I have read numerous articles that have been published regarding the recruitment of Paul Flowers at Co-op, George Dymond at Morrisons and the hiring of numerous football managers who were not a right fit for the business or left extremely quickly. In many of these cases the use of psychometrics are quoted as a key reason for the hire. So what went wrong?
Recruiting a Chairman of a bank with no previous banking experience on the basis of his leadership and previous board credentials might be seen as foolish, especially following the numerous reports into the financial crisis which stated that one of the key drivers was that the leadership did not understand the products or risks within the system. It begs the question - was the job description too people and behaviours focused, rather than domain experience?
Bringing in people who subsequently leave within 3-6 months because the job was not what was envisioned demonstrates a lack of desire by the organisation to fully understand what their needs are at the outset. Failing to outline the role or environment in which candidates will work - of course this can be contributed to being blinded by one of the many recruitment fallacies such as halo, mirror, PLU - or their background, can also be reasons why the wrong person is hired.
What this overlooks is the key reason for hiring a headhunter or recruitment specialist to advise, design or oversee the hiring process. A key part of their role will be to challenge either the board or the leadership team that they hire the right person for the role by using a proper selection process. Given the scenario at Sunderland with Di Canio, one does wonder whether they assessed him at all in their selection process or just went with someone who they thought brought credibility?
This brings us onto the other crucial role of a headhunter, fully referencing candidates both through the formal side of their CV but also by talking to others who have worked with them to understand their work style and limitations is imperative. Coming back to the Di Canio situation, one feels a couple of quick phone calls to Swindon might have influenced the decision to Sunderlands benefit!
The recruiter brings expertise to the table
How boards and leaders design the assessment of the hiring process is something where the recruiter can bring a great deal of experience both through their structured interview technique, arranging testing, role plays and case studies through to advising on the decisions that they take.
Having a panel involved in the interview and assessment process can overcome shortcomings associated with having the same person making hiring decisions, however for this to be most successful the panel needs to be balanced and not subject to groupthink or influence by the most senior person.
While psychometrics will have a key role to play in hiring, especially when the team fit and motivations are key to ensuring that a person will be able to lead a group of experienced leaders and personalities, the focus of a recruiter should be on making sure that both sides are aware of the opportunities and constraints around the job. The assessment must be accurate and competently carried out, and the expectations should be clear for all when decisions and offers are made.
Psychometrics and aptitude tests have long been used to set benchmarks and give board leaders and hiring managers a good reason to rule people out, but they should never be used as the only reason to hire without all the other checks and balances of a proper assessment exercise.
If any football clubs or banks wish to engage the services of The Talent Hackers in the search for their next manager I would be happy to talk to them - email@example.com
Recruiting locally has many advantages but there are also a few disadvantages that possibly need to be considered, which I will address here. One important reason for hiring locally can also be the goal for companies who have a contractual requirement to hire locally for certain types of funded projects. I was talking with an HR manager recently about their hiring practices and recruitment when we touched upon the topic of localism and CSR, not your usual recruiter speak I know, so I thought I would pen some thoughts that might be of use to other HR managers.
1. The Benefits of hiring locally:
1.1 Reduces Greenhouse gas emissions and improves health for the workforce through the promotion of walking, cycling and car-sharing. Hiring locally can also reduce stress in employees with long commutes.
1.2 As mentioned in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community each additional ten minutes spent commuting leads to a 10% decline in all areas of civic engagement; if you are a small village or town this can have a major impact.
1.3 It keeps money invested in the local community. The salaries you pay are likely to have a significant impact on local businesses; a multiplier of 3-4 would not be uncommon. When Longbridge in Birmingham shut down overnight, so too did many small businesses.
1.4 Fosters an engaged workforce through social activity. If a significant number of your workforce live close to one another they are likely to develop more engaged social networks.
1.5 No relocation costs.
1.6 Reduced turnover of staff. One of the key reasons people leave a job is that they are “fed up” with the commute, and whilst the age of homeworking is still developing even more so since the lockdown measures were put into place, hiring people locally who are committed to the workforce and area will have a key impact on attrition.
1.7 On-going attraction. Referrals and attracting former colleagues are key factors of hiring in today’s economy. Hiring local people means that they are more able to do this (unless you are a football manager and able to bring whole teams with you!).
