BSS7 – One of Us40 min read

Blue Sky Stinking Episode 7

It’s time to recruit – easy huh!  Just hire a friend’s son you met in the pub.  No right to work checks, no robust selection, no chance anything could go wrong!

Every growing organisation needs to recruit at some point.  To many, this is a foreign experience with pitfalls and dangers, some of which do not raise their head until long after the interviews are over.  Recruitment Consultant Oliver Watson and Employment Solicitor Donna Negus join Russell to discuss some of the issues in recruitment and offer some sound advice to those who are considering adding more people to their business.  

A longer episode than normal, but worth it!

Timings

  • 00:15 - Scene 7.1 - This time it's Personnel
  • 05:24 - Scene 7.2 - I don't like Mondays
  • 08:35 - Discussion with Donna Negus and Oliver Watson
  • 10:50 - Initial thoughts on "Winging it" in recruitment
  • 13:20 - The "Silver Spoon" and the "Scrapper" candidates
  • 13:50 - Appropriate Locations
  • 16:33 - Interview question no-no's
  • 18:05 - Is it all about a degree?
  • 21:00 - Good questions
  • 22:00 - The recruitment process
  • 26:57 - The social media effect
  • 28:45 - The impact of bad recruitment processes
  • 29:44 - Scoring candidate attributes
  • 31:04 - Discrimination through nicknames
  • 36:20 - Top tips (see below)
  • 43:27 - Difference between small and large organisation
  • 46:35 - Next hot topic?
  • 48:05 - What's next?

Useful Information

Recruitment (@8:35)

Getting advice

Top tips for Recruitment (@36:20)

  • Make time your friend
  • Prepare to be consistent
  • Make sure you understand what you're recruiting
  • Create person and job documentation
  • Find the best routes to finding candidates
  • Pay someone to support your recruitment activities
  • Establish good training, like equality
  • Know your structures (organisation, reporting, etc)
  • Properly induct and training new people
  • Ensure new staff members are fully supported
  • Have good documentation available to all

Episode script

CONTINUITY: A call from one of her oldests friends has Zelda coming back to the Dog and Bone for a catch-up

PENNY: ZELDA! Woo hoo! Over here sweetie.  How totes amazeballs to see you!

ZELDA: Penny… How are you doing? It’s been… Well… Absolutely ages!  Who is this?

PENNY: Zelda, this is Bryock (Bree-ock), my oldest

ZELDA: Get away with you, little Brioche

BRYOCK: (serious) A brioche is a roll!

ZELDA: Well noted – and you used to be soft and plump too… when you were younger that is.  But what a handsome chap you’ve turned into

BRYOCK: Well, thank you very much.

ZELDA: What brings you into my neck of the woods. You still in Surrey?

PENNY: Oh yes, it’s lovely living in the Garden of England

ZELDA: I thought that was Kent?

PENNY: Close enough darling, it’s close enough.  Anyway I saw from your Facebook posts that you were starting exciting new things

ZELDA: Oh yes, yes, yes. I am.  It’s amazing being your own boss and having complete control over everything.  I am going to rock the business world with innovative approach and ideas.

PENNY: That sounds marvellous Zel.  I saw you were hiring too.

ZELDA: Oh yes, interviews start next week

PENNY: Are you well practiced in your techniques? I’ve seen some travesties in my time in HR in the city.

ZELDA: I’d forgotten you were a personnel expert

PENNY: Human Capital darling – Personnel is so last century

ZELDA: Right.. Human Capital it is.  You still at it?

PENNY: No, no, gave that up with child number 4, Robbie is doing so well with his business, I don’t need to work. I’m a mummy of leisure.

ZELDA: F…f…four kids… (turning to Bryock) bet you’re still the favourite?

BRYOCK: Piyush Goyal once said, “It’s equal opportunity for all, and we don’t play favourites.”

ZELDA: (pausing) Oh, right, well that’s nice.  Are you studying English or Politics or something?

BRYOCK: I’ve just finished my Philosophy BA in York

ZELDA: FINISHED… Holy smoke Penny! You’ve got a child that’s finished University

PENNY: I know, we’re so proud of him.  He’s the first Penhalegun to make it through University.  He’s looking for his first job now.

ZELDA: Really, what do you fancy doing Brioche, sorry, Bryock?

BRYOCK: I think Philosophy has prepared me so well for any number of jobs, Marketing, Legal, Politics, the list goes on.

PENNY: You should try your interview techniques on Bryock Zel, try it, go on!

ZELDA: Oh, ha, well, yess, I could do (clears throat and puts on serious voice) Well Mr Penhalegun, what do you think you would bring to being… Errr… My…. Ummm Personal Assistant

BRYOCK: I’m reliable and polite. I have a wonderful way with people which puts them at ease.  I have worked in high stress, customer facing roles which demand high performance and accuracy.  I believe that I would make an excellent… “Executive Assistant” by making you more efficient, and look brilliant even when you’re not there.

