The People and Process vodcast Episode 3: Appropriate and inappropriate People.

Kirsten Gibbs:  At the end of our last conversation, we talked about appropriate and inappropriate employees. To be perfectly honest, that sounds like a bit of a euphemism to me. So what exactly do you mean by appropriate?

James Crawley: So I think the best way to start that is what don’t we mean.  We don’t mean good or bad.   No one is good at everything. No one is bad at everything.  So what we really mean is appropriate for the situation and the context.

Kirsten Gibbs: Okay.

James Crawley: So for example, classic mistake that many businesses make, they take their best performing salesperson and they make the manager of the sales team.

Kirsten Gibbs: Yes.

James Crawley: Every role has a unique construct and requirements for success. Some people can be good at more than one thing, but that’s not guaranteed. So in this case, what makes someone a good salesperson isn’t necessarily what would make them a good manager. Skills overlap, but they’re not identical.
So to me, inappropriate means the person hasn’t got the necessary skills or training to perform well in the world.

Kirsten Gibbs: Oh. So it’s a bit like gardening really. Um, because I know in gardening a weed is just a plant in the wrong place.

James Crawley: Precisely.

Kirsten Gibbs: Oh, okay. So how’d you find out whether someone is one or the other?

James Crawley: So I think there’s two aspects to this. Firstly, effort from the company. What do I mean by that? When you design a role, you need to make sure you do it properly and scope out the competences or the role, what you want the person to deliver in that role and what the characteristics, most importantly, are of the personnel that will fulfill that role. So if you also have to run the finance team, you want someone with a strong attention to detail someone who’s precise, accurate. But if you want someone to run the sales team, you will someone who’s enthusiastic, gregarious, confident.

Kirsten Gibbs: Oh Blimey, yes. Imagine getting those two the wrong way round. So what’s the other part of the equation?

James Crawley:  So you need to accurately assess the talent available to you, both internally and externally. And you need a systematic process for doing that so that you don’t miss opportunities.

Kirsten Gibbs: So you can make someone appropriate. How would you do that?

James Crawley:  So there’s no a hundred percent answer to this because you can’t necessarily, people can be receptive and trained to take on certain skills. So if you have a skills based gap, someone can be taught that set of skills, but it’s harder for people to change their character. So if the role requires a significant number of character traits more than functional skills, you’re just going to have to identify the right person rather than trying to adapt someone – because you can’t squeeze a square peg into a dodecahedronal role.

Kirsten Gibbs: So how on earth do you measure character?

James Crawley:  Well, I don’t believe you do measure. I think you observe it.

Kirsten Gibbs: Okay.

James Crawley:  You can measure it. You could employ an occupational psychologist, they could run a series of tests and you’ll get a report on character traits. However, I’m more of a fan of the second part, which is the observation side of that. So think back to the first day of any reality TV series. Everyone’s on their best behavior. But over time, and this is true, even in the work environment, people’s true character traits come out and they’re on display for everyone to see. So if you know your people well, you’ll already know the answer to the question.

Kirsten Gibbs: Yes. Okay. Well that works very well for internal because they’re people you’ve got already. How about externally? How do you, how do you assess that for somebody coming in from outside?

James Crawley:  So that’s obviously harder, but if you’re recruiting externally and you’re looking for a particular character trait, it tends to be a big one, like charisma, energy, something else like that.  And it should be blindingly obvious in a good selection process, especially if by selection process we don’t just mean sitting across the desk and interviewing potential candidates.   So we appear to come back to process again.

Kirsten Gibbs: Yep.

James Crawley: The foundation of all good company operations.  We’ve almost gone back to our first question, in fact, which is why do I need a good process if I’ve got good people?

Kirsten Gibbs: And the answer is you need a good process to get good people.  Okay. So, as we said last time, a good process is focused on the outcome, comes from the business, fulfills the promises of the business, and recruitment is just another business process that if you design and run properly, will help your business meet its strategic goals.

James Crawley: I totally agree. Yeah.

Kirsten Gibbs: Okay, so how then do we design a good recruitment and retention process?

James Crawley: Well that Kirsten, is all about fueling your employer brand and that we could talk about next?

Kirsten Gibbs: Ooh, sounds interesting.