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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: The Perils of Hiring in your own image

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: The Perils of Hiring in your own image

Ever caught yourself thinking, “This candidate just feels right,” during an interview? Chances are, it’s not your razor-sharp instinct for talent, but rather an age-old friend (or foe) at play:  bias.  Yup, we’re all biassed. And it’s not just a ‘you’ thing; it’s a totally natural human thing.

Our Brain has ‘Old-Skool’ Wiring

Our brains are like those classic cars:  vintage and hardwired for simpler times. They’re designed to make snap judgments about who’s in our ‘tribe’ and who’s not. This was survival 101 for our ancestors as it gave them the ability to make immediate ‘friend’ or ‘foe’ judgements that may just save their lives and keep the human race in existence, but in our modern, civilised world, this ancient circuitry hasn’t quite caught up…..

The world has moved on: but our brains haven’t.

We’re still living with the same innate, and sometimes very powerful, unconscious tendency to prefer people with whom we feel a natural “affinity” and it’s natural to gravitate towards people who remind us of, ….well, us. Take a look at your close friends. Notice a pattern? Often, they’re quite like us demographically. These are the “people like us” – the people we’re likely to feel more comfortable and relaxed with. And while perhaps more diverse than it might have been if you’d been living in a Victorian society, chances are it comprises a high proportion of people demographically similar to you.  

“I just hire the best person for the job”

It doesn’t take a huge analytical leap to realise that this natural human tendency to gravitate towards “people like us” isn’t always going to lead to transparent and accurate evaluations about people.  Especially when it comes to recruiting them into your business.  

The big problem is that our subconscious, while very quick at processing information (e.g. good hair, tie, shoes, accent) can be profoundly wide off the mark when it comes to assuming other attributes on the basis of such very limited data (e.g. good sense of humour, likes beer and rugby, good with customers, perfect fit for my team).  

How often, when interviewing for a job, have you shaken the hand of a candidate on first meeting them and taken to them immediately, just knowing within moments that they will be perfect for the job and for the team? Chances are this has nothing to do with your penetrating ability to spot talent in a millisecond – and much more to do with your ability to gravitate towards someone who reminds you – unconsciously, remember – of someone else who you like..

Because when it comes to hiring, all this means we might unwittingly prefer someone because they chuckle at our jokes, share our taste in music, or went to our University.

Studies galore into bias repeatedly show the same thing. These include Steinpres et al in 1999 and (more recently) Nuffield College, which have shown how deep these biases run, with evidence that applicants with male names, British-sounding names, or younger profiles often get the nod over equally qualified candidates, just because they fit the unconscious mould we’ve set.

So when you hear ‘I just hire the best person for the job’, clearly we all need a helping hand with this….

Hiring in your own mould can be very bad for business

As you might realise, far from being a good thing, there are actually significant risks in populating your business or your team with people who are very similar to you.  

Filling your team with mini-mes might seem comfy, but it’s like putting all your eggs in a basket that’s… well, pretty identical to your own basket. Diversity is more than just a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have. Diverse teams outperform the cookie-cutter ones in decision-making, learning, problem-solving – and ultimately business success, so it’s in everyone’s interests to work towards this if not there already.

A truly diverse team is a team which realistically reflects the company’s community and / or its customer base.  At the very least, it is a team that can point to having been selected from the broadest and deepest possible pool of talent, rather than a narrow stream of virtually identical candidates.

Taking the first step to change

Just simply being aware of bias and its potentially sabotaging effects is a good start: understanding that our natural tendency to be around people we can comfortably relate to doesn’t always result in the most accurate hiring decisions. Dr Helen Turnbull, an expert in unconscious bias, says that while we may never totally rid ourselves of bias, “we need to feel affinity for more people of difference” and “pay attention to our reactions” when “interacting across differences”.

If you want to find out how you can mitigate against bias in your hiring process & improve your team’s hiring overall, contact us via hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call on 020 3951 1208

HR Surgery: Why is Recruitment Still so Tricky?