ZELDA: Oh wow! That’s quite an answer

PENNY: (Excitedly dropping the posh voice) Right, see, he’s perfect… Go on, ask him another.

ZELDA: Right, ok… A hard one – What’s your biggest weakness?

BRYOCK: (proving very well prepared) I struggle with sticking out in the crowd.  I prefer to make those around me look good before putting myself forward for honour and glory.  So I would give too much in making YOU look good.

ZELDA: Well, that is wonderful, (joking) Congratulations Mr Penhalegun, welcome aboard, you’ve got the job, when can you start.

BRYOCK: Monday!

ZELDA: What?

PENNY: Oh that’s wonderful Zel, I never dreamt that you’d give him a job

ZELDA: What?

BRYOCK: Yes, thank you very much Ms Zero, I appreciate your faith in me

ZELDA: But!

PENNY: We’ll have to find somewhere for you to live.  Your uncle Wilson lives around here, perhaps we should pop in for a visit.  I’m so excited Zel, thank you, thank you, thank you.

ZELDA: Errr, no… Prob…lem.  That’s… Um…great

PENNY: I’ll get us a bottle of prosecco to celebrate…

CONTINUITY: It’s time to start recruting properly.  So, finally, in the new meeting room in Sydeline’s premises, Zelda sits down with Katherine before seeing their first interviewee for the day.

ZELDA: This is nerve-wracking

KATHERINE: It can be daunting, but as long as you’re clear on the requirements for the job and have some good questions to find out whether the candidate fits, you should be fine. 

ZELDA: Ah, I was going to wing it

KATHERINE: Alright, a tad risky but we’ll cope, for what role are we interviewing today

ZELDA: All of them

KATHERINE: (bit stunned) Have you any role profiles I can look at?

ZELDA: Not done anything like that yet

KATHERINE: (quite stunned) Riiight! What are the questions you would like me to ask?

ZELDA: Whatever you think fits the moment?

KATHERINE: (very stunned) So, hold on, the next person in, is…?

ZELDA: Not sure, I told people to come in this morning and Bryock will give them a number and I’ll call them on a first come, first served basis

KATHERINE: No application form

ZELDA: No, so old hat

KATHERINE: No CV

ZELDA: So 20th century

KATHERINE: Winging it

ZELDA: Yep! Dig into their inner psyche with insightful questions and then see if their face fits and what kind of job would suit them.  Then I’ll make them a role to fit

KATHERINE: I dare to ask, do you have a list of roles or organisation chart

ZELDA: Kat… Kat… Katherine – We are a modern organisation, with modern processes and innovative practices

KATHERINE: (grabbing to a glimmer of hope) So there is a process

ZELDA: In my head

KATHERINE: Any documentation at all for me to reference

ZELDA: Nope… Revel in the “Winging it” methodology

(Tap, tap, tap, Bryock opens the open before being invited)

BRYOCK: (in bizarre fake voice) Ms Eleanor Capitan,  Eleanor may I introduce Zelda Zero and Kath Kash

KATHERINE: KATHERINE!

BRYOCK: Ooops, sorry Katherine (backing out the door)

ZELDA: Elle! (Giving her a hug) I never knew you were coming in for an interview.  I thought you worked overseas. (Shouting) BRYOCK!

BRYOCK: (Reenters the room) Yyyyeeesssss!?

ZELDA: Could you make us all coffees please, Kat, sorry Katherine, Elle? (looking inquisitively – both nod)

BRYOCK: Your wish is my command

KATHERINE: Black for me please

BRYOCK: (long pause) How do you make black coffee… It’s usually… Well… Coffee coloured?

KATHERINE: (incredulous silence) Don’t add milk

BRYOCK: Got it K… Ooo like the Men in Black (shuts door)

KATHERINE: *sigh*

ZELDA: Elle, Elle, Elle. So good to see you again.  Kat..ter…rine, Elle is a financial whizz, we just have to have her on our books.

KATHERINE: Can I ask a few financial questions?

ZELDA: Don’t bother. Elle, you’re hired (laughing) Oh I sound like Alan Sugar.  When can you start?

Discussion Transcript

RUSSELL: We have recruitment, Sydeline style. I wonder what our guests will have to say about Zelda’s approach. Yes, you heard correctly. Two guests today in the form of Donna Negus from Sekoya Specialist Employment Services and Oliver Watson from Watson Evans Associates. Welcome to you both.

DONNA: Thank you very much for inviting us.

OLIVER: Thank you, Russell.

RUSSELL: Thank you. I’m intrigued as to how the blazes this is going to work. Whilst I work at that challenge, perhaps Oliver could you kick off a little bit about yourself?

