Shooting yourself in the foot, the recruiter way

The term, “war for talent” is both divisive and massively open to interpretation. But I can tell you that, if there is one, a lot of recruiters are busy taking aim and shooting themselves in both feet.

Over the ten years I’ve been blogging, I’ve come back to this topic again and again, yet little seems to change. Now that could be a reflection of my lack of influence, or the inherent failings in the recruitment industry.

Most of us have started our working lives doing part time, temporary employment – maybe whilst at school, college or university. It’s our first experience of the world of work and the first experience of recruitment. When I was a teenager that might have been with an independent shop, pub or restaurant but with the changing face of the high street it’s increasingly likely that a young person now will experience this with a chain.

A chain that will hopefully have this young person not just as an employee, but as a consumer. Yet my observation of their collective recruitment practices is one of woeful inadequacies and systemic failure.

Let’s be clear, recruitment is not the same as bidding for an item on eBay, it is a deeply personal transaction. Rejection in recruitment is rejection of a human being, not a bid. It simply isn’t good enough to have an automated acknowledgement and then radio silence. It isn’t good enough to have a line saying, “unless you’ve heard from us within 14 days, assume you’ve been unsuccessful”. And to even think it is, suggests a deeply flawed understanding of the consumer/candidate interface.

Let’s flip it on it’s head. Can you imagine receiving an automated response from a candidate saying, “Thank you for your job offer, if you haven’t heard from me In two weeks assume I’ve rejected the offer.”? What would you make of them? Arrogant?

See where I’m going with this?

That’s before we unpick the detailed connection between the treatment of candidates and their relationship with your brand. You can talk all you like about candidate experience, but unless you define the experience you want to give and transform your processes to deliver it, you might as well be talking about the price of coal.

Recruiters, my ask of you is this. Treat candidates as you’d want a love one to be treated, regardless of their stature and status. Your summer or Christmas temp could one day be your CEO, that is if they haven’t started a new enterprise that will eventually put you and your company out of business.

Performance anxiety

I’m no fan of the performance review. In fact I’d class it as the single biggest example of the old joke about the definition of insanity being the repetition of an act whilst expecting different results.

It isn’t working? Then change the form.

Everyone hates performance reviews, they suck the life force out of managers, employees, the HR department and the leadership team. And yet, we kind of need them.

I was having a conversation with a friend last week and they were bemoaning the torture that is the annual performance appraisal. The sentiment went something like this,

“And then they expect us to review people against these stupid f***ing values that make no sense to anyone. Why can’t we just get in, get out and get the job done.”

And I’ve got some sympathy. We all like the idea of a quickie. The performance equivalent of a knee trembler behind the bicycle shed.

But the thing is this, if you think about the best manager you’ve ever had, if you think about the best team you ever worked with, if you think about the most problematic experience you’ve ever had at work. Was it because of the delivery of the work, or was it because of the behaviours and the personal qualities?

My guess is the latter.

The challenge for us in HR, the challenge for those of us who aren’t sleep walking towards conformity and a mediocre stupor, is to think about how we reinvent and rethink this important aspect of our working lives.

– We know the value of human and heart in the workplace, and yet we systemise it to the point of ridicule and derision.

– We know the value of feedback and honest, open discussions, and yet we develop such complex processed that it becomes a task in itself.

– We know that what we have isn’t fit for purpose and yet we persist in tinkering not transforming.

And yet, I just can’t come up with an answer.

That’s what is on my mind. What’s on yours?