A Fish Out Of Water: Getting Recruitment Right

Claire Vane
November 30, 2016

'Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it would live its whole life believing it is stupid.'

Albert Einstein­­

I had to read this quote a few times before I really understood what it is trying to say and the more you read it, the more aspects there seem to be to what Einstein is saying here. I certainly don’t think everybody is a genius, but it is very important in the workplace to recruit the right people to the right jobs and if you take a fish out of water, as is described here, then that is what you are doing; you are asking the fish to climb a tree. 

Just as it is unfitting to judge fish in this way, so we can look at employees like this. So often we see employer organisations taking steps to bring employment to an end of an individual who is metaphorically climbing a tree when he/she should be swimming in water.

So how exactly should we behave in the workplace in the light of Einstein’s quote?

Sometimes, employee turnover is higher than it needs to be as a result of recruitment mistakes and indeed the mistake continues beyond the recruitment and through the induction period as well. Good recruitment consists of a series of activities and, to start with, a detailed description of what a job entails with its various technical and non-technical competencies is critical, as is the ability to assess possible candidates against these competencies.

This goes both ways too; there is no point in candidates misleading employers as to their skills, knowledge and attributes. If we do this in the workplace, we make absurd decisions and ask fish, metaphorically, to climb a tree.

Write a really good job specification

The first part of any piece of recruitment is to write a really good job specification and it is not always the case that the group of key stakeholders involved in the recruitment have the same expectations; stakeholders often have contradicting expectations which may not emerge until the job holder starts to fill the role unless the recruiter steps in and ensures absolute clarity.

It’s an important step in good recruitment, therefore, to ensure that the different stakeholders are unified in their thoughts and where they cannot be unified, that sufficient agreed compromise is made. By the same token, an individual needs to understand from the employer, once he or she starts, what exactly needs to be done to be successful in the role. These may be obvious points but steps are often missed by employers and recruiters.

Why the high labour turnover?

Inevitably, there are some organisations who recruit groups of staff whom they expect will stay in posts only a couple of years by design, in order to perform certain roles, develop in their turn and then move on. 

One of the sectors with the highest labour turnover is the leisure industry and the turnover is documented by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personal Development) as being as high as 40%. Is this because there is lack of clarity over job definition or a lack of ambition to climb the ladder or an acceptance that there is going to be a high labour turnover as there is no career ladder? It is important that employers can understand why the turnover happens and whether it is by accident or by design.

Clarity is the key to success

Whether the percentage labour turnover is good or bad really depends on what is expected by the employer and whether the outcome is in line with resource planning. In the case of recruitment, the means is just as important as the end, that is to say, the technical requirements in the role specification need to be clearly articulated and the ‘fit’ too is just as, if not more, important than the technical competencies.

The employer too needs to make it very clear what are the daily challenges of the role and also needs to clarify that the expectations of future career shared by both parties.  If expectations are mismanaged by either party, then this is often because we expect a fish to climb a tree and the result is likely to be unnecessary failure, inevitable turnover and wasted recruitment costs.

If you’d like to discuss any aspect of the recruitment process that affects your workplace, please do get in touch with the Integrated Resources team today.

Thanks to our excellent intern, Hannah Abrey, for her ideas on the above.

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