How to stop recruiting the wrong people

ONE MINUTE BRIEFING: Octopus Group CEO Simon Rogerson says it's essential to give HR a seat at the top table.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 16 Jan 2019

In an ideal world, you’d have a legion of world-beaters applying instantly for every vacancy. The best of the best – it would be obvious who –would not only drip with talent, they’d also live and breathe your values, while bringing a diverse world view that challenges your norms without undermining your culture.

Good luck waiting for that to drop on your lap. In the meantime, there are some practical things you can do to navigate the pitfalls of recruitment, as Octopus Group CEO Simon Rogerson explains.

"If you believe that the world is changing faster than ever before, you need people who are comfortable with ambiguity and making mistakes. If I think of the standout 20 or 30 people in my organisation of 800 really talented people, they come from eclectic backgrounds and experiences. Maybe they haven’t gone down the same paths as other people, or didn’t fit in at school, or they went travelling for a year in their mid 20s or 30s just because they wanted to.

 "I used to work at Mercury Asset Management, as one of 24 graduates, who were all very smart, with a first or 2.1 from six or seven top universities. They’d never failed at anything in their life, probably not even their driving test. They’d never in a million years have put themselves in a situation where they looked silly in front of their colleagues. These are very scary people to have in a workplace that’s changing, because they don’t want to change.

 "It may sound silly, but at interview I ask which apps they’re using. If I think of my children, they’re all over what’s going on because their minds are super-malleable, they’re always experimenting with things. When people say they love change and their favourite app is Google Maps, then we’ve got a problem.

"Until we got to 400 people, I used to hire every single person myself. Now our head of HR will hire every single person, from receptionist to fund manager, and they can blackball anyone. You’ve got to give HR a seat at your top table, reporting directly to the CEO.

"The idea that HR is the function that sorts out your holiday is bizarre, especially in an industry where your only asset is your people. The role of HR is to hire, retain and develop great people. If you haven’t got great talent in HR you’ve got a problem."

For more information

Here are some lessons for recruiting for growth from the UK MD of Xero.  This article explores how neuroscience and ‘deeptech’ are transforming recruitment, while this piece looks at how businesses are using games, walking interviews and applications for groups to get the best people.

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