The People and Process Vodcast Episode 4: Potholes, Foundations and Cathedrals

Kirsten Gibbs:  Last time we talked about appropriate and inappropriate people for your business. So it seems like a natural follow on is how do we attract the appropriate people and how do we keep them once we’ve attracted them?
James Crawley:  Absolutely. So we need a good recruitment process, but we also need a good retention process and that all starts and ends with your employer brand.
Kirsten Gibbs: Okay, so what do you mean by employer Brand?
James Crawley: Well, your employer brand is not dissimilar to your customer brand. It’s the impression that people within the organisation and external to organisation have of your organisation – how it’s run, how attractive it is to be associated with
Kirsten Gibbs: So, it’s what I would call your promise of value.
James Crawley: Yes.
Kirsten Gibbs: And that means your promise of value is not just for your customers.  It’s also for your employees, and what follows on from that is just as not every potential customer will like your promise of value, not every potential employee will like your employer brand.
James Crawley: Indeed, so, just as, some people wouldn’t want to work for gambling organisation, for example, or an environmentalist might not want to work at Seaworld. People are motivated by different factors. Have a doctor that works in the NHS or a doctor that works privately. A software engineer that wants to work for MicroSoft and never work for Google. So it’s not about the product or the company per se. It’s more about the way that the company operates and its culture.
Kirsten Gibbs: Yeah. Okay, So how do you understand what your current employer brand is as a company?
James Crawley: So there were a few factors that contribute to this on some are more measurable than others. So on the measurable scale, factors such as: Are you paying market rate or above market rate for your talent? What’s your staff turnover? What’s your percentage of current vacancies?  To add weight to those numbers. You then need to do what I call taking the pulse of the organisation.
Kirsten Gibbs: Taking the pulse. That sounds good. But what do you mean?
James Crawley: So, number of ways: staff surveys, exit interviews, appraisals, customer feedback and flow of communication within the business.
Kirsten Gibbs: Okay, I get the 1st 4.  What’s the last one about?
James Crawley: So what I mean by this is how willing the organisation is to accept ideas from within. So in my experience, the answer to most businesses problems are actually, they actually reside within the business, so it may be something as simple as a minor change. to the packing line that doubles the production capacity.   It may be that the person that has the idea is the company’s newest, youngest, most inexperienced employee.  If the company has no way to receive that information they’ll never benefit from the solution. There are, or there is a view out there, however, that taking so much input and ideas internally can open up the organisation to risk. Would you agree with that?
Kirsten Gibbs: Not necessarily, no. I think you can mitigate the downside of doing that or letting people come up with ideas through process. If you can define the least that should happen, you.. you’re mitigating that downside, but still leaving yourself open to the upside that comes from letting people interpret your promise of value creatively and generously.  That’s how you find out new things that you can do as a business.
James Crawley: That makes a lot of  sense.
Kirsten Gibbs: Yeah, so it seems to me that knowing whether you’re getting your culture right is quite a hard thing to find out. So how would you do it?
James Crawley: So let me answer that by telling you a little story. So you come across three people digging a hole. You ask the first one ‘ What are you doing?’ They’ll say ‘I’m digging a hole.’   You ask the second one ‘What are you doing?’ He says ‘I’m laying a foundation.’  And you ask the third one ‘What are you doing?’ He says ‘I’m building a cathedral.’
Kirsten Gibbs: Yeah,
James Crawley: The first person has a task which they’re doing, but they don’t have any ownership of that task. The second one is partially engaged in the project. They have a goal. They could see a little bit of the big picture. The third one, doing exactly the same task, is fully engaged in the product, its project its purpose and its outcome.  If your employees understand not only their day to day job tasks, but understand, are engaged in the overall strategic aim of the business. Then you can say you have an engaged workforce and therefore are likely to have a strong positive culture.
Kirsten Gibbs: So a really simple test would be to have an outside person come in, Teo and ask anybody in the business. What are you doing? And if you got the right kind of answer that would tell you how well you were doing on your culture.
James Crawley: Exactly.
Kirsten Gibbs: That’s pretty straightforward, actually.
James Crawley: And I imagine, you’ve got some ideas on how an organisation can sustain that.
Kirsten Gibbs: Yes.  Well, I mean, yes, obviously I mean the way to help people understand the project, the purpose and the outcome that you’ve talked about once they’re inside the business is through process. For me, process is like the letters through a stick of rock. No matter how far down you get, they’re, always readable.  And as we’ve said before, a good process is completely built around your promise of value, and at the same time, it allows the people running it to help improve it.  That again, this is all how you it’s how you improve basically.
James Crawley: So it’s an inclusive process.
Kirsten Gibbs: Yes. So what other factors would influence your employer brand?
James Crawley: There’s a huge range of these, but I suppose some of the key ones: corporate social responsibility, investing in developing staff and overall working conditions are probably some of the three main pillars.
Kirsten Gibbs: Okay, so we’ve seen how employer brand impacts on the desirability of your organisation to external people. Is that the whole solution?
James Crawley: No, employer brand is one of the contributing factors, but equally critical is an effective recruitment process for new employees and value-adding business process for the management of existing staff.   So to give an example:   Most businesses have an appraisal process for staff, however, many, or for many, it can be a tick-box  exercise because it’s “the right thing to do”.  A good appraisal process would be frequent, it would be two-way,  and leave both parties feeling they’d got something out of the process.
Kirsten Gibbs: In some ways, it wouldn’t even feel like an in… necessarily an appraisal. It’s just feedback.
James Crawley: Yes,  exactly.
Kirsten Gibbs: Yeah, okay,  and what about the recruitment process then?
James Crawley: Again, many organisations have a recruitment process which they may or not may not follow, depending on which day of the week it is. But when you actually look at many of the companies processes, they duplicate stages with same interview questions being asked by different people time and time again.   They’re too focused on the technical competence and don’t look at cultural and organisational fit. Remember, you can teach technical skills that might be lacking in the candidate, but it’s very hard to change attitudes. I would also suggest that not many organisations debrief candidates  after they’ve been hired to ask: What was the process like for them? How did they feel coming into the organisation?
Kirsten Gibbs: And not that many exit interview either.
James Crawley: No, exactly. Exactly. So the conclusion if we can draw one is that recruitment and retention is like all processes within your business. You need to be really clear and tight about the soft stuff.
Kirsten Gibbs: And if you are strict or tight about the soft stuff, you can then start to take risks, like recruiting people with different skills, different experiences, from diverse backgrounds. You’ve minimised the downside, but opened yourself up to all sorts of possible upsides, which is only good.
James Crawley: Indeed. So Kirsten, it sounds to me that we need to talk a little bit more about defining the soft stuff.
Kirsten Gibbs: Okay, that could be our next discussion.
James Crawley: Look forward to it.
Kirsten Gibbs: Good. Thank you.