Recruitment is often said to be something of a lottery – sending your requirements out into the world and casting a net which you hope captures the attention of the right people so you can pick the best person to boost your team and business, but how can you be sure that you’ve made the best choice?
There are so many different factors to decide between, and where some believe the most highly qualified applicant, with an alphabet of awards following their name, is the best choice others look for specific soft skills and personality traits to fit within their team. We have all heard the phrase “recruit for attitude, train for skill” – and there are vehement supporters of both sides of the debate.
So, who is right?
The truth is that the right skills and experience are enormously important – but a team who gel together and create a culture of reward, growth and success can achieve a lot more than even the most highly qualified candidate can alone if they alienate their colleagues. What is also true is that recruitment at the highest levels – when you’re looking for business leaders or aiming to change the existing culture within a team – means you need the best combination of the right skillset with an attitude which applies those skills in the right places, motivating and inspiring the rest of the team.
Your recruitment needs to list the relevant areas of interest and background, and you of course need to find people who can complete the basic tasks the role requires – particularly at higher levels – but none of these will matter if you find yourself trying to embed the wrong person into a team who have been thriving and have an established, supportive ethos. Bringing the wrong person into that atmosphere can have a significant impact – and the goal is to make that a positive impact, bringing someone in who bonds with the existing people, inspires them, supports their autonomy and trusts their experience to get things done.
Motivating a team can’t be done by throwing a new team member or leader at them and expecting them to buy into each other without assessing the personalities involved; true success comes when the team trust in the recruitment process, believe in the impact the right skills can have, and use those skills to find the right fit within what exists, what is desired and what is achievable – and all working together towards the next phase.
If, however, someone new comes in who contributes nothing but negativity, criticism and control –who tries to change the way things are processed by making demands and undermining others, this spreads negativity like a virus throughout not only their immediate team, but the whole organisation as that culture becomes embedded. It can take just one wrong fit to bring down the productivity of a whole team, all of whom become drained and exhausted by the cloud over their workspace. In time it gets harder and harder to remain proactive in the face of this negativity.
Opposing these traits would be someone warm and supportive, someone who can encourage growth, support team members to be bold and decisive in their work, to stretch beyond their comfort zones and strive for more, better and greater. A person who believes in their team, admires them and appreciates their skills, and who helps them to achieve their best performance.
Another dangerous component is the control freak – a bully who belittles other members of the team, who micromanages and interferes in everything each team member is doing, questioning their methods and – even if never directly criticising – causing tension and concern where there was once confidence and capability and chipping away at the wellbeing and positivity of even the most successful and established teams. Weakness is just as damaging as overbearing, controlling strength – bringing in someone with such low confidence and so indecisive that they find it impossible to make a firm decision or guide their team and looking for reassurance at every turn; this drains the energy and perseverance of your teams, who will soon resent propping up someone who is supposed to hold them together and point them in the right direction.
Instead, what you could find is a team member who is smart enough to evolve – who allows people to question their decisions, discusses them and comes to the right conclusions with the input and agreement of their teams, who factors their needs into that decision-making process. A team member who embodies the values which matter to your organisation,
Can these negative traits be trained out, and the positives learned? Can someone alter their fundamental personality traits and alter their behaviour because they want to be the best fit for a culture which doesn’t suit them? Skills and working practices can be learned, anyone can train to carry out tasks and processes – but training someone to respond differently to other people is harder.
Where some people thrive on the aggressive, pushy environment of a trading floor, others see it as the embodiment of hell itself – and some people adore the solitude of home working when still others need a bustling team around them to feel like they can get anything done. None of these preferences are wrong, they are all ideal for the right role. We are all different – and even with the same qualifications, some people are going to gel better with your team, your ethos and values, and the way that you work than others.
This is why it is always important to recruit for the kind of culture you have (or which you want to embed, if your culture is an area you are working to improve) than for skills alone, but never forgetting that the right skills are also very important. Finding the right person and supporting their learning and development to grow into the role over time means that everyone thrives and is working towards the same results, and there is no negative impact from someone who, on paper, seemed perfect – but who just doesn’t fit in. “Recruit for attitudes, train for skills” can take you so far – but, truthfully, we all need to be aiming to find both.