Written by Ali Shipway, Shipway Consulting and Active Partnerships National Board Member
‘You’re the one that I want’…
Any look at an Active Partnership’s website, newsletter or twitter feed means you’re more than likely to see an advert looking for new team members.
Which is fabulous!
To be in a position with long term funding secured, to be able to grow the skills, expertise, thinking and ideas coming into the network is an enviable one – and fundamental to our collective purpose to make a difference to as many people’s lives as possible through the power of sport and physical activity.
But enabling that opportunity to bring people in is the start rather than the end of a challenge. And it’s a big challenge at the best of times. To find that person with the relevant skills, experience and attitude that’s suits your needs. And matches theirs. That needle in a haystack. As we like to say in the network - getting ‘the right person getting on the right bus, sitting in the right seat, at the right time’. And importantly them then staying on the bus when it takes a new route. Or it breakdowns. Or has to navigate itself for a while we find a new driver!!!!
Well no ! And at the moment recruiting and retaining people is seemingly more difficult than its ever been. It doesn’t feel like just a challenge but more of a mountain climb!
Why? Well many reasons. But as with everything, the last few years play a major part. The impact of ‘The Great Resignation’ tells us that the world of work has gone through a seismic shift for all sectors. It may be reassuring but doesn’t necessarily help, that all our partners are dealing with the same problem of fishing in a buyer’s recruitment pond. There’s definitely a simple supply and demand element at play.
But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Or solve it. Because ‘The Great Resignation’ is about more than purely economic market factors. It’s about people. And people’s attitudes to work have, and continue to, shift. Remote working made many people realign their thinking about their working life. And time furloughed or shut down made some assess what they really value about something they will spent a third of their whole life doing. As a result two years on many have therefore simply re-evaluated whether they want to work in the sector they are, actually enjoy the role they are doing, like the people they work with or feel valued for what they provide.
The positive of that is many people are more open to exploring new opportunities. And clearer on what they want. And that means being more choice with their choices. The shift didn’t result in the mass unemployment rates we thought it would. Rates are at pre-pandemic levels with some areas across the Country looking at the highest rate of employment for 10 years. Of course the cost of living crisis may shift this again. But insight is still telling us people continue to look at the value of a job being beyond just it’s financial implications.
Pay is no longer the pure motivator it once was. Its about connections.
Connecting with the organisation. Its values. The people who work there. What the work is. How they will be valued. What they can learn. How they will be developed. And how that fits with their life outside of work.
So, given that…how do you attract them to your organisation and role? And how do you understand if the connection is right for you?
As ever with our work there are no silver bullet solutions.
We are all unique organisations with our local identities, needs, opportunities and challenges.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t learning to be had. It feels timely therefore to share some hints and tips from trends across the network, our sector and importantly wider which work. Its not a full proof plan to resolve all recruitment frustrations, but they could give you ideas to re-think how you are searching, selecting, appointing and then critically retaining talent in your teams.
★ Tip 1 – Be upfront with what you’re all about
Branding is not something we talk lots about. There is a natural humbleness to our work – we don’t want to shout and say hey look at us and how amazing we are. Because its about the impact of our work. And it isn’t typically about just us but a collective approach which requires a lack of ego. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be telling our stories. About why we exist. What matters to us. What we do – and don’t - do. Who works for us and what they say about it. Otherwise how will people be able to connect with us??? We know our work is about being purposeful. So be it with your employer branding. Utilise the marketing skills in your teams to really tell your story and make your ‘about us’ website page a tool to connect with people.
★ Tip 2- Figure out, then shout about, what matters most about this role.
Let me be blunt. Job descriptions are pretty much, in my opinion, useless as a recruitment tool. We tend to list about twenty ‘key’ parts of a job and twenty ‘essential’ attributes we say are critical to the role. Really? As a reminder we’re looking for people here not digitally built perfect robots! And JD’s go out of date so quickly – I’m yet to meet someone whose actual day to day role is reflected on a piece of paper written four years ago. So limit it to thinking about what is REALLY critical. If you want to attract someone who prefers working in a systematic process way put that. If you want to attract someone who prefers working with big picture concepts and can be innovative say that. They’re different skills and will attract different people. Figure out what’s a deal breaker… I’d suggest there isn’t much that falls into that category! If you feel you have to write a job description focus on the impact the role will have and the difference someone doing it could make – that’s the connection to be made.
Tip 3 - Use the language you use!