1.8 Locals job-search locally. People often begin their search for work locally resulting in the lower search costs on both sides and consequently, a greater chance of success in hiring and finding a new role.
There are lots of positives for companies here to hire locally, far more than I had initially thought, however before I get too carried away with the localism agenda, perhaps some thoughts on the disadvantages first.
2. The Disadvantages of hiring locally
2.1 It can restrict the supply of workers to the organisation. This can be especially important if you are in a service or creative industry using skilled workers that are hard to find.
2.2 May mean the local community are too reliant on one employer, as seen throughout the North of England when coal mining was shut down in the 1980's.
2.3 The costs of hiring may increase as the supply of labour within a radius goes down and employees bargain for greater salaries or rates. This can certainly be seen in London currently as salaries rise for particular skills sets especially in programming or programme management.
2.4 Settling for the available talent and missing out on the best talent. Research has shown that recruiting top performers has a greater than expected impact on company productivity and growth.
3. The impact upon your recruitment options
The type of job. If the job is a permanent hire then going locally may be the better option; conversely contractors and FTC or temps may be able to travel more if the rate is higher.
The skill set needed. If a job requires a particular skill set or expertise then you may need to look further afield, particularly if the role holder is a very rare skill.
Commuting. Have you looked at travel time? What would you call local? In London local may mean within a 1hr commute which can be as far as Brighton. However, for somewhere like Worcestershire this might mean Central Birmingham to Bristol? Use tools like www.Mapumental.com to work out what are realistic commute times - you may be surprised!
Location. What is your location? Do applicants have to drive? Could they walk, cycle, take the bus or train? This may have a major impact on whether you are able to go further. Recruiting in city centres may be a deterrent to drivers given the traffic delays yet may also attract more candidates as they will be better served by public transport.
What is the competition? If you work in a particular market or industry segment that requires specific skills i.e. optoelectronics or software programming, do you know where to find other sources of talent?
What is the level of the role? The more senior the role the more likely you are to have to widen the search area unless you are in a major city. Even then I would argue that the more important the hire the less location matters and the more the emphasis is upon getting the right candidate.
To discuss your local hiring strategy, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Does cost and quality of service hinder your recruitment?
After 16 years of working in recruitment, I typically hear the same observations from HR managers, Directors and hiring managers about the issues they have with recruitment and the biggest of these is generally cost and quality of service. Comments such as “recruitment companies cost us too much and we get poor candidates from them” so I thought I would outline a few helpful hints as to how you can save money whilst still maintaining a healthy staff requirement within your business.
Firstly, understanding how recruitment agencies work can give a good insight into what drives some of the behaviours that can be found out there. Most recruiters work on a contingency basis, that is you pay them if you find a candidate. It's low risk but you pay a huge premium for this.
As a result of this recruiters often have little confidence in you as a client, they also own the candidate IP rather than you so can sell them to other clients - after all they are only interested in making a fee so will show little loyalty to you if a better role or bigger fee comes up.
1. Do you need to hire?
Often hiring is a reactive process, somebody has left or been performance managed out or in the worst case been dismissed and the immediate response is quickly ‘find me a replacement’. Companies should spend time evaluating whether they need to hire someone that is exactly the same and what the role will cover before starting the recruitment process. Often the role may change, somebody else internally may fit (see point 9) or the role can be covered by the existing team.
2. Promote somebody and hire an apprentice (succession planning)
Do you have a succession plan in place? If a key member left, do you have somebody ready or wanting to take on the role? This could mean that you can hire a less experienced or qualified person and motivate your existing staff through promotion or job challenge.
3. Write a good job spec
The recruitment process starts with writing the right job spec, which includes company brief, person profile, skills, and competencies. This will help make sure you recruit the right person. This is something that I am very passionate about and have written about previously - read about writing a good job description
4. Do it yourself
There are a plethora of options available for companies to recruit themselves for value. The issue for most companies is the time to do this, which is why we exist - to help founders to find the best talent without the expense and time taken out of running their own business.
In local markets, odds on, somebody in your company will know someone who could do the job you are looking to hire from. How do you approach them, how do you get staff members to recommend people they know? A referral system put in place can be really effective for your future recruitment.
6. Careers Page
It always amazes me how many companies still don’t have a careers page that is up to date or allows candidates to add their CV’s to a talent pool. Particularly in areas where there might be a smaller pool of people, building up a talent pool of the local market that you can approach when you have a job is essential to reducing your recruitment fees.
