We all know the world is changing fast, and new and different demands are being made of leaders all the time. We continually hear that to rise to today’s challenges, businesses need to have a diverse talent pool, an agile organizational structure, meaningful objectives and fresh thinking. Businesses, in particular, need to acknowledge that their stakeholders include a broad range of parties, including customers, employees, suppliers, the media and governments.
When so much is changing, why then, do so many organizations still persist with the same old mindsets when it comes to recruiting new hires?
New research by UK recruiting firm Robert Half offers some answers and suggests three ways for employers to improve their hiring strategies.
1. Prioritize cultural fit above technical skills
The research found that almost two-thirds of business leaders (62%) still regard experience and technical skills as the most important considerations for new hires. This is despite the fact that almost nine in 10 leaders (87%) had found that in practice the most successful hires happened when they evaluated cultural fit – including congruent values, beliefs and outlook – as well as potential, during the hiring process.
2. Value soft skills
Robert Half argues that current market conditions are causing businesses to undervalue soft skills, such as creative thinking and communication, in favor of candidates that appear to have the required skills on paper.
“Leaders are clearly seeking a ‘safe pair of hands’ as they pursue growth and transformation strategies in a time of great change,” explains Matt Weston, managing director at Robert Half UK. But he warns: “In doing so they may be losing out on some of the most promising talent.
With 81% of business leaders reporting that it is more challenging now than five years ago to find suitable candidates, this is something that must change.” Fundamentally, digital transformation is a human process, not a technological process, and businesses would do well to bear this in mind when they are searching out the people who would be the best fit for their roles.
3. Hire for potential and then invest in training to impart skills
Businesses often underestimate the impact that good training and development can have with regard to helping employees develop the technical knowledge that will allow them to achieve their full potential.
Also, smooth onboarding processes can support new employees to make a positive difference quickly.
Robert Half’s research reiterated the importance of training, both during and after onboarding new staff, and it identified upskilling as a contributor to successful hires.
Weston’s advice is this: “Employers should strike the right balance between experience, skills and personality – only through planning can they evaluate gaps in a team, rank the required characteristics and tailor training accordingly.”
Ultimately, there is always risk and uncertainty associated with any appointment, regardless of who the candidate is. But overly focusing on experience and technical skills, at the expense of potential and cultural fit, can hinder an organization’s ability to respond to change in this fiercely competitive world.
“There is no doubt that if candidates have the right attitude and aptitude, coupled with the right training, they can be excellent appointments,” says Weston.
“In fact, what looks good on paper – such as experience or technical skills – does not guarantee a successful recruit. Soft skills must also be taken into account.”
Sally Percy is a freelance business journalist and editor. She is also author of Reach the Top in Finance: The Ambitious Accountant's Guide to Career Success. Follow her on Twitter @SallyPercy