Being authentic matters. If I ask someone what they want to say in advert it isn’t usually what they actually say. It becomes what they think they should say. But tone and voice is important. If you’re informal as an organisation be informal with your words. If you aren’t corporate with how you work, don’t be corporate with your language. Attracting people into an organisation that isn’t what it says it is on the tin won’t solve your recruitment problems – just double them when you’ve got to do it all over again when they realise it isn’t what they thought it would be. So be true to either what you have built or are looking to build by openly and honestly saying what you actually want to say. Connect by just saying it in your own words.
★ Tip 4 – Try new ways of interviewing. Or don’t interview!
Steve Jobs famously said ‘you can’t find a needle in a haystack in a hour’ and I couldn’t agree more. The traditional formal interview will rarely enable time to get to know someone and properly connect with who they are, and them with who you are. So think about doing it differently. There are no set rules with recruitment. It’s a myth that you have to ask everyone exactly the same questions – you don’t . But you do need to ensure that you are inclusively enabling everyone the same opportunity to thrive in your process and not be disadvantaged because of who they are. So if you’re looking for people who can work comfortably in big groups, put them in that environment…if you want someone who could thrive making quick decisions, test that! We want to attract as diverse a pool of people as possible. Because diversity builds collective strength and that’s in turn builds high performance teams. So be diverse with how you explore that with candidates. Try networking recruitment events where candidates mix, share and learn together. Bring people into the workplace and have them interact with your teams. Ask questions which ask people to share their stories. Do what we do well – connect people up and have conversations.
★ Tip 5 – Hire character.
To say don’t worry about skills is perhaps a step too far. Because we know skills are important. And more useful to recruit against then pure experience. Skills can translate across sectors and open up a whole new marketplace of candidates who may connect with the skills you are after even if they don’t have the exact background you may think you want.
But. Skills can be trained. And character is innate. So we’re back to that authenticity point. We know we need people who can build relationships, and trust. And that’s more about who they are than what they do. So character often trumps skills. Its rare you would dismiss someone because of a lack of skill. But you might because of a lack of passion. Or commitment. Or empathy. Or honesty. Your core team values will help here. They tell someone what your guiding principles are and the golden thread of your culture. Just remember its about making people feel they can belong here by connecting with your values – its not about having to fit in but enabling them to belong by being themselves
★ Tip 6 – Be what you want to attract.
It’s a common frustration to see the words ‘we want someone who is flexible and can adapt’ in an advert which lists rigid and inflexible terms and conditions! Its widely recognised that Millennials and Gen Z’s actively seek roles and organisations which have a genuine flexible approach to working life. Which comes back to the impact of the pandemic. People’s view of work may mean they remain just as committed and driven– but perhaps not on a 9-5 Monday to Friday basis. Organisations who connect with this in recruitment reflect that. They don’t dictate when work should take place but enable people to find what works best for both. So if you want agile and innovative people, be agile and innovative with how you employ them.
★ Tip 7 – Don’t let connected become disconnected
A scary statistic released by the World Economic Forum last year said 86% of employees felt people at their organisation are not heard fairly or equally. And that can lead to disconnect, disengagement and looking elsehwhere. The disconnect people can feel is just as important as any initial connection made. It’s retaining your talent which will build resilient people who in turn build robust, durable and values-led cultures. Anthony Lutz who coined the phrase ‘The Great Resignation’ noted “there are a lot of employees quitting jobs and taking up others but who knows how they might feel in two years time?”. So find out how they feel in two years! Or 6 months. Or five years - by asking them! Focus on putting time and energies into ‘stay interviews’ rather than waiting for the insight an ‘exit interview’ can give. Listening to our people, shifting how we work, what we reward people for, how we give recognition and when we praise all matter in retaining the talent we initially sought. Again be what we wanted to attract. If we value curiosity, reward it. It we want adaptability, adapt to it. If we want good listener then, listen! And if you want people who can connect with others, connect with them!
And finally, to get it right invest heavily in your recruitment. That doesn’t mean spending oodles of money on external agencies to do it for you. We know social recruitment now generally generates results anyway. A well placed, purposeful, authentically worded couple of lines on LinkedIN may hit far more potential candidates who share your passion than any corporatised glossy campaign could from people speaking on your behalf. So utilise your community connectors, partners, networks and existing team members to get your message out.
But as the quote aside suggests the investment is about time and energies. If we’re really putting people front and centre of our work then meaningfully trying to find that needle in the haystack is worth it right?
Want to have a conversation about it? Get in touch and connect up!