In a growing firm or department, the next role to recruit to is seldom obvious. There is no precedent. No one left – so there’s no one to replace. There’s just a blank sheet of paper or a gap in an organisation chart – an empty rectangle unlinked to any department or function.
And yet there are hopes for what that role is to contribute to the organisation. The role is part of strategy. It’s perhaps expected to add to the top line or to grow profit or some other KPI. But new roles can’t be defined based on what management hope they’ll achieve. Where this happens new roles are often ill-specified. Recruiting the next role is difficult; recruiting to an ill-specified role spells disaster.
This lack of specification is not surprising. To specify the addition to be made, management needs to perceive the whole firm as it is now and, as they want it to be. The difference between the two suggests the way to determine the competencies and behaviours to recruit. For this, management must develop a conceptual model.
But what is a conceptual model and what does it tell us?
Thinking very practically, a firm comprises buildings, vehicles, plant and people. But that doesn’t help us to see what these tangible assets do. Thinking financially, a firm is an assembly of financial assets. That might help us understand whether the firm can gain credit with suppliers, but it doesn’t help understand the skills and knowledge it needs to meet its strategy.
To understand how the firm actually works, one must think of things such as what influences profit, what gives the firm its reputation and how marketing bears on new customers. We must think of how the firm moves as a network of ideas from strategy to outcomes. We must not think of tangible things but of concepts.
To get the picture, we must view the firm as a linked network of concepts. Since each firm will have different aims, playing in different markets with different assets, those concepts are unique. Each firm needs its own conceptual model. Conceptual models are built by modelling the organisation in its environment.
Usually the start point in organisational modelling is the firm’s strategy, defining first its mission, values and vision and then its financial, markets, operational and developmental aims. The strategy suggests the conceptual model. For example, an aim to double turnover with sales to new customers would need the concept of a new customer.
Those new customers would need to be identified using the concept of discovery. And once identified, they’d need to be persuaded to buy using the concept of new customer marketing.
Key to building a network of concepts is the idea of influence. In a firm, one concept influences another; new customers are influenced by new customer marketing. So conceptual models are the aims made imaginable as concepts. Influence is transmitted throughout the network from aims to outcomes.
In the above example, a doubling of turnover needs a new form of marketing to new customers; strategy is converted to action through concepts.
From concepts to competencies
Firms comprise processes. Arguably, if an activity is not built into a regularly run process, it won’t get done. That’s certainly true of all the big activities in a firm. Take the concept of marketing. This can be converted into processes like sending a monthly newsletter, running monthly webinars or following up on daily web hits.
Let’s take the concept of marketing to new customers. Having established that this concept is key to the future of the business and having established its relationship with other concepts, we can define its activities. Processes are just combinations of activities.
Activities are done by people and machines. Marketing to new customers might involve building address lists and other data on target customers within a CRM database. This activity needs technology and competencies for success.
The people element of any activity is defined by the competencies, behaviours and other human characteristics and it’s those that we select for at interview.
When managers have run the same firm for some time, and where little change is planned, recruitment is straightforward. It’s about replacing leavers. The competencies and behaviours can be established by looking at the competencies and behaviours of the existing jobholder.
When there’s significant change, the manager is in uncharted territory. There’s no precedent. And yet he or she must make decisions about new roles and the associated human characteristics of the jobholders. If guesswork is to be avoided and the organisation optimised, conceptual modelling is essential.
The conceptual model yields the processes and technology needed to achieve the firm’s aims. Processes and technology yield the human competencies and behaviours of the jobholders. Together those give the Job Descriptions and Person Specifications that drive search and selection.
Then it’s all downhill!
|Take a practical example. A firm aims to triple its turnover with a new Internet hosted service. On the face of it, this must surely require having more sales people to find and close new customers. On that belief, the MD had started a recruitment activity with a recruitment consultant to find sales people. TimelessTime was asked to advise on the technics of selection. But selection is impossible unless management knows what competencies and behaviours it requires to achieve its aims. And competencies and behaviours can’t be determined unless the concepts, activities and roles are known.Conceptual modelling, activity modelling and development of Job Descriptions and Person Specifications revealed that it was definitely not sales that was needed – it was marketing.
There’s often confusion between sales and marketing that only a conceptual model can sort out for the firm. The search task was re-directed and a marketer experienced in product set up and social media was hired.