Employees, pets or cattle? Part 1

Let’s talk about culture, the hiring process, and candidate experience. Talent teams, including technical recruitment and sourcing, are both the scouts and gatekeepers of an organization’s culture. They are the first line stewards of an organisation’s true operating system, its people.

Let’s talk about culture, the hiring process, and candidate experience. Talent teams, including technical recruitment and sourcing, are both the scouts and gatekeepers of an organization’s culture. They are the first line stewards of an organisation’s true operating system, its people.

Dumb Boxes and Smart People

Unfortunately there’s a growing dichotomy between organisations that consider their people an asset and those that think employees are a necessary evil. In an age of increasing automation, many departments are beginning to adopt one of two associated perspectives whereby they embrace platforms or technologies that lead to “smart boxes/dumb people” rather than “dumb boxes/smart people”.

This turn of phrase refers to differing approaches relating to disposability and commoditisation. It speaks of where to embed ‘smart’ in the layers of organisational and platform design. Originally the concept applied to network devices and their vendors yet it is equally applicable to organisational design. For many years there’s been talk of core versus context, outsourcing and outtasking versus in-house, but there’s one asset every organisation should covet: the best and most resilient people. People, who collectively express their values and actions as culture, culture which becomes your organisation’s true Operating System.

Cloud Architecture

As software is eating the world, organisations are (from a macro perspective) all becoming technology organisations (though still built and run by people). The question then arises how to design, build, operate, and replenish your company based on a continuity of people, process, and technology.

What are you optimising for? What are you measuring? What is your business’ operating environment? What do you value most? What is sustainable?

Is technology’s role to augment, replace, or refine human activity?

Employee Lifetime Value (ELV)

Whether your technology stack is designed to augment human activities or not, you need to attract and retain the smartest and most collaborative people you can find. Once hired, it is imperative that employees stay, grow, and contribute - rather than churn out the door (losing institutional knowledge and incurring increased expense to back fill positions). But how do you measure their skills and experise, can you afford not to independently verify as much about them as early as you can?

An employee who makes themselves dispensable by creatively automating away their workload (to free themselves up to work on more challenging or valuable tasks) is worth their weight in gold. These people will generally have mastered not just the fundamentals in their domain but have gone on to express their expertise like a jazz musician. This is a far cry from treating employees as commodities who can be easily interchanged. But how do you find creative automators and not automatons?

Acquisition, Retention, and Referral

Irrespective of your current hiring process and marketing, an applicant (or candidate) already has a feeling or instinct about your brand. A feeling that’s been informed by general market sentiment or some experience of your product/service marketing. More importantly though, their perspective has potentially been influenced by asking their peers about experiences related to your brand.

Every touchpoint from here on in shapes an applicant or candidate’s sentiment exponentially. How they are treated during the hiring process sets the tone for potential future employment with you, but also if they are unsuccessful, they then become market influencers with first hand experience of your hiring practices and culture. This is something to be painfully aware of in the age of network recruitment.

Having a structured hiring process that is well communicated from the outset moulds an applicant or candidate’s expectations. A structured and non-bias hiring process reflects a culture that thinks things through, respects its current and future workforce, and shows that it optimises for both internal and external entities. People are different but a consistent and repeatable process which minimizes bias is something which scales and promotes fairness. Within a hiring framework customization is possible, yet a 100% bespoke process every time is sloppy, inefficient, and a very bad signal.

Structured Hiring and Applicant Testing

Pre hire Assessment Test (Measuring Skills)

When a technical recruiter, sourcer or hiring manager is trying to verify claimed skills it can be helpful to have applicants perform some form of task to demonstrate their technical competency. Unrelated to a psychometric or personality assessment (or any other behavioural assessment) a job aptitude test can provide data points that either support or refute a CV or résumé. Early and short(fast) automated candidate screening helps to establish a baseline and comparable metrics across a cohort in a hiring funnel.

Advanced technical recruitment teams are increasingly using such a targeted skills verification test. These tests are sometimes referred to as a skills test, job assessment, or take home test. They are different from general aptitude tests in that they actually attempt to have an applicant or candidate demonstrate distinct capabilities in relation to a specific role’s set of skills (as per the job description).

For information technology jobs and related engineering careers, the hiring process is increasingly including an online aptitude test (aside from competency based interview questions) as a way to independently verify job skills (a form of ‘human’ test driven development for your organisational Operating System if you will). Fundamentally CVs are broken and biased, but even more so in today’s unregulated and fast moving I.T. industry. The latest recruitment for engineers is heating up and is becoming more data driven especially for hard skills, which leaves more human time for demonstrating and evaluating soft skills.

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