is often little help, being told what you already know never is. But having people around you quietly helping you to work on them and improve? That’s altogether a different matter.

So next time you want to have a moan about the way your manager, boss or CEO behaves, also ask yourself what you could do to help them cover off that area and be better. You might be surprised by the result you get from them, and maybe also how you feel about yourself and your work.

The feedback paradox

In HR we absolutely LOVE feedback. We talk about it, write about it and tell everyone that they need to do it.

Until it comes to unsuccessful job candidates. And then we will do absolutely anything to avoid it.

Take any group of recruiters or HR people and ask them about giving feedback to unsuccessful candidates and you’ll hear a range of opinions. But you’ll rarely hear anyone espouse that we should be giving feedback to everyone.

And normally the excuse is we don’t have time.

But the truth is that we don’t see the value. We’re only interested in the hire, not the potential hire. We don’t want to improve the talent pool, we want to take from it. We’re not interested in helping people, we’re only interested in them helping us.

If we do give feedback it tends to be generic, unhelpful and unactionable and (I’d suggest) in most cases dodges the real reasons that a candidate didn’t make it through. Don’t believe me? Ask any recruitment consultant what their major gripes with HR professionals are and not providing decent feedback will come up in the top three. Guaranteed.

We can do more.

Giving good feedback, however you manage it, could make a real difference to a candidate going forward. It could be the difference between them getting a job or not. It doesn’t take that long and it feels like it should be a common courtesy and it won’t do your employer brand any harm at all.

So what are we all so scared of?

Ten reasons we don’t care about candidate experience

We love talking about candidate experience. I hear time and time again how important it is, yet the reality is that most of us are pretty dreadful at it regardless of whether we are HR or recruitment professionals.

The fact is that most recruiters don’t care about candidate experience, and here’s why:

1) We build dodgy website experiences – Most online application processes make getting in to Berghain look like a piece of cake. At a recent event I was at a roundtable of recruiters roundly condemned every single major ATS. And yes, whilst we can be a whiny bunch, there’s some truth in it. If these were e-commerce sites, we’d be losing money.

2) We don’t have time to give feedback – This is probably the defining question that sets out where you are on candidate experience. People tell me they just don’t have time, and I’ve got sympathy with that. But then don’t say you care about candidate experience, because you don’t.

3) We create mystery processes – Would you order something without a delivery time? Enter a competition without any rules? Our single-minded focus on making sure people don’t know how to get a job with us is something to behold. I mean, if people knew, they might hold us to account? And we’re too busy making sure they have a good experience to deal with that.

4) We don’t understand our own biases – I’ve heard too many recruiters….I could actually stop the sentence there and it would be enough…but let’s indulge…I’ve heard too many recruiters say, “I would never consider someone who xxxxx”. Bias? Who knows, but the chance is yes, absolutely. Get yourself here. Now.

5) We allow indefensible criteria – “The manager wants to only see people who can hold eleven marshmallows in their mouth and still hum the national anthem. Apparently the last two job holders could do that and they were both top performers”.

6) We value operational efficiency over optimal pathway – Every process redesign I have ever seen in recruitment has been to make things easier for the recruiter and the line manager. Not once have I seen people take on more work to make the candidate’s life easier. Not once.

7) We want to separate recruitment out from the employee cycle – Centres of excellence, outsourced solutions, service centres. Can you imagine setting up your business so that you sold a product without actually being aware of the quality of the build, design and the delivery times? No, me neither so how can we give candidates a great experience if we don’t know what’s going to happen when they’re hired?

8) We STILL use social media to sell – Even the companies lauded for using social media well are way, way, way behind the customer service functions of most businesses. Candidate experience? Don’t ask us questions and we won’t need to respond. See our FAQ and in the meantime, click this link. Thanks.

9) We work office hours – People enter the recruitment process when they’re not at work. For example, we’ve been using the awesome HireVue technology now for nearly three years. Our data shows that over 50% of people use the system outside of 9-5 and the most popular day is…..Sunday. We know this as a profession, but want to speak to a recruiter out of hours? We’re in the pub. But, don’t let that worry you, just enjoy the experience.

10) We serve the business not the candidate – I’m not saying this is wrong, it’s a thing, it just is. Every time we will put a line manager before a candidate because simply we care more about their experience. I know. I’m not wrong.

Don’t believe me? The REC have just launched the results of their research in to candidate experience, you can get it here.  And whilst you’re at it, join up to the Good Recruitment Campaign here.

Let’s stop talking the talk.

Feedback….it’s a gift…..

I once worked in an organisation that was big on feedback. It was hardcore. We had a manager join us from another company and when it came to the annual appraisal, she posed the work equivalent of, “does my bum look big in this?”. She asked,

“Is there anything that you think I need to know? That I could be doing better?”

BOOM!

Two weeks later, she was a shaking wreck on the floor. Admitting to me, “I didn’t actually want them to tell me!”.

And that’s the thing. We live in a feedback culture, but so much of the feedback is utterly pointless. I can’t order a product now without getting a request to rate the service, the packaging or the lumbar posture of the delivery person. But does any of this matter, does anyone care and does it make any difference?

I’m no role model here. I’m the guy that reacted to the feedback that I was “low in empathy” by responding, “Do I give a sh*t what they feel?”, but it strikes me that there are two types of reaction to feedback.

Active and inactive.

Yes, it’s as simple as that.

Either do something with it, or don’t bother asking. Don’t make the people sweat it over how to break it to you that you’re a closet Nazi, unless you’re willing to change your ways. Don’t make them lose sleep over how to tell you that you have personal space issues unless you’re willing to…..take a step back.

So before you go through the motion and commission that 360, before you ask those poor suckers that have to work with you what they feel, before you go through the motions…..ask yourself this:

What is the worst thing that I could hear that would really upset me? And would I be willing to accept and act on it, if I heard it said?

Feedback is important. Feedback is a gift. But it can also be the silent, smelly fart in the elevator.

Ask if you want to know. Don’t ask if you don’t.

But never just pretend you care.