· 2 min read · Features

Pull up a chair, make yourself at home: the line manager and recruitment


In most organisations, defining the culture and generating a sense of employee inclusion are seen as responsibilities that rest firmly in the HR ambit: HR is where the initiatives to bolster these activities and embed a sense of belonging spring from.

But while the presentation of the employer brand through the recruitment process is something that HR will usually 'own', it helps to pay attention to what happens once the lucky candidate actually joins the company.

While every organisation that has paid a modicum of attention to its employer brand and Employee Value Proposition (EVP) will probably have produced a statement of its values and culture, the newly recruited may join an organisation but their primary experience of its working culture and values will come from their manager. (Readers may wish to join the dots from here to the adage about people joining organisations but leaving managers, although it's not quite our point here.)

While most organisations will work to encourage everyone, regardless of their level, to live the values and embody the culture, a reality check is required. It's not just that an organisation where everyone thought, acted and behaved identically would have an eerie whiff of Stepford Wives about it; the reality is that managers have their own working styles and values just as much as they have their own personalities and preferences. (Indeed, there is an element of cause and effect here.)

Recruitment should remember that there is both a job specification and a person specification: once recruited, employees have to interact both as role-fillers and as people. Even before interviews have been held, considerable filtering should have taken place. Those without the skills, abilities, qualifications or experience should have been removed from the shortlist: why - unless you've pre-acknowledged a need to invest in training and development - would you wish to interview someone you don't believe to be capable of the job?

If sensible work has been invested in developing the organisation's EVP - which includes listening openly to the actual pleasures and discomforts of those already on board - then the vacancy advertising process should have helped by attracting those most likely to find themselves in tune with the organisation's working style and atmosphere. Similarly, it should have politely discouraged those unlikely to fit in or feel at home. (We accept, of course, that in the current climate, most organisations will receive plenty of applications from those who are simply somewhere between eager and desperate to find work, rather than total gratification.)

Given the costs of high staff turnover, both in pure financial terms and in terms of the effectiveness and stability of teamworking, it's in most organisations' best interest to recruit not only those most capable of performing the role in question but also those most likely to feel at home. A sense of belonging may be hard to capture on a balance sheet, but the links between engaged staff, performance and discretionary effort are well-established.

All other things being equal (as the economists are wont to say), the candidate whose style and values dovetail best with those of the line manager is a better investment than one who is likely to be bored, frustrated or irritated. The economists may not agree on the next point, but recruitment is investment: without effective relationships, engagement and commitment once the winner has been 'on-boarded', the returns won't be what they could.

The elephant in the room in many interview scenarios is the line manager and their personal style and values. (Oddly, it's not improbable to 'win' a job before meeting the person you'll report to, or to meet your new report for the first time on their first day in the job.) The EVP and the organisational values are important, of course, but they can be the wrapper rather than the content. If you want the dog to decide how fast it's going to run, it might be a good idea to let it see the rabbit?

Anton Franckiess, MD, ASK Europe