Don’t look back

I stand to be corrected, but if memory serves me well I’ve only once employed a direct team member in two different organisations. And in that case it was many years later and after they had already left the organisation in question. To say that I find it peculiar when people hire people from their previous teams, is an understatement. It completely baffles me.

Let’s start first of all with the moral arguments, or those of good and decent etiquette. Whilst there are often contractual and legal reasons for not seeking to solicit previous employees, there’s also in my opinion a really simple point of etiquette. A bit like stalking an ex on the internet to look at the pictures of them with their new partner, or driving slowly past the house that you once lived in to see what they’ve done with the decor, there is something a little bit icky and unbecoming about going back into an organisation that has been part of your past to make it part of your future again.

But more than this, it also infers a limited self confidence and a level of protectionism and closed mindedness. The chance that the very best people that are available to do the job that you need doing are in the place that you previously worked is highly improbable. There are of course certain circumstances that might prove extenuating, when a full team moves from one organisation to a near competitor, for example. But these are nearly always closed off by the contractual restrictions I mentioned above.

One of the things that I’ve loved throughout my career is working with different people, with different perspectives, ideas and approaches. Sometimes learning to get on and find your groove can take a bit of time, but that’s as much about stretching yourself and adapting to other people’s styles. In many ways that’s one of the joys of moving to a different organisation, learning new things, new ways and working with new people (incidentally that’s also one of the joys of moving sector). Bringing the people that you’ve previously worked with is going to limit that stretch and potentially lead you to continue to have the blind spots that you previously were unaware of.

Would I rule out ever working for a CEO I’ve worked with before? No, but I’d want to know that there was enough time and space between it to make sure that they’d changed and so had I. I’d want to know that the organisation was entirely different and there would be things that I would need to learn and develop in. But would I ever take the people who’d worked for me with me? I just wouldn’t. For the very simple fact that I would want them to grow and develop and learn from different leaders in different contexts. When push comes to shove, no matter how brilliant they are it would be better for them, and it would be better for me.

It’s more than bums on seats

I’ve always enjoyed resourcing. Well, with the exception of interviewing which I to this day find the most terribly dull activity to spend a whole day on – one or two is my limit. Which makes it more surprising to me when few leaders seem to spend as much time on it as I think they should.

When I was studying HR back in the days of steam engines and the printing press, recruitment was seen as a bit of a transactional process. Our efforts were mostly focused on the how and not the why. Bizarrely, much of the recruitment chatter at conferences these days still focusses on the same, with technology platforms taking the place of strategic discussions.

If we believe that people are a defining competitive advantage for organisations, if we believe that having talented, committed, passionate people in the right jobs is critical, then we have to spend more time focussing on recruitment and resourcing than simply talking about the latest platform to help improve speed/reduce headcount/take out cost. Because ultimately, our job isn’t about any of those things.

Hiring good people should be hard, whether internally or externally. It should make us think, we should put time, effort and investment into it. Our obsession to make it easy absolutely misses the point of why we are doing it. An employee that is paid £25,000 probably has an annual cost to the business closer to double that when you take on costs, occupancy and other factors, if they stay for five years, that’s £250,000. How many other decisions like that would you enter into with such little due diligence?

That’s before I get into the cultural factors, issues of inclusivity,  future needs, team dynamics etc.

If, as leaders, we believe that human capability is one of our key responsibilities, then we need to take resourcing a lot more seriously than we do. And those that work in HR and recruiting teams need to get much better at explaining why. This isn’t a process that can be outsourced or systemised in the relentless pursuit of cost savings, it is a strategic imperative that needs to be understood.

Are we there yet? The art of onboarding.

So you’ve made the hire, done the deal, the offer has been sent and accepted. Now you just have to wait until they’re finished in their current gig to join. Job done.

Or is it?

That period between offer and commencement might be a chance to get on with things for you as a line manager or recruiter. But what about the candidate? What is going on for them and how can you possibly help them during that interval?

As a candidate you’ve been through the competition, you’ve landed the prize, you’ve won. You’ve the sense of elation, the satisfaction, the excitement. And now the wait…

It is a funny period of time psychologically, you’re neither one place or another. You have hopes for the future that you can’t fulfil and attachments to the past that are slowly separating. It is the ultimate transition.

First of all, don’t forget communication. Stay in touch by text, by email, with a call. Especially when the notice period is long, maintaining contact can maintain the positive bond that has been made during the recruitment period.

Think about the sorts of materials or information that you can send in advance – are there business reports, structure charts, handbooks or brochures that go beyond the offer pack that would be helpful?

How can you prepare them for day one? What practical and helpful information can you make available to them? Where will they be, what will they do, what should they wear, where can they get lunch, what do they need to bring?

How can you maintain engagement beyond your personal relationship? Think about the opportunities to meet other people, to attend company events, to have a coffee or a breakfast or a glass of wine. Start creating the supportive network before day one.

Onboarding is more than paperwork, it is about the psychological transition from one organisation to another, from one state to another. Done well, it can not only enhance your employer brand, but also increase the speed at which your new hire starts to be productive and at ease in both the organisation and their role.


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?