So you want to recruit more of the same?

Why not read our latest blog post, Industrial Strategy Boosting Technical Skills?

The business problem

In a busy business world there’s little time to think. The result is that managers are very likely to make quick decisions. That’s their job – assimilate, evaluate, decide. But when it comes to deciding what role to next recruit to, speed can be a serious problem because the human desire to make assumptions, stereotype and categortise can lead to seriously bad decisions.

The natural assumptions

Take some examples. A firm employing fourteen electricians and three support staff is growing. Its market is domestic and industrial electrical installations, solar and fire alarms. Staff are multi-skilled bringing a great flexibility.
So the natural assumption is to recruit another electrician out of the same mould as the existing guys. Is that right to do?

And take an economics consulting firm that has a growing business selling services to UK and international regulators. Its consultants have significant skill in a particular form of economic modelling and have in the past recruited graduate economists. They’re a bright bunch but whilst there’s an abundance of enthusiasm, experience rests in a few key folk. Do they keep going with the policy of hiring more graduates?

In both these cases the natural assumption is that there’s more work and hence more ‘workers’ are needed to service that need. But firms are not just about cloning workers.

The idea of competency

Competency represents the personal characteristics of people that in turn cause them to behave in a certain way. This behaviour then leads to job performance. In planning manpower and future growth, managers must first ask ‘what job performance do I want’.  Is it indeed the same as before or is there some strategy that suggests that a change is needed?

Could recruiting an electrician with intruder alarm competency allow organic growth into that whole new market? Would recruiting a more experienced ecomomic modeller build greater respect in clients, allowing them to have more confidence in the long term future of the consulting firm?

Questions like these below show that it is not always about more of the same:

  • What task-specific proficiency is needed?
  • What non-task-specific proficiency is needed?
  • What supervision and leadership skills are needed?
  • What management and administration competency is needed?
  • Is the new role highly integrated within existing teams or substantially independent?
  • Will the new role fit in with existing work structures or will the job-holder need greater personal discipline?
  • Are there specific effort-related competencies needed?
  • How competent is the job-holder to be in written and oral communications?

The answers to these questions will dictate the nature of the new role.

We’re all different

In every person, competencies vary. We all have different characteristics. We all have different:

  • breadth of knowledge and skill;
  • depth of understanding of our subject;
  • imagination and creativity;
  • ability to organise ourselves and cope with chaos and ambiguity;
  • drive and enthusiasm to achieve results;
  • self-confidence to lead;
  • sensitivity to other viewpoints;
  • cooperativeness to work with colleagues and
  • patience to take the long term approach to success.

These differences come from our differing personality, cognitive ability, experience, training and development and these differences bring a richness to a firm. We can’t all be of one type and no manager would want to manage a bunch of clones. Success comes from having a variety of competencies in the firm.

Approaches to the problem

A firm is made up then of an aggregation of competencies. Each person in the firm is unique but the sum of the parts gives a functioning entity that has the capability to address markets and satisfy customers.

In building the firm, the managers have choice. There is no right or wrong way and no set the basket of competencies that should be present. There are norms of course. Generally, most firms want a balance in favour of direct over indirect staff – those who will directly generate income over those who will act in essential support. But the knowledge, skills and abilities that are acquired by specifying and seeking out each person in each role is completely unconstrained.

The choices that managers make as to the competencies needed are part of the firm’s competitive advantage. Recruiting an expert in intruder alarm systems may differentiate the electrical firm from its competitors, allowing potentially lucrative contracts to be won.

But choices also carry risk – risk of getting it wrong. So how should managers proceed?

The way forward

All firms face this sort of challenge. All firms need a strategic manpower plan and the vehicle to achieving this is the competency framework following a job analysis.

Managers should envision a time in the future. Then build a competency framework that sets out the competencies needed by the firm to meet the strategic objectives of the stakeholders at that time. Then set a plan to move today’s current competencies to those needed at that point in time. Getting there will be a mix of performance management, redundancy, training and development  and recruitment.

So you want to recruit more of the same?

Such a framework and its associated change plan needs to be developed.  It takes time and effort to build but it gives significant clarity to future direction.  Much can be done through a series of workshops with senior management.  Once the plan is in place, it takes energy and finances to make it happen but by then it’s only a question of execution.  And of course, adjusting the plan as the firm improves and changes its business position.

If you’d like to discuss how to carry out strategic manpower planning, competency framework modelling, job design and the like, call us for a free, no-obligation discussion.

Further resources

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