HR Surgery: Why is Recruitment Still so Tricky?

If you’re a child of the 70’s then you’ll remember that alongside stories of giant pandas giving birth, unemployment figures were a regular feature on the Six O’ clock news (and sometimes – shock horror! – they even made it to Newsround on a bad day!) as they rose higher and higher reaching a peak of about 13% of the workforce in the early 80’s. Fast forward to today however and we start the year this year with record lows of under 4%. That’s right folks, even now – when we are in the early stages of recession – we have pretty much full employment right now and just the (approximate) 1.3 million roles in the UK to fill…..

And while that’s excellent news that people are keeping their jobs and we’re not seeing the kind of job losses witnessed previously, for those businesses who we see are still looking to hire critical skills to help fuel their growth or even keep things on an even keel when people exit their business, this still presents a major challenge in terms of the people available. Add into that the fact that the average time to hire has risen approximately 4 months (higher the more specialist the role is) and many are still struggling to fill the roles they desperately need to be successful in achieving their goals.

So far, no new-news. But what to do about it?

Recruiting is a mammoth area, covering at least a third of the employee life-cycle (before they’ve even stepped onto your payroll) so we’re going to break down the process into sections across the course of three posts and answer some of the more common questions we’ve been asked.

Part 1: Attracting ‘the one’

What gives me the best chance of finding the right person?

Big question. But step 1 in this is actually to ask a question which often gets skipped. And that is: Who am I looking for? Start with the end in mind and think about what you want this person to be doing and responsible for in your team. Then what would be your ideal ‘candidate’  (skills, knowledge and experience etc) would give them the best chance of success in your business.? It might sound tremendously simple, but sometimes many overlook this stage and rush to post an ad without even thinking about ‘who’ they are trying to find. Even with some of the more common roles out there in the market (I’m thinking Project Manager, Account Manager etc) the core functional responsibilities may be similar in each but the type of person who will be successful in your business may differ wildly to that of another one of the same title due to your client base, your industry and your culture. 

Which is the best recruitment channel to find candidates?

The short answer is that there is no one single ‘best’ route.  Advertising online is the most common method and therefore I would always say include this in your mix (definitely on your own site but possibly other sites) but I would personally never just rely on one channel. Some of the more successful hires I’ve made have included via referrals ( asking your own team, partners or even clients if they know of anyone who might be right for the role), targeting specific trade publications as well as accessing talent through a chosen recruitment agency. Many a CFO has paled at a recruiter’s invoice for a key hire and it can be tempting to avoid recruiters totally because of this, however a good recruiter is worth their weight in gold ( particularly those in specialist technologies) and in pretty much any market I would always look to partner with an agency  on a long term basis rather than just for a one hit hire.  The key is to have a blend: one channel and you become over reliant (referrals for example can often stay longer in your business but can on the flip side lead to a lack of diversity) and too many it becomes unwieldy.

How do I make my role standout above any others?

Whilst many may feel that ‘branding’ an area firmly placed in one of those ‘marketing type buckets’, you can’t afford to ignore the impact it has on how and who you attract. It’s the reason why Google rarely needs to advertise outside of its own site and networks and why other firms with a less strong brand need all the channels in the world to attract the right person into their recruitment ‘funnel’. And we’re not just talking glossy logos here. People want to have a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives and they increasingly look to work in businesses who align with their own. Think about what your company stands for & what will this person be contributing to as part of their work. Ask yourself: What is your reason for being in business? What will this person be contributing to? What do your company/ role have to offer? What’s the benefit of working for your business, aside from the salary? Then start to write it down in plain English what the person will be expected to do and be open about the opportunity for them (WIIFT). Oh and be clear on the job title – they matter (both in terms of attraction and Search Engine Optimization (see below).

Should I put the salary on the role when I advertise?

