The reason you don’t recruit the best talents

I found it interesting to read an article on the NZ Herald talking about the industry of personality tests as a way used by organisations to reduce the risk of recruiting the wrong people. (p.s. as opposed to increasing the chance of hiring the best people). It’s unfortunately, supporting my view that the challenge we are facing in New Zealand and elsewhere is a problem of talent waste not shortage. Our fundamental assumptions about work are causing our economy to be stuck on no growth and less pay.

When I arrived in New Zealand 17 years ago I was lucky. I somehow landed an interview on the first week with a hiring manager who was open minded and inclusive. He had no issue to consider someone for a leadership position that had no New Zealand or industry experience and not the best English. If I was not that lucky then and try it today, I would have straggled to even pass the “sophisticated” screening tests.  When later, I asked that person why he thought to hire me, his answer was “ability to demonstrate positive attitude, overcoming hardship and a passion for the task at hand”.

I took that answer as a guiding principle when later looking for people’s potential. However, throughout the years I was surprised to learn what are the common hiring and talent growth strategies and the way it is limiting potential with a set of assumptions that haven’t been tested. The current economy in New Zealand is of very low unemployment rate. This is considered a good problem to have. However, in this economy many of the existing recruitment and talents growth strategies are making organisation’s talents challenges even worse.

Some examples:

Screen for average

Organisations screen based on past skills and personality traits out of a very limited and not in their control pool. Because organisations assume these can limit mistakes. Most organisations recruit the same way: post a job, screen resumes, interview some people, pick whom to hire.  This is hiring for average.  Most top performers are not looking for work precisely because they are top performers, so they won’t be in that pool anyway. Further to that we apply screening as if we had plenty of candidates to select from based on criteria that no one can prove or link to performance. For example, why do we assume that to be an awesome UX designer in a bank requires previous experience in precisely the same job in the banking industry???.

Entrenching biases

Existing practices like Job descriptions and hiring decisions are entrenching biases not just based on gender, age, ethnicity etc. It is now becoming worse by the flooding of personality tests and AI key words, proclaiming to identify a fit with the organisation and the job before you even talk to the person. Most organisations are not really aware of the culture they currently have, and even if they do, not always this is the one they wish to have.  What makes up a person is far more complex than a set of words or letters combination to describe their personality. With a year of research I found no evidence that anyone showed a validated, predictable link between common tests used and performance. All we do is screening out diversity. Even the approach of matching with a model persona designed based on your current top performers is problematic as it ensures more of the same. (There are decades  of validated research about human personality psychology and motivation that are very useful for people to increase self awareness, it is more our understanding of how to use these researches that is the problem).

Filling the gaps

Hiring managers usually compromise on appointments to fill gaps assuming they can fix potential shortcomings with some training. Designing effective training is hard. It has to be personalised, in context, and internalised over a long period of time. In most cases organisations don’t actually know what and how to cause sustained improvement in performance, particularly when considering that a big (even if unknown) part of high performance is influenced by the environment (i.e. the manager, the team, the organisation culture, and the leadership style).  Add to that the commonly held financial point of view of “we don’t expect to invest much in talent growth because we assume people move around anyway”. But what happens if you don’t? I passionately believe in expanding peoples strengths, ensuring every experience is a growth experience. This is a positive sum game, where everyone wins.  Current approach ensures no growth hence flat productivity at best and people do leave, particularly the top performers because they are motivated by personal growth.

No use of data

We would have been better if we actually used data sourced from personality tests and other screening and performance data points to reflect and improve. Currently we still use like/ dislike and personal intuition as the best predictor of future success. Even if data is available, it is used only as supporting material at the beginning. Organisations don’t usually go back to reflect and improve. With a new sense making model , there is a huge opportunity to create new insights and positive actions based on big data derived from knowing people, knowing organisations and knowing performance.

 

To summaries, in my view there is an ever growing industry that is trying to pull the short blanket to cover skills gaps. This industry made not much difference in recent decades to people’s fulfillment or productivity growth. We have to fundamentally challenge our assumptions about work and the relationship between people, organisations and performance and design new strategies for  a different future.

 

@Hadas Wittenberg is a future of work enabler and founder of Adaptive Futures.

