Recruit for the right attitude, rather than skills


Lately I have been noticing a trend where L&D directors from large international corporations have spoken publicly about how they have started recruiting people who have the right attitude, rather than a long list of relevant skills.

Why would they do this?

Years of Learning & Development experience have proven that employees can easily learn or pick up specific skills and information relevant to business. What has proven not-so-easy, is training employees to have the right attitude or behaviour for reflecting brand values and providing the desired brand experience for their customers.

Is this only important for customer-facing roles?

Absolutely not. Brand values are important not only in that they create customer expectations and an understanding of company offerings, but because they do this for employees as well. Employees should experience their company in exactly the same way that their customers do. If, for example, a company prides itself for its integrity, respect and accountability, it should be all of those things to both its employees as well as its customers. In doing so, that company will be helping to establish a strong company culture that is in-line with brand values.

It is imperative, however, in maintaining that strong company culture that a company ensures that its employees have the right attitude for that company. Should one or two negative or dis-engaged workers start bringing down the employee experience for everyone else, this could result in bringing down the customer experience as well.

What is “the right attitude” and how can HR teams recruit for it?

The right attitude is different for every company. It is key that the management team js clear on the attitude and behaviours that define their company’s culture, projecting the employee and customer experience by which they would like to be characterised. An employee’s attitude can often be determined by what an applicant lists on the profile of their CV, and certainly it can also be recognised during an interview. Sometimes though, showing an employee has the “right attitude” requires something a bit more overt.

Metro Bank, for example, has a very interesting induction and training programme for new employees which involves their participation in regular, company-wide activities that are deemed fun and genuine – like the conga line – which reflects the kind of up-beat, non-stuffy, personal banking experience for which Metro wants to be known. If a new employee disengages with the activity, showing that joining in the company conga line is not for them, this indicates that, perhaps, that employee is not for Metro Bank.

Old Mutual is another company whose induction/L&D programme is based more on technical skill/knowledge-based training, while their recruitment process is based more on finding candidates with the right attitude and behaviours.

“You can teach a call centre advisor about emerging markets and fund management and how to use our software to find information… but you cannot teach them to care or to have patience or to be genuinely kind and helpful. That has to come from the employee…” said Jennifer Graham, Technical Coach with Old Mutual Wealth.

When a person is not right for the company, they are not going to be right for the job.

HR teams must consider not only if a perspective employee is the best person for the job, but also if that individual is right for the company. Does this individual suit the company culture? Will she/he add to it or detract from it? Will this individual be a good and consistent reflection of your brand values whether working directly with a customer or sharing who they work for at a social function outside of work? Would you put this employee on a poster as an example of what your company stands for? All of these questions help to keep the primary question in mind – Does this person reflect your company values and will she/he continue to do so and be an engaged member of your team if hired?

Happy head-hunting!

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