The Wrong Recruitment Decision – Putting Square Pegs In Round Holes

It is easy to make the wrong recruitment decision.

In a recent article I asked if your recruitment advertisement described your vacant role properly and if you even know what the job actually consists of.

It is worth exploring this a little further, as many employers fall into the trap of looking for skills that aren’t really needed to get the job done. A CIPD report last year found that almost half of the UK workforce are in jobs they are either under- or over-skilled for.   37% of workers have skills to cope with more demanding duties than they currently have.  Specifically, many university graduates are in jobs which do not require degree level qualifications. 

Someone with a degree is well qualified

There is a tendency to believe that having a degree means someone is well-qualified, but they may not be qualified in the right skills for your vacancy and their university life may not have prepared them well for the workplace.  Using degrees as a way of filtering job applications is not helpful to either you or the applicants. 

If someone has a degree but is otherwise unskilled for the role they are given, then you are setting them up to fail unless you provide them with training to fill that knowledge gap.

The dangers of the wrong recruitment decision

When someone is under-skilled for a role, they will not do a very good job and then you will start to question whether you made the right decision to employ them in the first place.  They are certainly unlikely to get promoted if they are failing at their current role, and they will find it difficult to get another job if they are not doing well at the one they are in. 

If you have put a graduate in a role for which they don’t have the right skills,  it follows that they  will not be able to command the kind of salary they might have expected.  So they will eventually become resentful. Their motivation and productivity will be low and that will mean their job satisfaction is also affected adversely. 

Additionally, they will take time off sick or start to disrupt others in the workplace.  Before you know it, they will have become one of those “difficult employees” which every employer dreads.

What about their employer?

From the employer’s perspective, you have spent time and money in the recruitment process and may wonder why it has not produced a better candidate.  You need to be honest and consider whether that is because you did not have the right expectations and filtering process. 

You will need to spend more time and money to put the situation right.  It will mean either an investment in training the current incumbent so they can actually do the job correctly, or you will need to move them to something else and go through the recruitment process again.  A little more thought at the job description stage of the recruitment process could well have prevented this problem.

The other end of the scale

At the other end of the scale, one in 10 people surveyed believed they were underskilled for the role they were in, but a quarter of the respondents said they had not received any training in the last year.

If you ensure your employees have the right skills for their jobs, either through recruitment or training (or both), then they will be happier in the workplace and you will benefit from higher productivity and increased profitability.

If you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with recruitment – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Recruitment Challenges – Getting the Job Done

British industry is facing worsening recruitment challenges, particularly in manufacturing and the service sector, according to the latest BCC Quarterly Economic Survey.

The survey of 6000 companies across the UK gave several potential reasons for these difficulties.

In addition, employers are facing unprecedented difficulties as a result of uncertainty around Brexit and whether they will be able to recruit EU nationals in future.

But all employers are in the same situation and are trying to recruit in the same difficult market conditions.  Yet some are managing better than others and it may be a good time to look at why this is.

If you are struggling to recruit, then maybe the first thing to do is to hold a mirror up to your business.  There may be some pointers there which can help you to improve your success in dealing with your recruitment challenges.

They are looking through your window…

It is important to consider your online presence as a key recruitment tool as well as a marketing tool.

Statistics show that 90% of candidates, particularly the Millenial generation, consider an employer’s brand when applying for a job. But this is not something to consider at the last minute when you are about to advertise a vacancy.  It is something which needs to be worked at and built up over time, so that the face you show the world is a genuine reflection of your Company.

Are you really clear about what you want?

The first recruitment challenge you face as an employer is to know what you are really looking for.

Are you asking for the right qualities?  Have you worked out exactly what the job entails? Do you know what, if any, qualifications are actually a requirement of the job (rather than a “nice to have” option)?  Can the job be done part-time, or by job share?  Is it short-term, or longer term? 

Ideally, you need to think about this when you produce your recruitment strategy, when you do your business planning and when you have a new vacancy.  What you needed for the job in the past may not be the same thing you need now.

Have you looked at all the options?

Maybe the most important consideration is whether a current employee can do the job, with or without some training.  It may well be more cost effective to train someone up than it is to recruit someone new.  Again, this is something you can look at when you are looking at your recruitment strategy.   

If you cannot redeploy an internal candidate, can you restructure how the work is organised?  Can it be spread between several different people?  Can all or some of the work be automated in some way? Does it need a permanent employee, or can you use someone in a work placement, or an intern, a contractor or an agency temp?

Does your advertisement describe the job properly?

This is where a well-written job description is critical. If you are not careful, the language you use in the job description can alienate half of your potential pool of candidates. It could prevent them from applying at all.   Your language must be inclusive and avoid gender bias. Additionally, there is some belief that men will apply for a job when they only meet two thirds of the qualifications, whereas women will only apply where they meet 100 per cent.

Try to avoid being too picky.  Does your job really require a first class honours degree?   Is it really necessary to have experience in a similar role, or can someone be trained quickly?

I saw a post on LinkedIn recently from a job seeker who said it would be really helpful if employers included a salary band in the advertisement.  I accept that his is a matter of some debate, particularly where an employer cannot afford to offer a high salary.  On balance, I agree with the job seeker in question. It is a waste of everyone’s time if someone goes through the whole interview process and is offered the job, only to turn it down because their salary expectation was much higher than can be offered.   This is also disappointing for all parties.

Are your interview skills the biggest recruitment challenge you face?

You are going to be the line manager of the new recruit and so you want to make sure you get the right person.  But are you the best person to make that decision?

We all like to think that we are fair and make unbiased decisions, but unconscious bias is a trap for us all. We have evolved that way, so that our brains can quickly sort through information and come up with an answer.  But the answer we come up with may be the product of years of conditioning. 

No matter how open-minded you believe you are, you will have judged someone within seconds of meeting them, based on a whole range of subconscious issues. You may well be aware of the need to ignore first impressions, but we all judge people on gender, age, race, social class, wealth, political affiliation, accent, educational levels, physical attractiveness and a myriad other things.

How can you avoid this bias?

Where possible, it is helpful if you can involve other people in the recruitment process.   Make sure applications have names, ages, gender and race obliterated when they are reviewed.  Match them against a series of questions.  

If possible, ask someone else to review the applications separately to you. Try to get someone else involved in the interview process with you.  Then don’t compare notes until the whole process is complete.  If you are the boss, let others give their views first so that they are not influenced by what they think you want them to say.   They might spot something you don’t see. 

Other hazards to avoid

I have discussed before the need to show off your business and the vacant role to their best advantage. If you were trying to sell your house for the best price possible, then you would spend some time and effort in preparing for the sale.  It is the same with recruitment – you need to make sure the candidates see a place they want to work in and where they will feel welcome.

Finally,it is critical that you let people know your decision.  Give a call, by all means, and make a verbal offer, but make sure you follow it up in writing, quickly.  If the candidate is good, they will have their pick of jobs.  You may find they have accepted another offer if they have to wait too long to hear from you.

Courtesy and common decency also says that you should contact the unsuccessful candidates and let them know why they were not the first choice.  You want to keep them interested – you never know if they will one day prove to be the ideal candidate for a future job with you.   It would be a shame if they don’t apply because they don’t like the way you treated them this time.


There is no quick fix for this problem and the approach required will depend on the sector and size of the organisation involved.  Recruitment is not an overnight issue that only needs to be considered when you have a vacancy.  But no matter what the size of your organisation, it is vital that you have a recruitment strategy and that you review and revise it regularly.

If you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Successful Recruitment – Can you heave a sigh of relief?

It was a successful recruitment exercise. You have filled your vacancy and have a new employee starting in your organisation.  You breathe a sigh of relief and get back to the normal workload, which has been building up while you have been going through the recruitment exercise.

Measuring Successful Recruitment

Beware though – getting the person through the door and into the vacant role is only the first measure of a successful recruitment programme.

As part of your recruitment strategy, you defined what successful recruitment looks like and how you measure it.  There is no standard answer to this question, but some of the considerations are:

  • Is the hiring manager happy with the recruit?
  • How long did the process take?
  • Was it a positive experience for the candidates, even those who were unsuccessful?
  • How long should the new employee take until they are productive in their new role?
  • How long do they actually take until they are productive?
  • Do they fit in with the rest of the team, or has the recruitment solved one problem only to bring another in its wake?
  • How long does the person stay in their role?  If it is less than one year and you have to go through the whole process again in a few months, then is that a successful recruitment?
  • Is the customer happy?

Nurturing Successful Recruitment

You might want to consider what you can do, or if there is anything you can provide for the new recruit to settle quickly and be happy in their role. What steps can you take to give your recruitment process a better chance of success?  Is there any equipment, information or training which would enable them to pick up  their job more quickly and easily?

Analysing the Data

If you want to measure the success of your recruitment strategy, then you need to keep some data to analyse.  As a part of the recruitment strategy planning, you need to consider what measures you will want to use and how they can be analysed.  For example, you may need to think about how long it is likely for an averagely able person to be productive in any given role.  Is the role customer facing?  Are there skills you would expect any candidate to have, or do you need a training plan for new people into the role?

Next Steps

Initially,  you need to  consider how you can help the new employee to fit into your organisation quickly.  Is there any information you need to give them on Day 1 – and if so, how is that given to them?  Do you need to allocate a “buddy” or mentor for your new employees?  Is there any specific training that is needed for their role, or for the work place in general.  For example, what is the fire drill process? Where is the first aid kit? Are there any specific health and safety rules?

But now we are moving away from recruitment and stepping into the world of retention and how to keep your workforce happy, engaged and motivated.   We will be delving deeper in future, but for now I am staying with recruitment  as there is more to share in later posts.

 If you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

The Art Of Conducting An Employment Interview

You may think you are good at interviewing people.  After all, you usually manage to recruit someone suitable and you have always enjoyed the interview process. 

But do you know what questions you should avoid asking?  Some things are inappropriate, others could potentially be illegal to ask about. 

Avoiding complaints – or even legal action

Jobseekers have some of the same protections at interview as employees do at work. For example, you cannot ask someone if they are pregnant or are planning to start or increase their family.  If a woman is evidently pregnant, or mentions that she is, then you must not discriminate against her. 

Many employers believe that it is OK to ask about pregnancy.  They also believe a woman should disclose the fact she is pregnant, or trying for a family.  It is not OK.  It is potentially against the law and you cannot take pregnancy – or potential pregnancy – into account when considering whether or not someone is the best candidate.  There is no obligation on a woman to disclose her situation or plans.

Beware discriminating against somebody in interviews

Additionally, you need to guard against discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity or religion.  The important thing is the skills, experience, aptitude and enthusiasm to do the job.  Why is the colour of their skin, or their accent or their religious practice something which you would want to take into consideration? Those are not things which you should be asking about in interview (or at all).  Of course, you may need to check that someone has a right to work in UK, but that check should not be part of the interview.  The question should be asked of every candidate, regardless of the colour of their skin or their accent.   Guidance on this check is available on the UK Government web site.

What about aptitude tests and skills assessments?

If your budget allows for it, you may want to run aptitude tests and skills assessments.  A variety of these are available in the recruitment market.  It is true they can be a useful pointer, but remember that they are only ever a snapshot of that particular moment in time and the same questions to the same candidate would probably get different results on a different day. 

Candidates are already nervous and some are intimidated by these kind of tests.  Many people cannot see the point of them and, as a result, some don’t take them seriously.  External events can affect the way a candidate will answer a question.  If they have had a difficult time with a previous employer, then that can affect how they will answer. 

So is there any point in running these tests during the interview process?

The real benefit of these tests is for you to run them prior to the interview and then use the results to inform your interview questions.  So if an assessment brings up an area of concern for you, then ask questions around that area of concern to try and get to the truth of whether it is a real block for the candidate or just a temporary diversion from their normal reactions.

Softer skills

As well as checking out the candidates’ ability to do the role you are offering, it would be wise to use the interview process to check out their “soft skills”.  Do they have emotional intelligence?  Are they able to relate to other people? Are they able to react in a professional manner to a difficult situation? The answers to these questions will help you decide who will fit best into your team and who will be most comfortable with your company’s culture.

Making the decision

If there is a candidate who is clearly a good fit for your role, then the choice is an easy one.  More often there are two or three “possibles” who each bring a particularly useful skill or who have the right personality. But there is also often something about each one which is not quite what you had hoped for.  This, of course, is your perception and may not be the reality. 

It may be that you are still searching for that perfect candidate who doesn’t exist.  My best advice in this situation is to choose one of the candidates and make an offer as quickly as possible.   If you take too long to make a decision, then you risk all of the suitable candidates accepting an offer from another employer.   There is nothing more offputting for a candidate than to be kept “hanging” without a firm decision either way.  That is not very good for your reputation as an employer. 

Giving timely feedback after the interview

Finally, if a candidate has made the time and effort to come to an interview, then the very least you can do for them is to give them speedy and honest feedback from the interview.  If they are a definite “no”, then tell them and tell them why (honestly).  If you felt someone else had skills or experience that were a better fit, then tell the unsuccessful people why.  It is not very helpful to be told that you are “not the best fit” without being told what it is that you need to work on for another time.

Once the successful candidate has started in the job, then you need to look at the best way to retain their interest and enthusiasm.  But that is for future  articles.  If you want to be sure of getting that help when the time comes, then please sign up to our mailing list.  

In the meantime, if you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – please contact us for further guidance.

Attracting The Right Candidates

You want to attract the right candidates to apply for your vacancies, so that you have a choice of suitable people to fill vacant roles.  But there is a very high rate of employment and the recruitment market has got more and more difficult.

You have spent time producing a recruitment strategy and you have up-to-date job descriptions for your roles, so you are all set to start recruiting whenever the need arises.  But how can you make sure you attract the right people to apply?

Your online presence

We would find it difficult to operate without the internet in all aspects of our lives these days .  Much of our shopping is done online and we find our life partners, book our holidays, download our entertainment, all online.   We read the news, make appointments, market our products.  It appears that there is no aspect of life which is untouched by the internet.  This includes business, and recruitment.

The first place people go when they are job hunting is the internet.  Firstly – and obviously – we check out what vacancies are out there and find out who is recruiting and how to apply.  But we also do our research about employers online.  This means that employers need to have a strong and compelling presence online to be sure of attracting candidates. They will want to understand who you are and what you do.  They will want to gauge your culture and the treatment you give to your clients and employees.  So your website is a key recruitment tool, as well as a marketing tool.

Employee advocacy

Another key to successful recruitment is your employer reputation.  Your current and previous employees are your best advocates.  You can be sure they will tell the world about you, whether you are good or bad to your employees.  There are websites where people can tell the world which are good employers and who are the ones to avoid (and why).  Your Company may not have featured yet, but you should always remain aware that it could do so. 

In any event, employees use social media to tell the world all about their lives and some do not seem to avoid telling the most intimate details.  So you can be sure that they will be praising or destroying you online. They may not even intend to give you bad press, but the wrong impression given can potentially cost you the chance to employ someone who would be an ideal fit.

Social conscience

You may not have given much thought to your company’s social conscience.  If you are only a small venture, then you may not have the resources available to make a big splash in the charitable sector.  I get it – you are busy and spend all your time running your business.  You haven’t got time to get involved in charitable causes as well.

But this is an area where potential employees are more and more likely to judge whether or not they want to work for you.  And as a bonus, your clients are likely to be interested too…

So your online presence probably needs to include some reference to your sustainable credentials, your impact on the environment, or your contribution to the social fabric of society. 

Every company, however small, can reduce their water or electricity consumption, save postage stamps and give them to a charity, or have a charity collection box.  If you don’t have anything in place, then you might want to ask your employees for ideas and input and then write an item about it for your website.  But my advice is to make a genuine effort.  Your employees, clients and candidates alike will see through any attempt to pay lip service to having a social conscience.  If you can show that you love the world and want to do your bit (however small) to help improve it, then your employees will love you.  It will also enhance your reputation with your clients.  

If you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on recruitment- or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Advertising Your Vacant Role

So you have a vacant role in your organisation which you need to fill.  But how do you make sure you get the right person to fill it, who can start to give you work of value as soon as possible and who will be loyal and want to stay with you for a while?

Do you really know what the role is?

This is your chance to really think about what role you need to be filled.

If someone has given their notice and is leaving a gap, do you want an exact replica of that person?  Can the role be tweaked – or even changed radically – to provide a better service for your client?  Does the process need to be streamlined, to provide a quicker or more productive result?  Do you even need to fill the role at all?

Do you need a Job Description?

You may have a very small workforce (even only one employee).  Or all of your employees may be doing pretty much the same role.   And anyway, you need to fill this vacancy quickly.  So why do you need to produce a job description?

The job description can be critical in attracting the right candidates to the role.  If they don’t clearly understand the job, or the title and job description don’t give the right message, then the ideal candidate may simply decide not to apply.

How to write a good Job Description

Tips are to keep it simple, to use a job title which actually describes the job.  If you attempt to use a modern cutting-edge title which misses the mark, then your candidates will miss it too.  So use familiar works which actually describe the job.  Try “supervisor” or “expert” instead of “tsar” or “ninja”.

It is really helpful to consult with the person who is currently doing the job, or who does something similar, to get an idea of what they consider the key skills and tasks are.  This could help you to update the job description correctly.  Or you could find they have been doing something completely different from your understanding!  Either way, it can really help you to describe what you need in your ideal candidate.

If you would like more help with writing Job Descriptions, then please contact us.

What can you offer in return?

Even if you are only small and budget is limited, then you need to show your Company in the best possible light to attract the right person.

Clearly you need to decide on salary and it is helpful if you can find out what the standard is for the type of role you have vacant.  You can scan recruitment advertisements online or in trade publications to get an idea.  If you belong to an advisory body for your industry, then they will be able to help as most will run regular salary surveys.  Recruitment Agencies can give a good idea of the current market place and what salaries are offered for your type of role.

Even though you may not be able to offer many financial benefits as an inducement to work for your Company, there may be other benefits you can offer at little or no cost.  What about flexible hours, or support for carers, or a mental health first aid plan?  Or you may have plenty of parking available, or be in the centre of town, or near a railway.  You may be able to offer remote working, or term-time only hours.

What next?

Once you have a realistic view of what role your vacancy is actually for, then you can use the Job Description to write the advertisement.   If you are putting the role out to a third party to conduct the recruitment for you, then they will probably want to write their own advert.  Either way, the Job Description you have produced will be key in getting the advert right and attracting the right person.

Make sure that you highlight the benefits of working for your organisation.  You may be struggling to think of any benefits you can offer.  If so, that in itself is an indication that you need to rethink your employment strategy.  People rarely come to work just for the love of it, so you need to offer other incentives.  Of course, salary is the initial consideration.  But even if the salary is really great , whilst it might draw them in initially, they are likely to want more from their employer once they start.

It helps if you can offer other things as part of the inducement to work with you. They may think they only come to work for the salary, but if you can offer love (or at least a feeling of being valued and respected) then that is more than many of your competitors and will put you head and shoulders above the rest.

If you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us  for further guidance.


A Recruitment Strategy – Why Would I Need One?

We all get nervous about job interviews.  Even the most confident amongst us may feel slight anxiety about putting ourselves in the limelight, centre-stage, with a potential audience of several people. Our working lives, skills and experience are put under the spotlight and we may need to answer questions where we are unsure of the required answer.  It is a stressful process, even if you don’t consider the pressure about making sure you get offered the job.

We tend to forget, though, that it is also a nerve-wracking process for the person who is conducting the interview.  We are trying to show off the Company in its best light, to be sure of enticing the right applicant.  In all likelihood, we are anxious about making the “wrong” decision and offering the job to someone who then cannot do the job, or is a troublemaker of some kind.  Additionally, we know the cost of the whole process, and the additional cost if it all goes wrong.

Why do we leave such an important decision to chance?

Given the importance of getting the right person in to fill a vacancy, we should be making sure that the interview process is the very best it can be.  We then have a better chance of making the right choice.

Yet few interviewing managers have undergone any training in how to conduct an interview.  We don’t know  what type of questions to ask, or how to assess the candidates against each other. Sometimes we are not even very familiar with the role we are trying to fill.  So the interview process becomes a lottery and business suffers as a result.

Alternatively, we put the whole process out to a Recruitment Agency or third party.  This is fine and can work well, but they need to be properly briefed about the vacancy and the type of candidate who would fit in with our needs and ethos.

A bit of planning can work wonders

Often the problem is that someone has resigned and there is a need to fill their shoes very quickly.  So we rush to get an advert out there and try and fit interviews in as quickly as possible.  Otherwise the work doesn’t get done, or the team are put under pressure to cover the work of the vacant position as well as their own work.

Resignations always come at a bad time (there is never a good time!).  As a result,  the recruitment process is always done in a bit of a rush and in addition to the day job.  It is always an inconvenience.  This is never a good environment in which to make a critical decision which may reverberate in the company for years to come.  We may be lucky and recruit the best employee we have ever had.  Or we may end up trying to pick up the pieces from the tornado we have unleashed.  More often, reality is somewhere between these two extremes.

The obvious way to avoid some of this angst is to have a Recruitment Strategy, which you review regularly to make sure it still works for you.  You do financial planning and marketing planning regularly.  So why not review your recruitment process?

What does a Recruitment Strategy look like?

There is no set way to plan your recruitment, but there are some things you need to consider when setting your strategy.  It is not a good time to do this when you are desperately rushing to fill a vacancy.

Some things you may want to consider in your Recruitment Strategy:

  • What are the key roles, which must happen even if the current incumbent leaves or is ill?
  • How can those roles be covered in the short-term, while you are recruiting a permanent replacement?
  • Have you got up-to-date Job Descriptions for all of your roles? How are they kept updated?  Are they realistic, or are you looking for the impossible?
  • Do you use a Recruitment Agency? If so, how well do they know you and your business?  Do you keep in regular contact with them?
  • What sources will you use to find potential candidates? See my recent article about this issue.
  • Have you got a template advert, which includes the benefits of working for your organisation?
  • Have all of your recruiting managers had training in carrying out interviews?

Once you have a Recruitment Strategy, it is much easier to keep it up to date.  You should review it regularly (at least annually, depending on your business).  It can become an invaluable tool in helping you to manage those unexpected vacancies so that you can recruit the best and most loyal employees.

If you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Thinking (and Recruiting) Outside the Box

The problems that I hear most often from employers are to do with recruitment.   Many employers have raised recruitment issues with me.  These range from things like “it’s difficult to recruit decent people”  to “we employ a large number of youngsters, but they don’t stay and it is difficult to recruit more”. I have even heard “it is difficult to recruit people who get on with their colleagues”.  Some employers are frightened of making the “wrong decision” when they are recruiting.  They are worried they will take on “the wrong person”.

Many of these issues and fears are blamed on recruitment.  But the problems actually come after the new employee has started in the job.  They are more about retaining people and engaging with them, rather than the difficulty of recruiting them in the first place.

But let’s stick with recruitment for the moment.  The news (in the UK, at least) is full of skills shortages, low unemployment rates, a fall in the number of migrant workers in the light of Brexit.  Additionally, market salary rates are rising in response to the growing difficulty in recruitment.

So are employers being too picky? 

Employers are reluctant to take on staff who have not worked in the right sector.  Public sector employees can’t get private sector jobs; non-academic staff can’t move into the academic sector; retail sector only want people who have retail experience; etc.  There might be some justification for such a preference. But most skills, experience and aptitudes are not sector specific.  Specifying experience in a given sector as an essential criterion seems to me to be a lazy way of drawing up a shortlist.  And it might be doing the employer a disservice.  They might be ruling out a raft of people who would otherwise be entirely suitable for the role.

Hiring managers always want the very best person they can get.  They look for someone who meets as many as possible of the criteria and even can offer something that the employer had never even realised they needed.  This is an unrealistic and expensive approach to recruitment when “good enough” should be adequate.  It will be easier to find someone who may not be a high-flyer, but who is steady and reliable and can do the job.  They will also be more willing to work for a realistic salary and more loyal in the long run.

Where can I find a pool of potential employees?

Employers like to recruit in their own image and are unwilling to take a punt on someone who does not fit their picture of the ideal employee.  With some notable exceptions, there is a reluctance to give an offender a second chance.  How sad that this is the exception and not the norm.

Or what about the long-term unemployed?  What about women returners, who are looking to get back into the workplace once they have started a family?  Employers seem to be scared that they will need training, or will want to work shorter hours. People with disabilities or health problems are often overlooked.  There are myriad others who fall into a minority of some kind.  So they fall into the “too difficult” category. They might need more time or money invested in them to “make it work”.

All of these groups of people are willing and able to provide good work, if only they get the chance.  In these days of difficulty in recruitment, it may be that they will be given that chance.

So the next time you need to fill a vacancy in your organisation, why not think outside the box and offer the chance to someone who is not an exact fit?

You may be agreeably surprised.


If you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this  -or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Will Flexible Working Rebound On My Business?

What is flexible working?

Flexible working just means that the employer is able to accommodate a range of working arrangements.  Some people may prefer the traditional 9 to 5.30  in the workplace every day, with an hour’s break at lunchtime.  Others may prefer to arrive or leave earlier or later than those hours.  Some may prefer to work elsewhere occasionally, or regularly.  Flexible working means different things to different people.  But the more flexible you can be, the more productivity you will get from your employees.

In employment terms, flexible working might encompass a whole range of things.  These can include flexi-time, flexible working hours; working from home, either regularly or occasionally.  Or it might mean working from another location.  Flexibility for employees might include fitting round family and caring responsibilities.  For example people might want to finish early and make up hours at other times.  Or they might need to work round the school run.  It can mean they don’t need to watch the clock.  They can stop feeling guilty for arriving later or leaving earlier than colleagues.

Why is flexibility important for my business?

Allowing individuals to have flexible work arrangements which suit their needs gives them the chance to do their work when they feel most able to. This means they will be more productive.  There are other benefits for the employer, as well.  You may be able to cover a longer working day with a variety of people.  Some may prefer an early start and some want to finish late.  So you have a better chance of someone being available when your customers need your services.

Your reputation as a good employer will spread and you may find it is easier to recruit and to retain the staff you have got.  The people who work for you are likely to feel more trusted and valued and so will put in more effort for you.

You may even find that absence is reduced if people feel more able to work from home if they have a cold or upset stomach.

Recruitment as a flexible employer

Previous articles have talked about employing older workers or carers and both these groups of people will benefit from flexibility in the workplace.  Research shows that older people would be very appreciative of flexible working hours.  Working with these needs would widely increase your pool of available employees.

Beware, though, of advertising that you are an employer who offers flexibility, and then not allowing people to work flexibly.  This can be seriously detrimental to your reputation and employer brand.  If the operations of your business are such that you cannot allow flexibility, then it is far better to admit that openly.  Explain the situation to potential employees, giving the reason why.  You may lose a few candidates as a result, but the benefit is that employees will know what to expect.  So they will only accept a role if they feel suited to your environment.

How do I make flexibility work?

The most important factor in a successful employer/employee relationship is trust.  If you build a culture of trust within your business, then you will be able to introduce flexible working and know that your employees will not take advantage of you.

As managers, we often find it hard to trust our employees to get on with the work when we are not watching them.  My experience is that most people can be trusted.  If you give them that trust, they will bend over backwards to avoid taking advantage.

You need to get across the message that you trust your employees to do their job and behave like adults.  They also need to understand that the work is their responsibility and that you will judge them by the results they achieve, rather than the hours they do.  Interestingly, having the conversation and allowing them to work flexibly will increase their commitment.  They know what is good and don’t want to risk losing it.  In fact, most people work longer, and harder, when trusted to be flexible.

What if I can’t allow flexible working?

Where people request flexible working in some form or other, then try to accommodate such requests wherever possible.  This means that on the occasions when you really cannot allow some flexible working, people will understand that there is a good reason why.  If you do have to turn down such a request, then make sure the individual understands the reason why it cannot be allowed.

If you are going to give people trust and autonomy, without checking up on them, then you also need to establish regular contact.  Make sure you build in team events and training opportunities.  Arrange regular meetings (in person or otherwise).  This will prevent people feeling abandoned, unloved , forgotten or not needed.   It will also prevent them from heading off down a different work path than the one you need.

