Person/job fit mistakes and how to prevent them

A little quote

An HR executive I met years ago used to say: Having the wrong person in a position creates additional expenses to the company. When they make a mistake, it will cost the company.  You will pay the  cost for their mistakes (not doing things right on time),  the cost of repairing them,  the cost of re-training people or firing/hiring again and the cost of the bad example for the rest of the employees.  

I have seen some mistakes in my 15 years of experience, and yes, some of them are learning opportunities, but the truth is, the cost of the mistake is often higher than what we learn from it.

Why is this important?Right-Job-Match

Recruiters and HR planners usually try to prevent this problem by hiring/promoting the person who already has all the experience needed for the role. What they probably forget is that people that are career-minded will challenge themselves and look for positions where they can acquire NEW competencies.  I often see middle-management jobs that require 8 or more years of experience in a similar role and industry, which is very good indicator that the company may not invest much in Talent Development and that the people that applies is no longer looking for something exciting and challenging.

Experience does not mean competency. We tend to forget that is not the same to have 5 years of experience in recruitment, than to repeat a year 5 times. This is the reason why we should hire by competencies, not by experience, although competences might take more time to be assessed. A simple way of doing it is with the behavioral interview, which you probably know already.  Another one a little bit more complex is through cases, where you ask the job seeker to work in a case that s/he could work on when hired. The case has to be prepared carefully to provide relevant information and then discussed to understand why the candidate took those decisions.

In places where there is a lot of diversity in the workforce, using cases could also be a fair tool to select the best candidates. There are cultures that traditionally have a stronger presence, cultures that we don’t appreciate due to a stereotype, and people who haven’t taken/mastered the local accent yet and can be easily discarded on the screening of a regular interview.

If you want to go with a Case interview, don’t forget the following points:

-Prepare and include all the information that the candidate will need to solve the case.

-Write down the instructions on the case description,  and describe the points that will be evaluated.

-Give the candidate enough time to prepare it and the resources needed.

-Organize the case information in a clear way and ask someone else to read it.

-Ask questions related to the case and to the analysis process. Make a clear assessment of the competencies and the level of development that the candidate has.

-Be fair. Tell the candidate what the interview is about in advance (tell them it will be a practical case, I don’t mean disclosing the topic of the case).

 

Making sure that you have the right person in the right place will only increase the talent pool, the employee morale, and the profits of the company.

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Why is difficult to sustain Change?

Several companies fail in their attempts to achieve excellence. A common reason is that the so much needed change wasn’t planned or implemented properly, and it will be rejected by the organization, as the organizations are auto-regulated (autopoiesis, Maturana dixit). Often, companies (or consultants) use a packaged change program: “Whatever worked for X company is good enough for company Y.”  Additionally, everyone wants a quick fix that makes them look better in no time, and more often than not, structural changes are messy.

We often forget that things that developed or deteriorated for years, cannot change in a couple of weeks, with just a few meetings. We need to change people behavior and often, beliefs.  As this is frequently a very important and not always  evident obstacle for change: organizational defenses.

To achieve organizational excellence, organizations should focus on learning, competence and justice, instead of morale, satisfaction and loyalty which are the frequent concerns of HR, as Chris Argyris says. Learning will allow us to detect errors and correct them; competence will help us to solve problems definitely and justice will improve the organizational health. Regardless of the change agents’ efforts, if the organization doesn’t really focus on these three issues, change won’t be sustainable.

overcome-obstacles

SEVEN ERRORS THAT PREVENT REAL CHANGE

Argyris mentions seven worldwide errors that top management considers crucial, and that have been proved through research:

1. Actions intended to increase understanding and trust often produce misunderstanding and mistrust.  Think of all these meetings that large companies have between the head office and a local office.  Head office executives think that everything has been cleared out and local office executives wonder what is the head office really planning to do.

2. Blaming others or the system for poor decisions. No one likes to take the blame, and no one wants to admit they made a mistake.

3. Organizational inertia: the tried and proven ways of doing things dominate organizational life. We have all heard the typical comment: “it has always been done this way”, or “I don’t have the authority to change it”. People tend to stick with what they did yesterday, often forgetting that if there is a new competitor, new technology or new need, what worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today.

4. Upward communications for difficult issues are often lacking. No one wants to bring the bad news,  Upward communication from employees often disappears at management level.