Is it time to uncover your core values?

Background

What is motivating one person to jump into a burning building to save someone else’s life? What is motivating an organisation to ignore the disruptor until it is too late? Or, what is motivating a country to open its borders to global influence?

I was reflecting on these questions for a while, particularly in the context of growth and the challenges people face when trying to achieve personal breakthroughs or organisational culture transformation. I assume that if we can understand and explain these motivations, we can direct our effort to have more, as related to the above examples, selflessness and innovation and less arrogance and decline.

In this post, Inspired by Richard Barrett theory, I present the cultural tipping point via a focus on a set of Breakthrough Values. I use this term in the context of organisational culture transformation. However, I believe the approach is also valid for individuals who want to achieve a breakthrough in their career.

Needs and Values explained

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is probably one of the most popular motivational theories in psychology. Maslow argued that humans are motivated by a hierarchy of needs, organised in five levels from the most basics to the highest. Humans tend to focus on the lower level needs before higher ones. The first four levels are described as Lack needs or External motivators. They drive motivation when they are unmet. While at the fifth level, needs are described as Growth needs or Intrinsic motivators. Where motivation increases the more the needs are fulfilled.

 

Values are intimately linked to our needs. Whatever we currently need, whatever we feel is important to us or what is unmet from our past is what we value. Richard Barrett argues that there are two types of values – positive values that promote growth and create internal cohesion and limiting values that are driven by fears and anxieties and can lead to stress and isolation. He also suggests that it is critical to maintaining a balanced spread of positive values to ensure both growth and grounding capabilities.

An updated model

Going back to the question “What is motivating an organisation to ignore the disruptor until it is too late?”. It might sound like a counter-intuitive question, as we usually think about motivation as a positive concept. However, the story of Kodak is a famous example. Kodak actually saw the future of digital cameras and that photos could be shared online. However, motivated to continue being the best and dominating the printing market they failed to see that photos shared online ARE the future market. What Kodak was missing might have been valuing courage to change direction and adapting to a totally new world. All humans and organisations are motivated to fulfil the Lack Needs. And while as humans we also have the desire to reach full potential, many of us get stuck, spending excessive effort in a space, where reputation and success are a common concern.

In a previous post, I discussed the fact that the dominating culture across the western world is a culture obsessed with success, defined as “I am great and you are not”. This culture lacks focus on core values that create growth. Latest trends in management consultancy advice are highlighting the need for organisations to adopt values like teamwork, creativity and purpose. However, the move from fulfilling lack needs to growth needs require a breakthrough step to overcome our implicit assumptions and fears.

I suggest that to have a breakthrough toward achieving full potential, organisations should reach a cultural tipping point by adopting and focusing on breakthrough values. Values like Courage, perseverance, accountability, continues learning, and adaptability that enables overcoming fears hence opening the opportunities for growth. These values combined with a balanced set of positive values addressing both Lack and Growth needs will allow organisations to achieve their potential while maintaining feet on the ground and offer stability at times of real crisis.

The below diagram describes the cultural tipping point as an updated version of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

 

 

Nest steps for reaching a cultural tipping point

In order to get on the journey organisations can take the following steps:

  1. Understand the organisation’s actual core values and implicit assumptions using a validated framework or a model. Unfortunately, people are unaware of their culture until it is challenged, until they experience a new culture, or until it is made explicit through a framework or model.
  2. Acknowledge the implicit assumptions that are driving excessive focus on limiting values. Then, reframe to eliminate these from the organisation. Regardless what future culture leadership might want to create, reducing the negative effect of limiting values is critical.
  3. Prioritise focus on breakthrough values; define the set of behaviours that are demonstrated through these values;  and, take the first step in making decisions based on these values.
  4. Once an organisation is able to understand how values, implicit assumptions and culture are all linked together to enable performance and embedded its set breakthrough values, it can move to embrace a future set of values for continues growth.

 

@Hadas Wittenberg is a Future of Work enabler and founder of Adaptive-Futures. Hadas helps organisations and individuals’ growth through reimagining work.

References:

Kim S Cameron, Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture, Third Edition: Based on the Competing Values Framework 3rd Edition

Richard Barrett, Values-driven organization, 2nd Edition

Saul Mclaud, Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs