Finding the right person for the team

Published: 16th November 2020

Finding the right person for the team

Dawn Faulkner shares her thoughts on how to secure the best person for your team in an increasingly competitive and fast changing environment

As a leader with responsibility for delivering the strategic objectives of your organisation you know it is imperative that you attract the best possible talent to help you meet organisational outcomes.

Faced with ambitious strategic plans, an increasingly competitive marketplace, and the post-COVID workplace, local authorities are looking beyond the usual pool of senior local government employees and are targeting experts across the wider public sector, as well as expanding further into the private sector and not for profit sectors. In addition, catchment areas are expanding from local to regional and national recruitment, to secure ‘the best person for the team’, where it is no longer good enough, or indeed desirable, to simply identify the best candidate for the role.

With leadership demands changing and many of the obvious talent pools shrinking, the complex environment in which local government operates requires leadership of the highest calibre. Those leaders with the right behaviours, attributes and values can sometimes be found in unusual places and may often have ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds. Although recruitment may seem a simple process, in reality it is often nuanced and complex. It is therefore essential that your recruitment process is robust yet flexible, in order to reflect your specific requirements and the individual context.

With that in mind, I have identified six key steps to consider when planning your recruitment process for new team members.

1.  Ensure your branding is reflective of your organisation: It is critical that the external branding of your organisation accurately reflects its vision, strategic ambitions and inclusive culture, as this will drive investment and influence culturally and politically. Applicants from outside of the local area may have very little knowledge about what it is you do, so communicating this in your recruitment is essential. Candidates considering relocation do so not only for economic reasons but also for a variety of social reasons, therefore creating a compelling proposition will encourage candidates to connect with the place and organisation better, in order to understand the opportunity intellectually and connect emotionally.

If we are to look beyond the obvious talent pools, we need to ensure that we are not unwittingly putting any barriers in the way that might diminish the attractiveness of the roles to different groups. It is essential that you present your organisation and place in a powerful, meaningful and inspirational way, to eradicate mis-conceptions and show that you are credible and trustworthy.

Many private sector businesses have been proactive and effective in this regard for several years and there are key ‘brands’ that have excellent notoriety and talent ‘draw’ purely based on reputation and not remuneration. Local authorities are increasingly competing with private sector companies and as such need to raise their game to compete and attract that candidate expertise.

2.  Keep an open mind: It is essential that the vacancy captures the attention of the professionals you are seeking to recruit. Not only should the role description and person specification be detailed, they should also be dynamic and appealing, and written in order to include the widest diverse group of applicants. It will be important to ensure that all recruitment collateral (adverts, role profiles, microsite, social media) demonstrates that you are genuinely open minded about where talent might come from.

It is essential that you present your organisation and place in a powerful, meaningful and inspirational way

Your existing employees are your greatest asset, so identify key ‘champions’ and use the voices and cultural diversity of these inspirational individuals to share your meaningful messaging and tell your unique and interesting story via video, which can be utilised on a website and via social media. Personalisation plays a key role, so be sure to make online experiences as compelling as possible. Make a wide range of information available to potential candidates when they are looking at a vacancy, such as the latest reports, structure charts, financial information, peer review documents and more, ensuring they consistently represent your organisation.

The channels you use to communicate your vacancies should also be carefully reviewed, based on the type of vacancy and target candidates. Specialist publications may be suitable for more niche roles, whereas social media and your organisation’s website can help cast the net wider. Ensure there is a link to your organisation’s Twitter feed and Facebook page to guarantee transparency and access to the wider audience.

3) Shared values: While technical capability and knowledge are clearly important, research has demonstrated that it is the behaviour, values and attributes of leaders that have the biggest impact on leadership. Ensuring there is alignment here between the candidate’s values and those of the organisation is essential, if there is to be a good cultural fit within the team.

4) Present a compelling all-round proposition: If you are genuinely seeking the best person for your team, consideration should be given to salary expectations, relocation expenses and realistic personal development opportunities that are appropriately rewarded, to create a compelling, competitive proposition.

5) Technology can aid the process: While rigour, transparency and fairness are all important facets of a successful process, so is flexibility and pragmatism to ensure the most inclusive and most diverse possible pool of candidates is attracted to the role and can participate. Technology can help us here and the recent huge increase in use of video meetings means most are now familiar with this format for running at least some of the selection process.

6) Use the recruitment process as a starting point: All successful leaders seek to learn and grow. The recruitment process will provide real insight into candidates’ strengths and development areas which should not be wasted but translated into a robust ongoing personal development process which maximises performance from the outset and demonstrates an investment in the candidate.

Inclusion and diversity should be at the heart of every business. Steps should be taken to understand the barriers that candidates often face within the recruitment process and every effort should be taken to help create a level ‘playing field’ for all talent. Latest research is clearly demonstrating that diverse leadership teams drive superior performance, create inclusive cultures and improve employee wellbeing, as well as enabling organisations to better reflect and engage with the communities they serve.

In order to attract that exceptional candidate who will complement your team, all campaigns should promote equality, value diversity, and remain open minded about where talent might come from.

Dawn Faulkner, Partner

Article originally published in the Municipal Journal on 12 November 2020