5. Budget games are necessary evils. Everyone in a medium or large company knows the different applications of this defense.  People tend to undersell to make sure that they can deliver, conceal unattractive programs in a more attractive one, require authority from different parties to make difficult to come to an agreement, promise future results instead of being clear on what the program does, etc.

6. People don’t behave reasonably, even when it’s in their best interest. A lot of irrational responses can be found here: rejection, indecision, procrastination, sabotage, lack of follow-up, etc.  People think that just by being (or appearing busy) things will change or fade away.

7. The management team is often a myth.  

 

WHAT DO WE DO, THEN?

There is no magic pill to change our behavior in organizations, but we can start by understanding these errors and finding which ones apply to our organization. We need to process our fears and work as individuals and in groups, to understand what is happening to our organization and what do we need to do to change it. We need to get rid of the “fancy footwork” that protects this defensive routines.  We need to understand and challenge the assumption that is behind each defensive behavior.

When we talk about changes that impact the entire organization, there is never too much communication or training.  But both process should be a two way path. We need to listen and learn what is really happening in the organization.  Our Change  Management efforts cannot be superficial, otherwise we risk the trust the organization may have on it.

We need to unlearn and re-learn a new model of thinking. Analysis, reflection and humble inquiry are needed if we are to get to the bottom of these defenses.

Do you have any example of question? Please, share it in the comments section.

Managing Change vs. Leading Change

Some days ago, I attended a conference and realized Lewin’s change model is still in use. The simplicity of the model is useful to illustrate the process, but in my perspective, it could be misleading.  If we haven’t experienced a deep transformation process, we can think the change process is linear and looks like this:

Lewin change model

It consists in providing the conditions for people to see what needs to be changed and why, what resources do they have and which ones they need.  Then, during the change process it refers to planning and adopting new practices, and modifying behavior to adapt to change. Finally, coming back to the normal conditions, using and incorporating change.

In a strict sense and in retrospective, an organizational change may look like that. However, transforming human behavior is not so easy and for sure it’s not linear.

The ADKAR model developed by Prosci, is one of the most comprehensive models businesses use nowadays.

graph_adkar1

Regardless of the type of change your organization is going through, understanding the stages of change will reduce confusion, but having more clarity on what are the pitfalls and what is needed to move from one stage to another is relevant.  However, as John Kotter says,  it is important to remember that managing change is not the same as leading change. “Management” implies a system or process that can and should be constantly monitored, whereas “Leadership” suggests assembling and inspiring a group of people who will design and own a self sustaining program.

A lot of companies talk about Change managers (or even champions), when what they actually need are Change leaders that can instill the urgency to change and motivate the entire organization to go through an unpredictable, difficult and long process, that will end up changing the culture of the company. We need to remember that although the goal may be the same, the process is quite different and therefore, requires a different set of skills.

Use of Self

Just a little reminder of the Principles of Presence, according to the NTL Handbook of OD and Change.

presence

 

Be Honorable

Align personal assumptions, values, beliefs, behavior

Stand for something; take a position

Dare to be different (or similar)

State the obvious

Speak the unspeakable

 

Be an Effective Agent of Change 

Be an awareness expert

Facilitate enhanced interaction among members of the client system and with self

Teach basic behavioral skills

Model a methodology for solving problems and for dealing with life in general

Help the client complete work  and achieve closure on unfinished businessCultivate conditions for the client to experiment new behavior

 

Be Curious

Stay in a space of perpetual wonderment

Show genuine interest in the client

Be interested in self

Explore the nature of relationships between self and client and among individuals in the client system

Value-based hiring

Several years ago I took some German courses. I remember my teacher saying that a lot of German companies where hiring people with this language skill in Latin America. He said (and after 3 years of German courses, I agree)  that it’s easier to teach people how to perform a job, than to teach them German. This observation comes to my mind often, especially when I meet someone who doesn’t share the company values or doesn’t act in a respectful way. Acquiring skills and knowledge is not that difficult, but finding someone with the right attitude/values is.

The most important function of recruitment is to put the right person in the right role. Finding the right person means taking a look to the whole person, as the predictors of success in a position, the real person-job fit,  include attitude and skills, not only knowledge.

BACK TO THE FUTURE

To create a talent pool we need to hire balancing the needs of the present and the ones of the future. Is the person going to be promoted? (I hope so!) What is the career path she might follow?