Research by Reed.co.uk (UK online job board) shows that roles which are clear on the salary will attract a third more applicants than those without. However many still shy away from this for a couple of reasons: how it might go down with internal teams and to test the market  to see what people are looking for. With the wealth of information out there online to check how much different roles play, it’s quite easy to see where people’s expectations may lie in terms of salary and so we would recommend publishing a band that allows for some scope depending on experience of the role which should satisfy all enquiring minds as well as help your diversity.

Next time we’ll be looking at the assessment part of the process and what you can do to fine tune yours. But for more help with skilling up for your hiring needs then our training sessions specifically aimed at Team Leaders and Managers can help raise the bar.

Drop us a line via hello@thehrhub.co.uk, give us a call on 0203 6277048 or pop in a diary meeting in here to chat about your needs.

Your New Starter Checklist: Ensure Newbies Are Set Up For Success

For many organisations the start of a new year also prompts a fresh intake of new starters.  So it’s the perfect time to give a little thought to how you can best help them get settled in.  It won’t surprise you to hear that there’s a wealth of research showing a clear link between thoughtful, well-planned on boarding of new joiners and higher rates of productivity, job satisfaction and morale.  There’s also an impact on staff retention, with studies also showing that when companies put a bit of thought into supporting their new starters through the early days and weeks of their employment, their staff are much more likely to stay for longer.  Yet too often this activity is half-hearted and disorganised – which can be enormously stressful and demotivating for new employees.

So what key things can you do to help get your new starters onboard quickly and performing?

Here’s My New Starter Checklist

1. Nothing Beats A Genuinely Warm Welcome And Some Effort To Make Them Feel Part Of The Team From Day1So take care of the essential housekeeping – ensure someone is there to meet them on their first day, and their work station and all necessary tools and equipment have been organised in advance.

2. Arrange A Mentor/Buddy: An experienced and approachable colleague who can show them around, introduce them to other team members, talk them through all the ‘how things get done around here’ activities and processes, answer questions and be a supportive point of contact. Arrange for them to meet with other key colleagues too, over the coming days.

3. Spend Time Giving Them Some Background To Your Organisation: Its history, values, culture and vision, and – perhaps most importantly – how you see them and their role fitting into the bigger company picture.  Done well, this can be a hugely motivating and reassuring reminder to your new joiner that they made the right decision in coming to work for you.  

4. Clarify Your Expectations Of What Success In The Job Looks Like:  What are you expecting of them in their role – and what standards of performance and behaviour are you looking for?  Give them some tasks to start working on straight away as well as setting a few bigger, longer term goals.  Let them know how, and when, you will be reviewing their performance over the coming months.  This is particularly important if you have started them off on an initial probationary period.  

5. Check Back That They Are Comfortable With Everything And Know Who To Ask For Help: Ensure they are ok with what’s required of them in their role and that they’ll feel comfortable asking questions or raising issues as and when they arise.  Discuss and schedule any essential job-specific training they might need.
Effective on boarding needn’t be overly structured or onerous, but can have an enormously positive impact on motivation and performance, and if done properly will get your working relationship with each new employee off to a truly great start.

For any HR issue, theHRHub is the ultimate online support service for startups and SMEs. Find out more about us here

Photo Credit: First Day Of School by Ian D. Keating

It Takes All Sorts – Encouraging Diversity & Inclusivity in your Team

It Takes All Sorts – Encouraging Diversity & Inclusivity in your Team

Stepping out of the North Sea on New Year’s Day after my short ‘dip’, I was grappling with changing back out of my wetsuit into dry clothes under an enormous (yet not quite big enough…) towel, when my family were greeted by some passers by on the beach shaking their heads and muttering “It takes all sorts” to each other. We smiled and nodded at them through chattering teeth with what I hoped conveyed a sense of more cheery New Year’s Day vigour than I felt at that particular moment (given both the temperature around us and the fact that due to misjudging the car parking vs beach entry point we were in for a ‘bit of a walk’ back to anything which resembled heating). And ignored the slight judginess that came with the phrase they’d just shared.

True, it might be slightly at odds to submerge yourself in near freezing water when you could have joined the masses on ‘a perfectly good walk’ to get you out in the fresh air and keep healthy, without the risk of pneumonia or (worse still) ‘hat hair’ for the rest of the day. And there was nothing particularly accomplished about our trip to the beach: no fitness records broken, no significant calories burnt (I did mention it was a ‘dip’ didn’t I??). But who’s to say with the many health benefits cold water swimming gives, that my version isn’t better for you? I just have a different view of what’s fun…

And it’s the same in any business to a degree. You need to have different points of view to see the options available to you: diverse perspectives and experiences which don’t mirror your own.

Over the past few years, it’s become clear that a key way to accelerate your business performance is to become more diverse and inclusive. Gartner found that the difference in performance between diverse teams was 12% more positive than non-diverse teams and Fast Company reported that those companies with higher gender diversity and engagement experience up to 48 – 56% stronger financial performance than others.

Yet ‘Diversity’ as a word in my experience has tended to anaesthetise or polarise many in SMEs. Either they zone out on the basis that it’s not something they need to concern themselves about (I’m not sexist/ racist/ ageist/ ableist so we’re doing good, right?),  they associate it with something that only ‘big’ companies’ need to get their head around or that it’s just too hard.

And I understand that to a degree. Because taking action on diversity and inclusivity isn’t passive and takes energy. Energy to sit and listen to other’s experiences who do not mirror your own view of the world, a growth mindset that is open to the fact that there is more you can learn on a regular basis and then take action to change what needs to. And who has any energy left after such a bumper year?!

But with increased data on the impact of diversity (from the positive it brings to the negative when it’s not present) and key world events such as the killing of George Floyd sparking candid conversations in the workplace, it’s not something anyone can ignore.

And there are many things you can do whether your team is made up of 5 or 500 people.

  • Re-think your strategy and be as intentional with planning diversity & inclusion as you are with planning out your sales.
  • It all starts at the beginning… So get real in your advertising and think about the words you are using to describe the candidates you are looking for. Make sure any job adverts are inclusive by checking for the sentiment they convey and don’t include a wish list which doesn’t actually describe what you are looking for. Is it really essential that this person has over ten years experience in a specific type of environment at a senior level? Because if it is, then you might have unwittingly just ruled out anyone who’s ever had a career break. Surely you want someone who’s delivered the best results and in which case, change your criteria (and your questions later).

  • Shortlist a blend of candidates: The next time you go to hire, ask the person helping you with your hiring to provide a representative group of candidates in the mix. It’ll be tough in some industries, but challenge yourself (and them) to do so.

  • Highlight the unconscious bias that sits in all of us: Make everyone who is interviewing candidates watch at least 3 of the videos in Facebook’s series of unconscious bias training. They take about 15 minutes each, can be watched over lunch and I guarantee will have people thinking more about their own unconscious biases and the impact of them. This isn’t a male or female ‘thing’. We’re all in this one together.

  • Promote those people who are underrepresented in your business. And I don’t mean promote them to a new role all the time. But promote and recognise their accomplishments, encourage them to showcase their work internally and externally and act as a champion for them.

  • Find role models to mentor these team members: if you can’t find any internal mentors then provide external help or encourage them to join networking groups in your industry where they can find support.

  • Offer greater flexibility. More so than ever people have opened up to the idea of flexible working, historically something which has helped women progress their careers.

It really does take all sorts to build a business. Well, a successful one at least.

If you want to chat about how you can encourage diversity & inclusivity in your team, then drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048

Image: Canva

Should They Stay or Should They Go? Dismissing or Extending An Employee During Their Probation Period

Should They Stay or Should They Go? Dismissing or Extending An Employee During Their Probation Period

Do I need to wait until the end of the probation period to dismiss? What if I’m not quite sure about an employee by the time I get to the end of their probation period? Should I extend? All are questions we at the The HR hub are asked quite regularly as people struggle to work out what to do when someone they’ve hired isn’t quite the wunder-hire they’d hoped….. 