OLIVER: Thank you, Russell. I run Watson Evans Associates where we focus on helping our clients find their next key employee to enhance their teams. The flip side of that is, we help people find their next challenge. We work on a variety of positions in different sectors from accountancy through to HR, and we are small enough to be able to tailor our service precisely to each individual role and company needs.

RUSSELL: Brilliant. Thanks. Donna, I’ve heard you’ve announced yourself as the best looking solicitor in the room. Think that is the case today as well. What’s your story?

DONNA: Given that I’m the only solicitor here. Yes, absolutely. [laughs]

RUSSELL: Hey, I wasn’t saying that.

DONNA: Thanks, Russell. I’m an employment solicitor but I have two hats. I run an employment business, an HR consultancy called Sekoya. There are six of us and we provide support to employers from those who have one employee all the way up to those who have hundreds of employees. We do everything from writing contracts to writing handbooks to dealing with disciplinaries, grievances, insider trading issues, very complex compliance issues. Anything at all really that relates to people and how you manage people. We do that all the way through from conception to people taking on an employee all the way through to ending their career with that particular business and moving on to something new.

RUSSELL: Okay. We’ve certainly got the qualifications to talk about this particular episode. Let’s turn our attention back to what we’ve heard at Sy deline. Any initial observations about Zelda’s style?

OLIVER: Haphazard.

[laughter]

DONNA: It’s fairly unique, that’s for sure. Although you’d say it’s fairly unique, the reality is–

OLIVER: I was going to say half the problem might be that it’s not that unique, and that’s perhaps the problem. It’s that it should be unique and not applied at all.

RUSSELL: No. Unfortunately, it’s stuff you’ve seen, I expect. I must admit, I’ve seen myself.

DONNA: Unfortunately though when people do take this haphazard approach- also known as “winging it”- it’s neither good for the business nor the person who’s coming for the job who’s expecting someone to have put a bit of time and effort into making sure that they’re recruiting the right person because they’re often perhaps leaving a job that they love but want to progress in their careers. If the person who’s interviewing them doesn’t even know what they want, then that’s a huge waste of time for everybody and actually, really quite sad.

RUSSELL: Yes. Disrespectful to the process.

DONNA: It is.

RUSSELL: We heard Bryock’s recruitment, let’s call it politely, was somewhat manipulated by Penny, his mother. Were there any alarm bells that rung at either of you there?

DONNA: I think quite a few went off as we were listening to that. Didn’t it? From the complete lack of process through to the fact that Zelda mentioned she’s already got interviews lined up for later in the week. There’s a whole myriad, isn’t there? His mother as well has clearly prepared him for those potential questions coming and his answers are so flowing and so scripted and beautifully put. You think then the old human capital has had a bit of an input there, don’t you?

RUSSELL: Yes.

DONNA: I mean, there are huge red flags, aren’t there? I mean, for a start, why were they meeting just offhand in a random situation when clearly he needs a job? He’s clearly overqualified for the job that he’s going to, or he thinks he is. I mean, we can talk about this later but it’s interesting. There’s a real thought process around two different types of candidates for a job; one who has a– I can’t believe I’m an employment lawyer saying this but silver spoon and the other one that’s called the scrapper. We can go into this later but clearly, he’s somebody heading into a role with somebody who is very, very unprepared for anything. That, in itself, is a recipe for disaster.

RUSSELL: What about the location? Obviously, it was taking place in a pub.

DONNA: I’ve seen disciplinaries happen in a pub. I sat behind one the other day.

RUSSELL: Sat behind a hearing somebody else is doing?

DONNA: Literally, yes. Nothing surprises me, I’m afraid. It’s not ideal, is it?

OLIVER: No, it’s not the most professional environment for an interview of any description, whether it’s manipulated and created by a third party or not. It’s simply wrong, isn’t it? I have heard of employers conducting first-round interviews away from the office environment but it’s not usually in a busy pub environment where various distractions are going on behind it. It might be a quiet little cafe and a neutral ground conversation sort of interview rather than–

RUSSELL: Yes, which can sometimes generate a more relaxed environment for you than the formal interview.

OLIVER: Exactly. It would be a part of a process, not the entire process. I think it would be a little bit more in depth than, “Here’s my boy, ask him a question.” “There’s the answer.” “Good, you got a job.”

DONNA: Absolutely.

RUSSELL: Cutting Zelda some slack, I think she was joking when she offered him the job.

DONNA: She wasn’t expecting it. Exactly.

RUSSELL: She wasn’t brave enough to turn around to her lifelong friend whom she hadn’t seen for years. How good a friend she was? I don’t know. To be able to say, “No. Actually, I was just joking and perhaps you’d like to line up properly,” or something. That proves the thought process.

DONNA: I think the other thing about the having an interview in a pub– I have known many people who’ve done this and have been able to try and explain it away, that it helps somebody feel at ease because it’s in a very neutral environment, et cetera, et cetera. There is a huge amount of research that says that somebody’s decision as to whether or not they’re going to employ somebody is made within the first 10 seconds or the first half a minute, and then they spend the rest of the interview trying to either prove or disprove their gut feeling about that person.

The problem is that by having an interview in such a relaxed environment is that the person is not expecting that. The person coming for an interview is expecting a formal situation, they’ve built themselves up for that, and then to take them completely out of that is almost unfair, aside from all the other issues over data protection and all those sorts of things of discussing things in public. That’s just another thing thrown into the mix, really.

RUSSELL: In terms of questions, we heard a couple of questions from Zelda there. What are good questioning and what are bad questioning techniques for interviews?

OLIVER: Good questions and bad questions?

RUSSELL: Are there no-nos, I suppose would be my–?

DONNA: From a legal point of view, obviously any questions around somebody’s family circumstances, even– You can throw in general questions such as, where do you want to be in five years time? It’s always a good idea to know where somebody wants to be so that you can see whether or not your business and your business values are aligned with that. Asking specifically about somebody’s family circumstances, or do they want to have children which is believe it or not, people still ask which is quite incredible.

Or asking about anything to do with anything that shows how old that person is, any of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act would be absolutely a no-no. Another thing that is is very widely spoken about at the moment is this idea of putting too much emphasis on looking at people’s backgrounds rather than looking at the skills they have now and where they want to be rather than where they’ve been.

OLIVER: Taking up on that, you get a lot of the big accounting practices, for example, the big four have changed their recruitment policies in some ways for graduate recruitment or what used to be graduate recruitment. Well, do you need a degree to do the job or can you find somebody of a similar age and level of experience who’s just got the tenacity, the drive, the ambition and the actual ability to do the job? Are they as moldable and trainable, like for like? They’re opening up to a greater pool of candidates by doing that as well, which is a positive for a lot of people that don’t take the university route these days.

DONNA: Also in relation to that, Oliver, that’s a really good point to make in that when you’re looking at two candidates and one maybe from a top university and has come out with the first and then you look at another individual who may be a bit older, but they’ve gone through a route of jumping between jobs in order to get to where they are. It’s easy to say, “Okay, well, let’s take the person with the first-class honors degree, because clearly they’re going to be better,” when the reality of it is that they may only have got into university because they had the ability and the background to be able to get into that university in the first place.

The scrapper, as we call them, that has been brought up in the, perhaps, east end of London or has grown up with a fairly poor background, usually has had to work much harder to get where they need to be. That’s just life. That’s not stereotyping, that’s just life, but with that brings other experiences. Although their education might look very different, in reality, the experience that they may bring to the job may actually be broadly similar. Also, of course, if you’ve had to make sure that you make those decisions and make those right connections in order to get through to the job that you’re now working for, you might well find that those people are better connected, especially if you’re looking for someone who’s very good at networking and is able to bring more clients into your business.

RUSSELL: Yes. Unfortunately, formal education will never train you in common sense. I don’t think there is a degree in common sense, although everyone should have a degree of it.

OLIVER: I’m sure we’ve all got that friend from university or school who was– I’ve got one who was amazing at maths, he was fantastically brilliant at maths but he couldn’t boil an egg.

[laughter]

RUSSELL: Nor hold a decent conversation. [laughs] They’d be very well prepared for an interview but step them out and it’s difficult for them to really act in the real world.

OLIVER: We’ve touched a lot on the bad questions which I suppose are, in a way, easier to identify than the good questions of what you should do. I think good lines of questioning focus on the skills that you need, or that you’re looking for. You’ve got a strong business case to bring into your company and into the role and finding the right phrases to bring them out of the applicants’ background as well. You can match up and actually score how appropriate their experiences to what you’re looking for. Just a bit harder to identify them and not asking if they’re expecting children or anything like that.

[laughter]

RUSSELL: I think it brings a whole new subject, perhaps for another day, of how do you prepare well for an interview and knowing that you’re going to make the right decision on what you hear and against what you want? Let’s have a look at the so-called conversation pre-interview with Katherine Kash and Zelda. Did you perceive anything brewing under the surface there of the conversation of Zelda’s winging it methodology?

OLIVER: Again, couple of things that spring to mind, aren’t there? The fact that she has got no process, no clear decision-making process or paperwork to support how she’s reached decisions when it does come to appointing somebody is glaringly obvious, I think. You need that kind of structure and support in a recruitment process to ensure you are making the right sound decisions for your business as well as the right decisions from the candidate perspective as well.

RUSSELL: I suppose the follow on from that is, what could happen?

DONNA: When we’re advising clients on recruiting somebody is to make sure that you have a very clear person spec, a very clear job description, a very clear understanding of where they’re going to be in that organisation, who they’re going to report to, what kind of personalities they’re going to report to. So that you can then recruit the right person to ensure that you fit in with all of that and if you don’t do that, the ramifications are huge.

Like I said before, you’re recruiting somebody who isn’t prepared for that role, ultimately they’re going to fail and then I have to come in and cut them, which is never a nice decision and it’s never a nice thing to do, not for you nor the candidate. Often, that’s soul destroying for the person who has come into your business and also, in terms of PR that’s horrendous PR for your company. You want your candidates to come in to work, to achieve and if they decide to move on, you let them move on but they are very much an advert for your business.

“These guys are really good to work for.” You wouldn’t expect an employee to stay in their job for their entire life, that’s not the way things happen anymore. If your business is moving the way it should do, then things change and people do move on but when they move on into those new jobs, the idea is that you’re always a place they’ll want to come back to if they decide to do that at some point, or they’re a very good advert for other people joining your organisation. You’re wanting to make sure that you attract the very best candidates. We always say to clients, “Don’t hire people who are mediocre.”

Somebody who is mediocre to you will be the best candidate for somebody else because every business differs so much but always, always take on the best person for the job. If you don’t, that can be incredibly expensive. We have to come along and they don’t perform in their job, so we then have to deal with it as a disciplinary or as a capability. Then, you have to give them targets in order to work to, and that’s demoralizing and managers never get it right. It very much feels constantly like– It’s just a horrible situation and that becomes expensive, both to manage but also to get external advice in. Then when you have to let that person go, again then it’s expensive to get somebody new in.

OLIVER: I think sometimes there’s a tendency to rush recruitment. It is such a minefield area, it is a tricky thing to do and at the end of the day you’re dealing with people and they’re capable of independent thought, whether you agree with it or not. They can, at the end of the process or four weeks in, decide, “Do you know what? This isn’t for me, I’m off,” which is incredibly frustrating. I think sometimes people rush it because they want it to be done and dusted and move on to the next thing and to get their team working again.

Obviously, the brave and right thing to do is to take your time, set your processes up properly and make a sensible decision based on facts that you’ve got from the process that you’ve gone through from the job specification, the person specification and you’ve got a clear path as to where they’re fitting into your company. Move forward from there rather than, one morning, a group interview sort of thing. “Great, you’re my person, I’m going to take you. That’s recruitment done for the year, fantastic.” Inevitably, six weeks on or whatever you’ll be back to square one and thinking that recruitment’s just a weight around your neck dragging you down.

RUSSELL: One of your points you made there is– I think it was you, Donna, who said about the social media or I think I’ve seen on Indeed, now people can rate your company as an employer. Obviously, the poorer your recruitment or the poorer you treat people ongoing, but that’s a different subject definitely, the more likely you are to suffer in one of the most leading recruitment tools in the marketplace at the moment. Is it, suddenly you’re seen as a two-star employer because you–

DONNA: Absolutely. That’s a terrible position to be in.

OLIVER: It is and I think it’s very important on social media to get it right, but it’s also word of mouth. We ran a recruitment master class recently and one of the people in there gave a fantastic example of a negative impression that was created from a recruitment process. Basically, they’d sent in an application to this company, they’d had an interview, eight weeks later they were still waiting for any sort of feedback and were being told by the internal HR department, “We’ll tell you when we’re ready.”

He walked away from that company thinking, “No way on earth I would ever apply for a job there again or recommend them to anybody.” It’s like bad restaurant reviews. You don’t necessarily tell people about all the good ones you go to, but you make sure you tell everybody you can about the bad experiences you have. That word of mouth certainly is somewhere like corner of the world, Cornwall, counts for a huge amount and will either make recruitment even more difficult, or a bit more smoother for you in the future.

DONNA: Of course off the back of that, you were saying, Olly, about bad recruitment. If you’re not putting those processes in place, and you’ve obviously got your list of all the things that you want from this particular employee, but all those people who get rejected, what do they do? Do you write back to them? Do you tell them? What feedback do you give? More importantly, those people who didn’t get the job who are serial litigants- let’s be honest, we get a lot of them- what are they going to do?

Well, the first thing they’re going to do is ask for the sheets of anything that you wrote down whilst you’re in that interview. That’s why it’s really good to have very good notes about why you chose the particular candidate that you did, and something that shows the reason that you didn’t choose that particular person you did was nothing to do with anything that could be discriminatory.

By having almost a kind of list that you tick against or you score against, you take your person spec and you put one to five after each attribute you would like, then you score them against it. It’s very easy then to be able to prove that, you chose that person because they were the best person for the job. Not just because they had a British sounding name, or they were male and not expecting children.

We had a classic example, a client that we didn’t take on, was somebody who contacted us to ask whether or not they could– They had two managers who had gone off on maternity leave. One was the replacement, the maternity replacement for the first one. Then the third replacement they got in, also came in and mentioned that she was pregnant. They rang me to ask me whether or not they could make a rule that no more people were allowed to get pregnant until the original three people had returned to work. Yes, it still very much goes on.

[laughter]

RUSSELL: All right, okay. It’s an interesting policy, I’d like to work out how they implement it. [laughs] Thanks for that. You mentioned discrimination there, and it is one of those– It’s a big subject. Certainly, it is very complex. One of the things I spotted with Zelda is she has this habit of giving people nicknames in the workplace so Bryock was called Brioche, obviously a baby name because he was plump in his younger days. We know she struggled with Katherine Kash because she’s tried to shorten her name to Kat, Kitty Kat, Kash. Is there a problem with nicknames? I mean, it always seems very friendly between bosses and it’s a bit off the recruitment thing, but I think it’s an interesting question.

OLIVER: I think the problem is, often they can be given by quite strong characters who decide, “I’m going to call you Brioche,” because you’re a little bit curvy and soft and squidgy. They may not think how it can be interpreted from the other side. Obviously, the safe thing to do is not do it because you don’t want to offend people. Don’t leave yourself open for any sort of discrimination. Maybe that person’s got a medical situation where they can’t lose weight, if it’s a thyroid issue or something like that. It’s actually something that they struggle with. Donna will tell me for sure if I get this fact right but discrimination cases, there is no limit to how much can be awarded-

DONNA: Correct.

OLIVER: -if a case is found against you. It can be an incredibly expensive attempt at humor.

RUSSELL: It does feel like quite a minefield, because people– It has a feeling, sometimes it makes a place less friendly because it’s all very, very professional. Is that the case or is that just people–?

DONNA: Yes, there has to be a healthy balance. The whole using pet names, we see a lot. A huge amount, in fact, even in our own organisation, but the trouble is that– The problem that you have is that if that pet name is off the back of something that’s discriminatory. In this particular situation, he may well have a medical condition which of course obesity is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 which many people don’t know. As a result of which, that could well be discrimination right from the very word go.

Alternatively, outside of the organisation, it can make you look really quite unprofessional because you can often forget that that person is somebody who’s being viewed from outside of the organisation, is providing a professional service. By almost giving them baby names or daft names can take away some of that view of being a professional, which is really important.

Also, within the organisation, if you’re looking at managers, and you’ve got some managers calling other managers pet names, Kitty and various bits and pieces, it’s not a great place to start because immediately, it takes away some of the gravitas that sometimes they may well need. To some extent, it makes the working environment almost too pally so that then when you need to do something about someone’s behavior, they take it very personally rather than seeing that, “We need to do this because you’re not quite performing” or “you’ve taken it a step too far.”

OLIVER: I wonder as well, sometimes, if a character in a company decides that they want to apply nicknames or anything that yes, it puts on a false front. It’s like, “We’re ultra cool, we’re ultra smooth-“

RUSSELL: We’re friendly.

OLIVER: “-we’re friendly, everyone likes everybody. We’re all best mates,” when in actual fact, you’re not. Maybe that should be recognized and like Donna says, you need more of a balance between the professional side and getting on with your work colleagues is really, really important. It’s almost like a nod towards half-hearted attempt to doing something. If you’ve got a genuinely friendly culture, you’ll have a genuinely friendly culture and it will be obvious to everybody. If you’ve got somebody who feels they have to instill a culture into an organisation, then it will be fairly obvious that that’s what they’re doing and calling somebody Brioche, may be an example of that.

RUSSELL: Yes, fair enough. I hanker for the days when I started where I called my boss, Mr. Chapman, for the first two years until he gave me permission to call him by his first name. Part of me thinks, we miss that a little bit is the respect element in both ways and we try to be overly friendly, maybe. Well, I’d just like to ask for some specific top tips from you both and perhaps you could take it in turns, Oliver, focusing on getting the best– The sound recruitment process in place. What will be your top tips as a recruitment specialist?

OLIVER: The one thing I always try to instill on people who approach us to try and help them is time is your friend, you’ve got to make time your friend rather. The more time you have, you can structure it properly to capture a wide variety of candidates, you’ve got time to go through your processes sensibly and give due consideration at each stage. Recruitment done in a hurry always worries me a little bit.

Sometimes, I’ve experienced people who are making big career and life decisions, sometimes based on a 30-minute, 45-minute chat with somebody they don’t know, effectively.