The person-job fit is not only responsibility of the recruiters, different people are involved in ensuring this match once that the person is promoted.  A person might be promoted at least 3 times, not considering lateral moves.  7 if she doesn’t change companies in her lifetime, which is very unlikely (considering the average tenure in a job as 4 years, according to a recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor).

If your company has an HR planning process, you know that the potential a person has is as important as the fit with the job that was hired to do. This first job may not last even six months, but if we want to guarantee that the investment in time, money and effort the company made is not wasted, we need to make sure that the person has a good fit with the company culture, and that means values. Behaviors can be influenced with the right incentive, but values are very difficult to change.  A group of employees with the right attitude will make any job feasible.  The right attitude in the company will increase morale, improve performance and reduce turnover.

COMPANY VALUES

We need to clarify first the company values, as you know, the strategic plans of the company will have a direct impact on the HR plans. The values are one of the most important topics in HR and strategy ever. It’s a foundation of the company that impacts everyone everyday. For sure, they are something more than a poster in the hallway. Doing some research, I found values mentioned just 3 times -yes, you read it right-  in the book: Relever les défis de la gestion des ressources humaines. Not by coincidence, I found 8 references to violence in the same book.

When the employees are not aligned with the company values, the entire company resent it. In order to have a value-based hiring process, that allows us to ensure that the person with the right attitude is coming on board, we need to consider that both the employee and the company might have espoused values and enacted values. Espoused values are the ones that we consciously say we live by, that we’re committed to them, while enacted values are the ones that we really live by and show in our behavior.

Companies, for example, tend to say that they are committed to innovation, teamwork and social responsibility. If we take a closer look, we often notice that they want everyone to invest time and resources only in the most profitable projects, reach their department or individual targets relentlessly and well, just make profits. As for employees, everyone says (and probably believes) that they are really dedicated,  are committed to the company’s goals, and they love to work in teams, and anyone who has more than a year of experience working in a company, knows that it is not always true.

shackelton

INCORPORATING VALUES TO THE HIRING PROCESS

1. Ask relevant questions: Incorporating values, as we said at the beginning, means to understand that the person is whole. This means, that being realistic, you will expect that the future employee will come to the interview with fears, hopes, dreams and ideals. We want to know what the candidate’s enacted values are. Some months ago, I went to an interview where I was asked “How would you describe yourself?”.  A more concrete questions would have been: “How would you describe yourself and WHY?”, or even better,  if we already have a clear idea of the values we’re looking for, using the Behavioral interview would be more useful as it gives concrete examples of behavior that we may see repeated over time.

2. Set priorities. What is the importance of values over skills and knowledge?  That depend of your company and your strategic plan. There are companies that follow the “No Asshole rule”, and if this is your company case, it’s pretty obvious that values/attitude will play a more important role in the hiring process. Hiring based on values doesn’t mean that you will hire weak or “nice” people, but it means that you are aware of the discrepancy of the enacted and espoused values of your company, and you’re betting on developing the talent pool to reach the ideal.  If you’re hiring someone who has jumped from job to job, or seems to be difficult to motivate, well, what you see is what you get.

3. Be congruent: Honesty and openness from the interviewer to acknowledge the struggles or the status of the company is important, too. A motivated candidate that is really interested in the company will probably love the challenge. Of course, there is a need to protect the company regarding sensitive issues, but we cannot pretend that things are not wrong when it’s clear they are. I’ve asked in interviews why they’re looking for an OD specialist (we know that it’s not because everything is going great) and recruiters often deny the reality.

4. Create a value-based process: The recruitment process shows the candidates the values of your company. Recruiters shouldn’t just ignore candidates. Timely responses and follow-ups are a way to show respect.  Application processes should be logical, user-friendly and work well. Messages should be respectful. A couple of months ago I applied to a job that was perfect for me. I never received an answer from the recruiter. Then I saw the job coming through my network and the message from the recruiter said something like: ” We’re not concerned if people are looking or not for a job, the great majority of the people we end up considering are actually not looking”. Ah, there are so many things that we can deduce from this message. Clearly, this was not the right company for me.

Hiring based on values is only the beginning of the process. Values should be present in the day-to-day life of the company. HR, in particular, needs to make sure that the policies, procedures, and systems reflect the company values and help to cultivate talent in the company. There is no other way to build a great company.

Of birds and corporate culture

Speaking of birds…

Using metaphors to explain and understand different things is always an interesting exercise, and this one fits great in my experience.  Some days ago, I had a job interview in a very professional and competitive company.

