It doesn’t hurt to be nice

My daughter and I recently made a T-shirt in readiness for her school assembly and this project topic stuck with me. The assembly started with: ‘Good morning and welcome to our class assembly. We have been thinking a lot about kindness and how important it is to us as a class, a year group, a school, a community and indeed as part of the whole world.’

Given recent events in the celebrity world, the hashtag #BeKind created in 2017 by Lucy Alexander (a mum who tragically lost her son to suicide) has gained renewed momentum and employment issues such as workplace bullying have taken increased prominence in recent times, but what can it mean for us in the arena of recruitment and retention?

Our approach as recruiters is one of honest broker between candidate and client during a recruitment experience and we seek to carry out this task positively to get the best outcome for all involved.

Last year, Solace and the Local Government Association co-authored a guide to senior-level recruitment that was launched at our Autumn Summit. It referenced a senior recruitment process as a courtship, emphasising that honesty is fundamental from the employing organisation, in terms of what it is really looking for and the challenges it faces, and from the candidate, with regards to whether they think they have the right skills and cultural fit for the role on offer.

As a membership body and as recruiters we are committed to promoting public sector excellence and our team doesn’t exist to knock people down; our focus is on building positive cases for candidates, while offering feedback and development plans, so that they can move forward constructively.

Turning to the candidate journey first of all, going for a new role is a time-consuming process that takes a lot of energy and personal investment. You see the advertisement, you review the web pages, you have the informal conversation, you research, you put time and effort into writing a compelling submission and then you wait for news.

As a recruiter, we must remain mindful that candidates have made this investment and that they are given the courtesy, respect and support such an investment demands.

It is important to us that applicants are supported to put their best foot forward for current and future applications.

It is true that you will not get every role you go for, but our approach is to ensure the candidate experience is a positive one and, regardless of the outcome, it should provide a development opportunity in order to enhance and grow for next time or to help shape personal development in your current role.

Feedback is therefore critical. It is our belief that this feedback is best shared honestly and constructively. Telling candidates they came second without any other feedback isn’t helpful to anybody. That said, I am not denying that sometimes feedback can be hard to hear – and sometimes it isn’t easy to give – but it should be shared in the spirit of kindness, respect, dignity and strict confidentiality.

The employing organisation has a massive part to play. The recruitment market remains busy in 2020 and competition for the best talent can be fierce.

We will support you to sell the proposition of the role and the organisation. That requires an honest and rounded understanding of what is

required and what the issues are. To establish that, we would wish to talk candidly about your requirements, the challenges and the success factors associated with a given role. We are clear that each brief needs to be honest in approach. If the rhetoric of the brief is miles away from the reality, the outcome will not be successful for anyone involved. In our experience, applicants value and respect an honest appraisal of the challenges the role will face. Many will even relish the prospect.

A successful recruitment demands a time and energy investment from the employing organisation, too. Remember, if a recruitment process is to be considered a courtship, you are being sized up as much as the candidates are. How you approach the recruitment leaves an impression. The good cop/bad cop interview techniques are now commonly accepted as an approach that offers little value and were never utilised by Solace.

The key is to represent the organisation in alignment with organisational values and behaviours which will undoubtedly encourage candidates to be at ease in order to get the best from them during the selection process.

The impression that all candidates are left with at the end of a process can have far-reaching reputational consequences if not handled positively and with courtesy and respect. By being honest and open, everyone is entering a new working relationship with their eyes open and hopefully with a positive tenure ahead of them.

Personally, I have worked for Solace under many guises, but a consistent theme I enjoy is our collaborative approach, working with candidates and clients with a straight bat, focused on getting the best outcome for all involved.

So, in circling back to the bespoke design of a T-shirt for the school assembly, the children proposed that kindness is all around us, especially in the books we read and the films we watch. It isn’t a new message but it is one that can be often overlooked in our busy schedules. Being kind isn’t weak, it’s part of good leadership and isn’t it just good sense to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves?

Being kind to each other is important and by sticking to that as a core value, we can’t really go too far wrong.

Sharon Davies is Consultant Executive Recruitment and Assessment at Solace in Business

Sharon - Solace

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