That, as I say, is worrying when that can be the case because you can end up spending 40 however many hours a week with these people, you’re going to be entrusting them with your company, image, brands to actually do the job that you are qualified to do.

Never mind from the person point of view, as well, you’re presumably giving up a secure role, a secure income you may have but you’re going to have outgoings and commitments that you need to ensure you continue with. You don’t want to create a situation where you’re unhappy and desperate to do something about it. That would be my top, top tip. The second one would be preparation and consistency, so that’s two in one. There you go.

[laughter]

RUSSELL: Prepare to be consistent.

OLIVER: Prepare to be consistent. Like we were saying about interview questioning and Zelda was winging it, “We’ll just take the moment and see where the conversation goes with the candidate,” is I think, opening yourself up to all sorts of issues potentially. If you’ve got that plan and consistent approach, then everybody’s treated the same regardless of levels of experience or qualifications or background or whatever it may be.

RUSSELL: We saw at the end there that Elle Capitan came in and was given a job with no– She didn’t even utter a word and she’s been given a job. I can see that consistency is key. How is she going to maintain that consistency of recruitment with the next candidate through the door? What about from your side, Donna?

DONNA: From the legal side, there are many issues here and many tips. The first one being, like you’ve said early, is make sure that you prepare. “F ail to prepare, prepare to fail”. It is as much here as it is anywhere. Make sure that you understand what it is that you’re recruiting for, make sure that you put a proper person spec together, a proper job description together. Make sure that when you go to market you choose the right methods in which to search for somebody.

Pay someone to do it, it will always pay dividends. For a start because you’re management time, that’s not what you’re good at. That’s often not what you’re trying to do. Whereas those people you employ to do it for you will do a much better job and you will get a much better representation of candidates that are available. That was a cheeky plug there for you there, Ollie.

OLIVER: Thank you very much. Cheque’s in the post

DONNA: From a legal point of view, it is always better to do that. Make sure that you have good training in place within your organisation, especially things like equality training to make sure that those people if you are going to recruit on your own that you understand, from a legal perspective, what you’re expected to do. What discrimination is and how very simple it is to take unconscious bias, they call it, where you hire somebody who very much fits your own profile, rather than the profile of the business.

There’s all of those things. Making sure you get your organisational structure right, make sure you get your reporting structure right before you go to market. Off the back of that, make sure that when you’ve got somebody in, that you properly induct them, that they understand what it is that they’re doing, that you train them. Get some processes in place, so that if you’re in the midst of training them, they have something to go back to, to refer to, so that it’s much easier for them to pick up the role.

You know they’re going to be very new to this, and support them. Nobody is going to pick up every element of the job really quickly. Make sure that once you’ve got the right candidate in, that you look after them because that’s often the reason why people leave, and then they’ll bad mouth you. At the end of the day, you want to be the employer of choice. That’s often the difference between a good employer and a bad employer.

OLIVER: I think, sometimes in the recruitment process, people forget it doesn’t necessarily stop on the day that somebody starts a new job. You hit really nail on the head there that the settling in period is so crucial. So many people say to us, “We want somebody that can hit the ground running”. That phrase is just so worn and it almost gives the impression, it’s like, “Right, you want somebody to come in and you just don’t want to manage them. You just want them to know exactly how you do things, who does what in your office what this system or processes are there.” In reality, that’s not necessarily the case at all. It’s–

RUSSELL: It’s usually wildly unrealistic.

OLIVER: Absolutely. We’ve all started new jobs. We all know what it’s like walking in there on your first day, not really knowing where you’re going or what you’re going to expect or anything. Anything an employer can do to smooth that transition process- which can last 6, 9, 12 months down the line, can’t it?- will help you see those returns on the investment that you’ve put into the recruitment.

DONNA: Also from a legal point of view, making sure that you get all your documentation in place, especially things like handbooks where if you want someone to pick up the phone in a particular way, tell them, show them what your company culture is, explain to them where you want to be in five years time. You can’t possibly have someone who is ready on day one to help you meet your goal in five years’ time if they don’t know what it is. From a legal point of view, understand that you do have legal responsibilities to make sure that they’re trained and that you’ve got policies and procedures and contracts in place from day one. Make sure you do it.

RUSSELL: Okay. It does beg the question, on the back of that, as to whether there’s a significant difference between a small business’ responsibility or approach to recruitment and a large business’. Is there any fundamental difference between the two?

DONNA: From a legal point of view, no.

RUSSELL: No?

DONNA: The moment you take on a single employee or as most small employers do, they ask me, “Oh well, that’s okay. I’m not going to take them on as an employee. They’re going to be self-employed, working 40 hours a week.”

[laughter]

DONNA: Not so much. The rules apply whether you’re a big organisation or a small organisation, you’re expected to have the same responsibilities under the law. As an employer, you need to make sure that you know what it is that you’re signing up for.

