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Value judgement

AxiaMetrics LLP partner Martin Gilsenan on how the appliance of science can help firms attract the right recruits

For most advisory and intermediary firms, the past 18 months has probably not been a time of sub-stantial recruitment. Indeed, economic and market cond-itions may have dictated the opposite focus for most business-owners, concentrating instead on cutting costs and perhaps having to let some members of staff go.

While not pleasant, this is understandable. We are still in the throes of probably the worst recession on record and financial services as a whole has taken a hell of a pounding. Many advisers will find them-selves in very different circum-stances now than they were a couple of short years ago.

On a more positive note, we are starting to see a pick-up in business activity, leading some firms to plan for expan-sion in 2010 and beyond.
In order to fulfil those ambitions, firms may well need to start recruiting again and there will be always be the need to replace individuals who move on to different challenges. The fact is it has never been more important to get the right person in the right job first time.

A few years ago, firms may have been able to carry some individuals who did not perform effectively all the time. Today is very different. The cost not just of recruiting but also of making the wrong decision with regard to emp-loying an individual can be considerable and no firm wants to waste money on poor hires and high attrition rates.

In the areas of advice provision and financial product sales, the need to employ correctly and quickly is even more important. Many of us will know only too well the problems that come with employing an individual who looks perfect on paper but when hired does not perform or is ill at ease in a company’s culture.

The problem is reconciling what you see on a candidate’s CV, how they present them-selves at interview and what an employer ends up getting when the candidate begins working for the company.

So, how can firms ensure they get the right candidate for the role? Well, inform- ation is power and even if it is a temporary role, the employer must ensure they are clear on the type of person they want to work at the firm as well as the skills they will need to complete the job effectively. Essentially, what qualities, values and drivers would the ideal person have to be able to work effectively and successfully at the firm?

Clearly, in terms of financial advice, there is a must in terms of the hard skills, that is, the qualifications and training that an individual needs to be able to provide advice in numerous financial sectors.

Once these must-haves are checked off the list, we should begin to look at the more intangible soft skills which will not be as obvious from a quick glance at a CV.

We must also not forget past performance but it should be taken with a pinch of salt. Past performance truly is no guarantee of future success and just because the indiv-idual was a top salesperson in a previous role, there is no guarantee that they will be a success in a new position within a completely different corporate culture.

Let’s make no bones about this, recruitment is a difficult process and so anything that an employer can arm them-selves with to get a better understanding of the indiv-idual, their talents, values and potential performance is worthwhile.

In the past, firms may well have looked to psycho-metric testing to give them an advantage in terms of providing a greater understanding of the candidate. In its time, this might have seemed sufficient but psychometric testing is particularly limited in the information it can provide.

There are a number of major problems with psychometric testing, not least the fact that many people feel able to cheat the tests. As they are essentially self-reports based on what an individual is willing to say about themselves, if you want to be guarded and hide the truth, then you are able to manipulate psychometric testing. Also, this type of testing places people in predetermined standard groups which purport to indicate the individual’s ability to perform. This is clearly neither scientific nor objective.

Not having a wider viewpoint on a candidate means the employer has no real understanding of the person and therefore will be unable to truly ascertain how the individual will perform or react to different situations, whether they will be a positive influence in the company or reek destruction and havoc.

These might seem like the intangibles of recruitment but there are opportunities to get a much fuller picture of the candidates through the use of axiology, the science of human values. By evaluating people this way, it is possible to identify the internal valuing systems that influence all our perceptions, decisions and actions to clearly understand why we do what we do.

By having your potential recruits take the 15-minute profile prior to interview, employers will have a report and interviewing guide which will ensure they have a much more incisive viewpoint of an individual coupled with a series of questions to ascertain if they truly are the right person for the company. Also, rather importantly, it will allow the employer to weed out candidates who would not be right for the firm.

Of course, this type of technology could also be used with existing staff. Why, for example, are some people the perpetual top sales performers while others consistently lag behind when all have benefited from the same training? Competency modelling of successful employees identifies the qualities needed to be a top performer. It is quite obvious that to simply have the necessary qualifications and training is not enough in this day and age.

Identifying and employing the right people requires much more than the sixth sense many employers might have relied on in the past. I personally, like everyone who has ever recruited, have experience of making the wrong hires after they presented well at interview and came with an excellent CV and references.

Profiling individuals as part of your recruitment process will identify the qualities and values you are looking for in your new and existing recruits and ensure that you do not make the recruitment mistakes of the past.

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