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Clearing the hiring hurdles

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In an increasingly competitive world, people have become a cutting edge factor. Is it just any people or right people? Hiring the right person to the right job is important in order to achieve right results. I would compare hiring to matchmaking.  As much as two people get connected together through matchmaking, recruiting the right people needs committed attention. There are triple matches needed to be fulfilled in ensuring the right hiring to take place. Let’s see what they are with emphasis on the Sri Lankan context. Right hiring As researchers observe, a poor hiring decision can cost as much as five times the employee’s salary. The US Department of Labour estimates that a bad hiring decision equals 30% of the employee’s first year’s earning potential. In Sri Lanka too, I have personally come across several situations where companies had to pay badly in the wake of the wrong person being onboard. It is pertinent to mention what David Oglivy, the advertising tycoon, had to say with respect to hiring: “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs, but if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we will become a company of giants.” In order to hire people with potential, the hiring process has to be professionally designed and executed. Matchmaking in focus As we know, matchmaking is commonly referred as the process of matching two people together, usually for the purpose of marriage. The word is also used in the context of sports and business. In the case of business, terms such as ‘Business to Business (B2B)’ matchmaking, investor matchmaking, business speed dating and brokerage event are used. In essence, real meeting between business people is in focus. Take a trade fair organisation for an example. It uses matchmaking for value creation in providing a meeting point. Hiring is one of the critical people functions of any organisation. In the traditional jargon, it is known as recruitment and selection. Recruitment deals with getting enough applicants as a potential pool. Selection deals with picking the best from the pool. That’s where the matchmaking becomes significant. Triple matches I would argue that there are triple matches you need to ensure in selecting the right candidate to a job. For me, they are T-T match, P-P match and I-I match. Let’s discuss what they are. T-T match This is the first match a recruiter would look into. It stands for matching tasks with talent. This essentially refers to technical dimension. Any key task requires specific talent. Take a sales job for an example. Tasks associated with meeting customers require the talent of caring communication. Talent is now more often used as a bundled word for knowledge, attitude and skills. Prof. Dave Ulrich in his recent work, referred to it as a combination of competence, commitment and contribution. Whichever the way you describe, there is a dire need of it. There is an acute gap between required talent and raw talent. The market is abundant with raw talent, especially with school leavers. Are they geared to a demanding job in a target-driven environment? Sadly, the answer is no. We teach complex subject matter but not how to gain "Sri Lankan organisations can enhance their hiring professionalism by way of ensuring the triple matches. It will pave the way not only for higher organisational performance but also for better employee satisfaction" confidence. Job orientation in the academic courses has been recognised as important only of late. That is the way to overcome talent drought. In the global scenario, we have often heard about “winning the war for talent”. It is a term coined by Steven Hankin of McKinsey way back in 1997. A book by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod popularised it in their book, highlighting an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees. They stress the need to have a set of superior Human Resources processes, but a mindset that emphasises the importance of talent to the success of organisations. P-P match What I mean here is the match between person and the position. It goes beyond the talent level. Primary focus here is psychological. Overall fit with regards to the personality of the individual and the key expectation of the position he/she is supposed to hold. Let’s be clear about personality. The term originates from the Latin word, persona, which means a mask. In ancient Latin theatres, a mask was used to represent a character. In other words, it is what you show to the world, by way of your words and deeds. There are a variety of ways of looking at personality. It is the particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioural response patterns of an individual. Researchers tend to define it as enduring, distinctive thoughts, emotions, and behaviours that characterise the way an individual adapts to the world. The key highlight here is the adaptation. From the womb to the tomb, it is a journey of adaptation, with constant interaction with the surroundings. The point I want to make here is simple. Different personalities suit different positions. An outgoing, talkative and a friendly person would be more suited for a sales position, whereas a quiet, thinking and analytical person would be better in handling a laboratory position. Key challenges for HR practitioners is to determine what type of a personality is associated with a candidate and also what type of a personality is ideally required by a specific position. Well-developed tools associated with psychometric testing can be very handy in this context. I-I match The final match is between the individual and the institution. Essentially it checks the fit between the prospective candidate and the “surroundings”. It can be the culture, climate or the overall style of management.  Thus we can see the socio-cultural dimension in focus. As I have seen many times high performers in one setup would end up being lousy performers in another setup. This is sad but significant, in ensuring the long term wellbeing of people. First key element here is the culture. Organisational or corporate culture is the pattern of values, norms, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions that may not have been articulated but shape the ways in which people behave and things get done. In a more detailed manner, Edgar Schein defines culture as follows: “A pattern of basic assumptions – invented, discovered, or developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration- that have worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems.” Stemming from culture comes the more visible element, climate. It refers to those aspects of the environment that are consciously perceived by organisational members. Hence, climate is something people see, hear and feel. That is why we see a difference when we enter a hospital, police station or a restaurant. In summary, climate is what we see and feel when we enter an organisation, whereas, culture is something much deeper as bedrock. What is important here is the need of prospective candidate to appreciate the institutional culture.  What one can do in a multi-national corporation might not be possible in a family-owned business. The same gulf exists between private and public sectors. I have seen people who opted to work in non-governmental charity organisations have a higher sense of humanity with committed service is mind. It might be the same with a brilliant management trainee joining a rapidly expanding global network. The obvious sign is the need to ensure individual-institutional match. Figure 1 contains the summary of the triple matches. Ensuring triple matches A properly-designed assessment centre can be one solid way to ensure all three matches. It typically employs a variety of techniques and multiple observers in a closed setting to evaluate candidates. Key challenge is to design the centre to cover all three matches. T-T match is the easiest to assess, provided you identify what talent is exactly required by the task. A process where candidates are given a set of questions to answer, situations to analyse or activities to perform would give a clear idea about where the candidate would stand. P-P match can be done by a more in depth analysis using personality-type diagnosing instruments such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). One challenge is to clearly identify what type of personality is required for the position. A sad local scene is that companies heavily investing on psychometric testing, without getting the best use of the results obtained. I-I match can be found by a good set of interview questions that would assess the attitude of candidates. Particularly, referring to ‘what-if’ scenarios showcasing organisations’ real issues would be a smart move. Case study analysis can also be handy to find the right fit. Way forward Sri Lankan organisations can enhance their hiring professionalism by way of ensuring the triple matches. It will pave the way not only for higher organisational performance but also for better employee satisfaction. (Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri works at the Postgraduate Institute of Management. He can be reached on ajantha@pim.lk or  www.ajanthadharmasiri.info.)

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