OLIVER: Yes. There’s the full backers, “We’re small and we can be more flexible, we can take a different approach.” As Zelda’s suggesting, she can be innovative or modern practices, not really the same rules apply.

DONNA: Well, and also small businesses become big businesses if they do this properly in the first place. Otherwise, small businesses remain small businesses, and they lose staff as quickly as they recruit them, which is great for Ollie but not– Great for me because it keeps me in a job too. In fact, the more employers who can make the odd mistake, the better on my part really. Keeps me in funds.

OLIVER: I think one big difference between the recruitment in those different scale companies is obviously in a larger company you’ve got professionals qualified in that certain area. If you are hiring an accountant, you’re likely to have some very good technical knowledge in-house who can lead or at least, help create the questions that’s going to give you an idea of where their technical capabilities are. Whereas in a smaller organisation, it may be– If you’re growing, you’re doing really well, it may be the first genuine accountant you’re bringing on board.

Yes, you may be a good business person in the general sense but do you know the IR35 tax rules, for example, and everything else around that? You’re going to have to find someone to come in and help you upfront. Whether that’s in a general sense, with somebody like Donna helping you write those questions and set your handbooks up and everything like that. Whether it’s a recruitment consultancy such as Watson Evans then yes, we can do that. Even when it comes down to conduct an interview, will your firm of accountants, will the accountant that you communicate with regularly come and sit on an interview and lend some expertise to that situation?

RUSSELL: Which is difficult one to balance sometimes in it because of course, they could very well be losing a revenue stream-

OLIVER: A little bit of work, yes.

RUSSELL: -because you’re going to bring your bookkeeping in-house or whatever. Brilliant. This has truly scratched the surface of what is a huge subject, and people generally offer some of the biggest challenges in business. What other hot topics should we be talking about in the future, do you think?

OLIVER: I think you’ve got to go down some sort of disciplinary process.

[laughter]

DONNA: I was going to make the same comment.

OLIVER: Yes, disciplinary.

DONNA: I’m pretty sure that Zelda need to be disciplined at some point.

[laughter]

OLIVER: As it’s her company, who disciplines her?

DONNA: Well, exactly but no, it’s a difficult one. Isn’t it?

RUSSELL: The danger is that she’ll discipline somebody or I suppose, not discipline somebody that should be. That’s going to be a tricky one. I’ll have a think about that.

OLIVER: A nice legal case coming in from Brioche when he gets the coffee wrong one too many times and gets the boot. His philosophy and law skills will leave him to-

DONNA: Well, I suspect the trouble is that Zelda will ask someone in the cafe, “He’s got less than two years service. What should we do about that?” “Oh, well he’s got no legal rights if he’s got less than two years service.” Then you find, out of course, discrimination is exempt from that little rule. We do like The Pub Lawyers. They’re always a good one.

RUSSELL: Everyone’s got an opinion. Brilliant. Well, this has been quite an intriguing conversation. I wish we could carry on but 40 minutes. [laughs]

OLIVER: You’ve got to edit that down to what?

[laughter]

RUSSELL: We’ll work it out. Actually, there’s some good stuff in there so I don’t know how far we’ll go, but we’ll see how we go. That leads me to wind up the episode for today. It would be good to hear from anybody if they agree with you on your tips and on your points. I’m sure they’re unlikely to disagree. Thank you, Donna. Thank you, Oliver, for spending some time in my lounge today. Thank everyone for listening.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s going on with Sydeline, what subjects you’d find useful in the future. We appreciate your shares and likes and comments and ratings. All feedback is good feedback. That’s good HR term that, isn’t it? Next time that new product that Sideline has created to started your output may be a problem for Zelda and Jakob in Gim me, Gim me, Gim me.

Acknowledgments

Music included in this podcast is broadcast under the terms of Limited Online Music Licence from the PRS.  Gydeline licence number: LE-0017122

The theme tune, Salami Dreamers, and other incidental music is from the album Quirky Werky, courtesy of Chris Lewis & Realbrass,

Harriet Teagle is the digital artist who created our mascot (Cobot), website graphics, podcast album art and character headshots.  All imagery is copyright of Gydeline Ltd.

Camhayle Theatre Club, from Wadebridge in Cornwall, provided the majority of the cast for the drama.

with special thanks to...

Donna Negus is the Managing Director of Sekoya Specialist Employment Services.  A highly experienced employment solicitor who takes the stress out of recruiting and managing a workforce.  Not only that, Donna is a delight to be around and pleasure to work with.

Oliver Watson is a Recruitment Consultant and Director of Watson Evans Associates.  Oliver and his team de-risks recruitment and thrives on his clients trust as he works to make employing people a joy and not a burden. Simply, he a decent human being to have on your team.

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