First some basics on about being ‘on probation’: probation periods are not guided by employment law per se, but instead are a contractual arrangement between your business and their employees. Typically they will be used to set expectations that during the initial period of employment – normally 3 to 6 months – and sometimes are extended to cover a further period if a relationship has not been cemented or performance standards are not met.

Essentially however, yes, you can dismiss an employee before the end of their probation period if you feel things are not working out. But there are a few things you need to be mindful of and it’s not just a simple as saying ‘bye bye’ one morning. You need to give them the correct notice period and, as with any other dismissal of any other employee, it should be for a fair reason, including conduct, capability, breach of statutory provision,  redundancy or some other substantial reason (nb – we find that most situations fall into performance during this period however, where the employee hasn’t demonstrated to the employer that they’ve met the standards needed). 

BUT. Before you have that conversation, take a minute to think whether that  you have really done all you can to make sure the environment is right for their success in this regard. After all that time and money spent on hiring that person, have you spent at least the same again investing in making sure that the newbie understands what’s expected, held their hands a little (at the very least) and given them the support they need to make a success of their role? Often people think they have but then often this is not the case… So I ask again: Have you really done all you can to make sure they had the chance to succeed? Were you clear about what was expected? Did you give them regular feedback on how they were doing and offer them the chance to address any areas which weren’t sitting well? Was there anyone even around to provide regular support to them? If you can’t answer these as honest ‘Yes’es, then I would suggest that you look at giving them one final chance.

According to past research from Spring Personnel, 20 percent of employees fail to pass their probation period in a new role or have it extended, so if you did go down this route you would be in good company.  

Thinking of extending their probation instead? You should always make sure that this provision is written into their contract in the first instance. If not, then although there is nothing stopping you from extending the period and making that clear to the individual, you could be liable to pay them the full notice period laid out in the contract for post-probation should you subsequently dismiss during the extended probation period. As an aside, we also wouldn’t recommend extending their probation for any further than an additional three months: an extended period will impact on their engagement for one and for another, after 6 months in post, you should be able to make a decision one way or another.

Probation periods can be a challenging time for both employee and employer and if you want to find out more about how you’re getting the best out of your team through this time and beyond, drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 for your no-obligation chat.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

#probation #ticktock #lightthespark #employeemagic #development

Still Can’t Find ‘The One’? 7 Ways To Refresh Your Recruitment

Still Can’t Find ‘The One’? 7 Ways To Refresh Your Recruitment

We all know that recruiting great talent is one of the top priorities for most businesses. And we all know that it’s  bl**dy difficult to do so (amount of people I’ve ever heard saying in my entire career “ I can’t move for quality candidates”? = zero…). And whilst the buzz that you can get when you finally find the right candidate can be highly energising & worth the wait, even the most experienced business owner or recruiter can feel like getting to that point can be a hard slog when the wind isn’t going in your direction ….

If this is chiming a chord with you, then you need to get out of the rut, step back, re-group, and take a fresh look at what else you could be looking at doing to attract people. Strengthening your branding, positioning and process will certainly come into play and influence your hiring on longer term basis, however if it’s a quicker boost you’re after, then nothing beats getting out there and going on the hunt for talent yourself. To help energise your efforts, we’ve spoken to our own network of gurus from The HR Hub who shared some of their favourite ways to kickstart things:

  1. Use social media in the way it was intended: Taking a peak at people’s professional profiles  on LinkedIn is definitely recommended & not to be confused with stalking someone all over Facebook ….. You can pay right up to a Recruiter seat on the site costing £££s per year, however even as a basic entry level user, you can type in job titles or industries in the search field and a list of those people in your immediate network with those criteria will appear for you to click on. If you see someone’s profile who interests you and who you have in common, then ask for an introduction or use the direct messaging to find out if they’re interested in speaking further. Candidates are always more likely to respond if you are contacting them directly about a role in your business and find this approach more flattering than a spamming/ cookie-cutter approach adopted by some less selective agents, so don’t be shy & get connected!
  2. Be open to talent in unusual places:  One of my favourite recent hiring stories is a long time client of ours who hired someone into their business after they were served by them in a chicken restaurant. The server in question demonstrated such fabulous customer service towards my client that they struck up a conversation and ultimately a few weeks later, the server became her new sales & marketing assistant. It might not work for all roles, however bear in mind that most people have transferable skills and one of the most sought after traits people are after in hew hires is a great attitude!
  3. Tap into your (existing) network: Employees first. I almost left this one off the list as I figured it’s such a common channel for people to use when hiring, but then thought again as it’s value is so important that it’s still worth a gentle reminder for those who still haven’t tried it….. However if you’re not asking your existing team if they know of anyone who might want to come and work for you, then you should do this straight away (& then remember to keep asking on a regular basis to keep it front of mind). Financial incentives can work well in this area and provide a tidy little bonus for those who successfully refer someone they know (one of my former companies paid up to £5k per successful referral which was still less than the average recruiter fee for their industry) but you don’t always need to stretch the budget that far as many will be simply happy to refer people they want to work with. If you are going to provide an incentive for employee referrals however, then make sure it’s clear, consistently applied and isn’t over complicated.
  4. Tap into your (existing wider) network: Referrals from employees are one thing, but a less utilised route is to make your wider network of suppliers, clients and partners aware that you’re hiring and what roles you have. Asking people directly might not feel like the comfortable thing to do in some cases, however adding a note to your footer of your emails or doing a few posts on social media to say you are hiring can be just the jogger they may need to drop “I might know just the person…”.   into conversation when you next speak.
  5. Get objective about your adverts:  I was introduced recently by a client to a wonderful site called Textio, the augmented writing site which demonstrates how your words (in this case , job adverts) will be perceived by others. It’s brilliant in terms of showcasing which words are more persuasive than others as well as highlighting the gender attractiveness of different words and phrases used and is well worth the time plugging your own job ads into their free trial to see how yours can be improved.
  6. Keep track of the numbers: this doesn’t need to be complicated, but in order to track how effective your recruitment activities and processes are (and at each stage), then you need to start measuring them to see which parts need re-visiting and addressing. If you’re using an Applicant Tracking System then many will have these built in, but if not, then set up your own spreadsheet with the ones most important to your business and build out from there. Ones I’ve used in the past include: number of applicants at each stage, time to hire , cost per hire and quality of hire.
  7. Outsource it: (I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention here….) But if you value your time over spending a little bit of cash or don’t have the internal resources to focus on this area, then we have our own service we provide to many customers – one that has been developed from the experience of hiring hundreds of people over the last 15 years and which – for the want of a better name right now – I’m going to call Recruitment-in-a-box.  We take the brief, recommend the media, write and place the advert right through to sifting and conducting first round interviews.

When it comes to channels, there’s never just ‘the one’ however. A lot of people still just stick to either agencies or advertising for any new hires. But by narrowing all channels to just one or two, you rarely see the results you want (and definitely not if you’re hiring for multiple roles). Here at theHRhub, we’ve used dozens of different ways to hire and are all in favour of multiple recruitment channels. But rarely at the same time and always varying the approach depending on the role. Would you woo a Managing Director for a contract worth millions in the same way you would get signups for your SaaS product? No, of course you wouldn’t. Same goes for finding the right people.

None of these on their own are silver bullets and the reality is that (as with any good sales process) you will need to apply these processes in a consistent way over a period of time to see really strong results. But a fresh perspective and a bit of analysis and tweaking can work wonders on kickstarting things again.

Need any extra help?  TheHRhub helps ambitious business owners hire, manage and grow their teams in a direct and pragmatic way. Find out more about us here at www.thehrhub.co.uk or drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or call 0203 627 7048 to chat about how we can help.