I applied to the job posting as the role described an interesting position in Organizational Development. I have – as everyone else who is aware of the current changes in the recruitment world- different resumes, but I just created one that was very unique: a little bit colorful, with a cool design, and very creative elements (for an OD Specialist).

As soon as I sent it I received an answer and I had a telephonic interview with a very nice recruiter, who seemed interested in the kind of projects I had done in the past. As I was not really expecting their call, I explained some unique (and probably irrelevant) OD projects if we compare them with the ones they might manage, but despite my lack of preparation (or perhaps exactly because of it) I got an interview appointment.

I went to the interview and from the moment I arrived, I thought I was in a lab. The office actually reminded me of  a huge corporation I worked for in the past, except this one felt colder, for sure quieter  and with a LOT of light.    The interviewer was nice and warm, but I was not the android OD Specialist he was looking for.   My interviewer was interested in knowing about the projects I implemented to change the corporate culture, but he seemed concerned that my language would be good enough for them, as they work mostly in French. Also, I noticed a bit of stress when we discussed my approach to some sensitive internal clients, as it seemed they wanted someone very diplomatic. My interview lasted about 50 minutes and as I imagined,  my process ended there.  I enjoyed the interview, but I felt a little bit out of place.  Then, I recalled  one of my books: A peacock in the Land of Penguins.

Later I checked on LinkedIn who else from that company was in my network (I had only looked for the people involved in the recruitment process) and yes, all of them looked like penguins. 18 out of 21 were very similar pictures: taken by a professional,  all of them dressed in black, all them smiling for a toothpaste ad. It kind of reminded me of  The Firm.   I could imagine that some of these employees, the recruiter at least, probably started as a peacocks, and slowly lost their color among so many penguins.

I couldn’t help wonder if  the recruiter (or HR) actively wanted to change the culture of the company, or it was just by chance that they found my resume and decided to call me, but for sure, hiring “different” people is not enough.  Changing the culture of a company, is as Edgar Schein says, almost impossible, as it would be if we wanted to change the culture of a country.  Yes, we can introduce some small changes, we can change the game and the goals and, as a result of a concerted effort that involves all the departments, the company may change. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves, it’s not US changing the company, is the company changing itself, adapting itself to the environment. Our job is merely facilitate the process, help the company to learn and implement new initiatives. And of course, some of these changes may hurt sensitivities, and being honest and transparent is always the best policy, and I truly believe in it.

The corporate culture is way more complex than we can imagine. It represents the accumulated learning of the company, they ways of thinking, feeling and perceiving (again, Ed Schein’s concepts) and several of them are invisible. There are different cultures within the company, at the level of departments, teams and work-groups and cannot be assessed with a survey. We can assess it with a more complete process, that implies interviews, observation, dialogue, and reflection, and we can help the company to learn and react  in a more effective way. But trying to “change” it in an unilateral way, would be like trying to paint colorful feathers in the penguins.

Crazy_Mutant_Black_Peacock_by_SilkielAngel

Image by silkielangel

The importance of Talent

talent2You cannot solve the problems with the same level of thinking that allowed them to happen (Einstein dixit). We all know the business model of People, Process (or Systems) and Technology. Changing drastically one of them will bring a major change in the other two, but since Processes and Technology are not yet self-managed, People is still the only factor that can lead the change.

Now, if your company is facing a problem and needs a major change, you need to respond either with a change in the human system or with a change in the work dynamic.  If the problem is internal, this change (if done properly) will help the problem to be solved, and if it is external, it will make your company to learn from the environment or how to affect the environment.

In the past, the changes were top-down and the decisions were taken by just a bunch of people. However, time changes and “leadership” is dead. Power is no longer what it used to be.  Governments and monopolies are falling down. “In the US, in 1980 a company that was a leader (in the top 20%) in its field would have a chance of 1 in 10 of losing this position in the next 5 years. 20 years later, the chances were 1 in 4.”  (Moises Naim, The End of Power)

We understand (finally!) that employees are the key for a company success. Changes in Processes and Technology come from the People in all levels. The ability to prevent small problems becoming huge issues lies in the employees. Companies that understand this, treat their employees in the same way they would treat costumers, as an employee will treat the customer in the way he’s treated.  Richard Branson understands it.

So, next time that you’re interviewing someone, ask yourself if you’re bringing real talent to the company, or just someone who fits the job description.