7. Negotiate your fees
Most agencies are willing to negotiate, it’s a competitive marketplace out there.
If you are going to work with an agency, offer exclusivity in return for specific returns such as exclusive ownership of candidates, lower fees, free advertising or research.
9. Contract management
Companies that use lots of contractors can often make savings through better contract management, either through an Recruit Process Outsourcer, standardisation of rates or volume rate negotiation. This all starts with an audit internally to capture the current start of what you have.
A good process to follow is...
The Talent Hackers specialise in providing recruitment services in a fully transparent manner for SME companies. We offer an initial consultation to discuss key challenges you might be facing, how you might overcome these and how we can help you to move forward - email email@example.com.
One of the hardest things to do as a Non-Technical Co-founder is to recruit a CTO who can join the company later but still share in the passion that you have for the product.
With the rise of accelerators, hands-on investors and easy options to build an MVP and launch, many CEOs are finding that they have so much to do in running the business and looking after the client end of things that they are in difficulty when it comes to dedicating time to finding the right CTO to fit the business.
The need for a CTO
Launching by having your product built by a third party or a friend is great and is a really cost effective way to get to MVP however, it creates a legacy of technical debt and potentially difficult code or technology stacks that might not be right to scale the product. This is where the CTO or Lead Developer is really key to taking you through to the next level.
At this point the CEO or COO will be heavily engaged in running teams, working with clients, mapping feature sets and reporting to the board. Their main constraints will be time as well as funding the hiring of a new CTO. Using agencies can be costly, 25% of salary is not a small amount, trying to find someone suitable through friends, referrals and networking can take forever, whilst the board will be increasing the pressure to hire every month.
The reality of hiring a CTO
I recently worked on a project for a client to do exactly this and thought it might be useful to share our experience.
The total amount of time to hire was 55 hours. This included setting up job postings, reaching out through LinkedIn, searching job boards, tele-screening candidates, organising technical screens and skype interviews with the CEO, COO, investors and finally closing the deal with the candidate. All of this was delivered by a professional recruiter, used to hiring at this level for this type of business.
That’s probably the average week for a CEO, ask one you know if they could afford the time to do this! I very much doubt it.
How can we help?
We reached out to over 250 candidates directly, managed over 80 advertising responses and had over 10 direct referrals across multiple sources.
We posted across Europe, headhunted, networked and drove the process on, keeping our candidates in the process during August when everyone was on holiday, giving consistent feedback to candidates and managing communications.
What did the company gain?
Using our process we believe that candidates get a better view of the company, have a better experience and due to implementing a workflow system called Workable, our clients are able to build a talent pool that will be receptive to them the next time they hire.
The learning points from this were:
For under 30% of the cost of an agency, a slick process and the opportunity to build an ATS, we hired a great CTO, did it in a reasonable time frame and the CEO spent less than five hours in actual interviewing. Now that is a good result!
TheTalentHackers.com is an in house recruitment service for startups and fast growth companies in the Technology, Bio and Mobile world. To find out more visit www.thetalenthackers.com
As a founder or senior leader within your startup, have you asked yourself some of these questions and got answers you are happy with? If not, from my experience it is worth making the time to work through them, you could regret it later down the line especially when you do finally get investment.
Here are my ten top tips that you need to work through and be satisfied with before moving forward in your hiring process:
1. Are there staff available in the local area?
It might be obvious but it is amazing how many startups will go with the latest technology like Scala, paper.js, Clojure or Slate, Faust or Squirrel and build an amazing new product but then when they try to recruit the extra programmer they really struggle to hire. Spend some time thinking about where you can find the skills locally or will you have to cross-train or relocate talent. Even languages that are becoming more mainstream like Ruby can be difficult to obtain. Resources like IT jobswatch can give you an idea of demand, a quick search on Linkedin might give an indication of supply.
2. What are the rates for permanent/contract staff for your technology stack?
Assuming you are going with your favoured technology when you are preparing your cash flow and hiring plans, take a look at salaries/contract margins. Many startups are amazed at what they might have to pay to get that right skill set, especially outside of London where the assumption is to pay less, but competition is really hot for tech skills right now.