On the odd occasion you may find that someone has betrayed your trust and has not produced the required work, or has clearly been taking advantage.  In those cases,  make sure you deal promptly and strongly with the issue.  This prevents any resentment or repetition from colleagues.

Final Word

I am a great advocate of trust in the workplace.  If you want employees to flourish in your workplace, then equip them with the skills and tools they need.  Then give them the freedom (and support) to fly.  If you allow flexible working, they will return your trust in spades.  You will then find that you have a motivated, productive and happy workforce.

If you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.

Can Older Workers Fill the Skills Gap?

I read a report in the HR press this week that recruiters are facing ever-increasing difficulties.  This is partly due to skills shortages and partly due to a drop in the number of migrants applying for work in UK.

Yet I have also recently been reading other articles which are about  older people in the workplace who are facing discrimination and being overlooked in favour of younger people.

Is it just me, or is there an obvious resolution to both issues?   We could give the older workers a chance to shine, instead of making the assumption that they “aren’t suitable”, “wouldn’t like it”, “are unable to change”.

The average working age is rising

The population is ageing.  People are living longer and fewer babies are being born.  So the average age of the working population is set to rise. Pension ages are rising. I know there is a great deal of debate about the rights, wrongs and fairness of this.  It is inevitable, though, for it to remain sustainable for the State to continue to pay pensions to retired people.  So people need to work longer and many want to do so anyway.

Nearly a third of the workforce in the UK are now aged 50 and over.  Additionally,  forecasts predict that one million more over-50s will enter the worforce by 2025.

So why don’t employers make use of these people who are skilled, experienced, loyal and have huge amounts to offer?

Age discrimination is rife in the workplace

My own father finished work at age 58 and could not find another job.  Yet he lived until he was 92.  He  remained active, lucid and enthusiastic right up until his death.  I am not saying he could have worked  until he was 92. But an employer could have had really good service from someone who had a very fine mind  – for at least another 15 years.  He was also able to pick up new technology and learn new ways of doing things and didn’t really slow down until he was in his late eighties. An employer’s loss was society’s gain, as he volunteered and gave great service to the local community for many years.

Of course, there are some older people who may have health issues and need adjustments or to work fewer hours.  But that is true of everyone, young or old.  We need to start viewing (and interviewing) people as individuals.  They may have issues to overcome which others do not have.  But they may also have the skills and experience you need.  If you think they “might” be suitable if they weren’t “too old”, then you should talk to them about your concerns.  Give them a try and you might get a very pleasant surprise.

What can an Employer do to improve the workplace for older workers?

Any employer can gain huge benefits from creating an age positive culture and joined-up approach to managing age-related issues in the workplace.

There are some specific management areas where your attention could be spent initially.  Areas such as recruitment; flexible working; learning and development.  But a complete overview of your policies, procedures and practices is always a useful exercise.

Recruiting  and retaining older workers

Recruitment , in particular, is an area where there is often bias towards younger candidates.  This may not be explicit – or even intentional. Careful wording of advertisements and training of recruiting managers will go some way towards helping you to remove age bias in your hiring processes.

Increased flexibility in working hours and other practices can benefit every employee, of course.  But older workers may be more likely to prefer part-time hours, in particular.  They are also more likely to be nervous of asking for flexibility as their fear of losing their job may well be greater than for others in the workplace.

Increasing skills and engagement

Many older workers may feel they are “stuck” in a role which has no interest or challenge for them.  But do you give them learning and development opportunities? If they have missed out on the opportunity to learn a new skill, but are keen and enthusiastic, then it would be sensible for an employer to help them to gain that skill.  The benefits are clear for both the employee (improved job satisfaction and engagement) and for the employer (skilled and enthusiastic worker, who is loyal and can also add life experience into the mix).

This is the tip of the iceberg and there are huge steps any employer can make to recruit and retain older workers, who will form the basis of your future workforce.   There are also enormous benefits for both the employer and their employees.

Watch this space as we will return to this issue in future articles.

In the meantime, if you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this – or any other people-related issue in your business – please join our mailing list, or contact us for further guidance.