3. Where are the big technology companies that use your skill set?
One of the reasons that clusters grow especially around technologies is that there happens to be a large employer of that skill set locally. The reason there were so many startups in California was Xerox Parc, so many embedded software companies in Cambridge were because of Acorn and networking technologies in Scotland was NCR and 3Com. Have you looked at the local big tech employers and their tech stack to see if it's easy to get people from there?
4. Are you part of a community already?
Have you joined and are active in the local User Groups, Meetups? This will give you an idea of the quality and depth of local talent.
Have you made links with the local universities, especially the Computer Science courses? One reason for successful startups around York was the quality of their C Science course, especially around AI and Vision.
6. What happens when you get funded? Do you have a plan?
One of the key bottlenecks for startups is planning. From building and launching a product, creating great customer service and doing the investment rounds when you finally get that magic funding - typically a lot of it will go on hiring. If you have not pipelined and thought about how to do this it can create a major challenge.
7. It's OK, we will just bring in overseas candidates!
Think again, the average time to hire, process and gain a work permit is likely to be around 3-6 months especially if they are not in the country already. On top of which, Visa's are becoming much scarcer now under the new legislation. Yes, you can still hire from within the EU, but the competition is fierce and most candidates want to live in London as that is the area they know.
8. Beware the unicorn!
While research suggests that recruiting the top 5% of programmers will have a disproportionate effect on your productivity, the reality is they are few and far between for a reason and you have to pay disproportionate salaries and benefits to attract them and present them with the right challenges otherwise they will move on swiftly. A good solid team to start will pay good dividends and if you see one them make a decision then otherwise you could miss delivering whilst you wait for the unicorn!
9. Are you attractive compared to your peers?
Have you undertaken a review of your hiring competition? Not just the local startups but major employers too, to see how you stack up on benefits, culture and salaries? Also look at Startups within one-hour commutes, which if you are in Nottingham, Birmingham or Manchester could almost be London.
10. Do you actually tell people you are hiring?
A common issue for startups is to focus on their product and sales and not have their website telling people they are hiring or what they are looking for in the future. The key is to make sure that it's very visible on the front page of your website to attract the best talent from the get-go.
If you would like to get a review of hiring practices at your startup or just advice on where you might be able to improve, email me.
One of the common mistakes that SMEs make when hiring is to base their criteria on what they think they need without first spending time to analyse and review the role in more detail. This is mainly done for reasons of time, lack of knowledge or simply ‘I know what I want when I see it’.
As someone who has worked with over 50 small businesses that are looking to grow, doing the initial research and analysis to write a clear job description is one of the key pieces of advice we give.
The job description is what you want from the job, it should be a working document that enables you to quickly and accurately measure the outcome from hiring someone for the role. This is more than a simple skills list or a price point.
Here is a list of 10 areas you should consider when writing a job description - download a more detailed template for free HERE.
1. What are the key job details
a. Role title, this is really important as it not only describes clearly what the person will do in detail but helps them to find your job. To help you write your role title look at other jobs in the market; what will people search for online, does it describe the role in detail, it is great hiring a marketing ninja - but does that describe what you want, would someone describe themselves like that?
b. Reporting line
c. Salary guide - stretch guide for the ideal person
e. When they need to be in place
f. Who is responsible for hiring
g. Location - remote/multi-site, onsite
2. Why does the role exist?
3. What are the key drivers for this role, what does someone need to have accomplished in the first 6-12 months?
4. What are the measures for the role - What will success look like?
5. What are the key skills someone will need to deliver this? - These are likely to be qualifications, level of education, background experience, hard skills like systems or processes - Be careful to avoid discriminatory language here, asking for xx years of experience is bad.
6. What are the behavioural traits that would fit this role? - Be sensitive to the words you use, energetic, challenging, focused, ambitious may not be how you want to portray the role, try to use clear simple words.
7. How will someone fit into your company culture? - Do they hold your values, what are they?
8. What will this person need to be onboarded into the company?
9. Who are their peers, stakeholders, key people they engage with?
10. What are the opportunities for this role to grow? - Training, career development and progression.
Once you have answered the above points, then collate it into a document and ask a few colleagues to read it and rate it on the following:
You can then turn this into an effective job ad, but that’s a blog post for a different time, or you can call me 0330 133 2097 or email directly on firstname.lastname@example.org to chat.
While we are all on lockdown, I thought it might be useful to outline some of the things we can do as growth company leaders from a talent perspective that will help us on the other side.
There are a hundred and one things that we all have to manage at the moment that we see as much more urgent, such as ensuring we have business longer-term and revenue in place!
However, taking a step back and thinking about hiring is still something that we need to do. There is potentially a really good pool of talent that is waiting to return to work with gusto and being the first to grab them will set you apart from your competitors.
Here are my eight steps to getting your hiring processes in order, now:
We, at Talent Hackers, have been doing all these things both for ourselves and for clients at different points and hope that we can see opportunities where we can live our brand by improving hiring practices by making sure that we are ready when we are ready to hire again.
Need help with reviewing your hiring process? Please email us on email@example.com
In January 2015 it was reported that Birmingham, UK, will be receiving a new incubator that would come in handy in support of start-ups in the city known as iCentrum and would be operational by March 2016. In the process, it would create over 400 jobs and give back to the Birmingham community about £25 million annually. While such great news might not be very unique to Birmingham only, it is already official that Birmingham is great for start-up tech companies, especially if iCentrum and other key tech developments in Birmingham are anything to go by.
In 2013 alone, the city of Birmingham was top of the new list of start-ups outside London with 16,281 companies having been launched in the city more than in any other city in the UK apart from London.
Birmingham is famous as the home of heavy metal and tennis but the most significant of all these is that of any 4,000 inventions taking place annually in the United Kingdom, over 2,800 come from this famous city in the UK and Europe. Here are a number of reasons why Birmingham is great for start-up tech companies today.
Home of great talent
Birmingham back in the 18th century was heralded as the first world manufacturing town and led in the global advances in economic development, technology and science. As we speak, Birmingham is a major UK digital hub with over 38,000 people employed in about 6,000 technological firms. In the city are thousands of business and computer science students. Hiring top talent is very easy considering the cutthroat competition manifested in London by such corporations as Facebook and Google is not there.
Birmingham as a city with great talent is not a secret anymore. For example, BufferApp, which allows users to schedule Facebook posts and Tweets and post them later is a Birmingham creation with other immense start-ups having come out of the city already such as Hobyz.com for crafters and hobbyists, Soshi Games, WHISK that allows users to purchase entire supermarket recipes, CrowdControl that appealed to the Leeds' City Council and others with dozens of social media accounts that need management. Others include Poikos, Mynaweb.com among others that are in the works currently. The Innovation Birmingham Campus is a flourishing technology community with open work spaces of 38,000 sq ft promoting mobile operations for start-ups.
Cost of living is low
The low cost of living in Birmingham improves the quality of life while making wages low in a very unique balance. For instance, while renting a flat with two bedrooms is about £1,500 in London, with just £670 you can get the same in Birmingham, if not better. This is why ASOS among others have opened new offices in the city after claiming that tech talent costs in Birmingham are 50 percent lower in contrast with the English Capital's.
Without a doubt there is some tech event taking place in Birmingham almost everyday, making the city to have one of the most vibrant ecosystems in the world of tech. There are all kinds of investors, office spaces, large companies and diverse start-ups in the city at any given time with top companies claiming that Birmingham has the vision, talent and space every tech talent is looking for with the city's unique tech culture and its great potential to be a top e-commerce hub making it irresistible.
A good example is the Silicon Canal, a major tech community that seeks to create an international tech ecosystem right in Birmingham by helping tech companies, events and people find one another, communicate globally about the great tech stuff taking place in the city and attracting top talent from elsewhere, run events and projects where there are opportunities to lend a hand and events and projects to support and run.
Location and transport
Birmingham is also in a central location while the High Speed Rail 2 project that will reduce the Birmingham-London train journey from 74 minutes to just 43 minutes would be operational by 2026.
Research and development
Investment in the region have made the city a top hub for research and development in tech and science, such as the biomedical hub worth £6.8m and opened in 2014, offering office and lab space to the science sector in the city and hundreds of jobs.
Birmingham is also a very liveable city with some of the most affordable food prices. Outside London the city has four restaurants that are Michelin starred and lots of farmers markets and independent restaurants particularly outside the city centre such as Moseley, Kings Heath and Harbone. The property price average by July 2014 stood at £114, 713 with 69 crimes reported per a thousand people in the city and a stable average broadband speed of 20.7 mbps.