Archives for 21 Jul,2019

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A Guide to Recruitment

Totem-Recruitment 400x265Where To Start When Recruiting

Whilst we don’t want to teach you how to suck eggs – whatever that means, we do often get asked what simple steps can be taken to make a more robust hiring decision. So here they are.

Great performance at work comes from the three components of What, How and Why.  Whether we are recruiting a new colleague or managing an existing one – we will need to review all three aspects to develop a great performer.  To start with, put yourself in the position of the new recruit and ask yourself these questions.


What do I need to do?  What am I expected to do?  What are the objectives, measures, KPIs?  What is most important?

If I had been doing this role for 12 months and was getting great feedback, what would I have achieved?  How would I know I had achieved those things?

What about after 3 years?  What would I hope to achieve by then?  How would I know I had achieved those things?


How do I need to be?  How do I fit in with the culture here?  How do I connect with the values here?  How am I expected to behave?


Why do I need to do it – and why in that way?  Why does this role exist?  What part do I play?  Why is that important?

Next you’ll need to write a Job Description that works.  Most often job descriptions end up being dusty documents in a drawer – yet we can get far better use from them for recruitment, performance management and development – it might be useful to have a peak at this PDF.


What Selection Method(s) should I use?

Years of research into selection methods used across all sorts of businesses and job roles has revealed that the more structured the assessment process, the better we can predict how well someone will perform in a job.  The highest prediction comes from combining a few key methods and we strongly recommend a structured interview and a work sample test.

A personality profile can also be extremely insightful when identifying someone who is the right fit for your business.

Work Sample Tests

The idea of a work sample test is wonderfully simple: “The greatest test of how well someone might do in a job is the test of seeing them do the job.”

What aspects of the role you are recruiting for could you test – in a real situation or perhaps in a role play or desk-based exercise?  Ideas could include:

  • Giving the candidate a customer or client role play to perform in
  • An in tray exercise that requires candidates to sort and prioritise a workload
  • Asking the candidate to prove their claimed experience by using software or IT system

The best work sample tests feature as much reality as possible – so add in the kind of questions people usually ask and the challenges faced – cover the What, How and even the Why by asking questions afterwards – “why did you choose that approach?”

You should have in mind what a good performer will look like from the job description questions – so that ideally you can objectively rate candidates against these criteria (rather than just deciding who you liked).

Overall you will have a ‘gut feel’ for who may be right for you – which is fine as long as you back that up or challenge it with evidence.  Great recruitment practices are about sense-checking and challenging that intuition with more objective information – so that you know you’ve made a good quality decision for your business.

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Assessment Design

Totem-Gold-400x265How Do You Select For What You Really Need?

Let’s assume you’re already confident with your starting point for recruiting, and if not we suggest you jump to this page for the basics but if you are, you might benefit from building on that with this little article.

Quite often when we’re recruiting we spend the minimal time exploring what we need up front, we take a gut feel approach to the needs of the role, dust off an old copy of a job description and then run a standard interview to select the best candidate.

There’s a huge amount of evidence that suggests that if you take this approach, your new recruit will fall flat on their face within months of taking up the role.  But there are some simple steps you can take to designing your recruitment process that will yield far better recruitment results.

We’re not simply talking the all-encompassing Assessment Centre here, they can often be too wieldy and over the top for a number of different reasons.  It may be that the position is quite junior, and an assessment centre costing more than the actual salary of the role is unjustifiable, or it may be the sheer volume of candidates you need to wade through is too high…

But there are some golden nuggets and best practices we can take straight from a well-designed assessment centre, and apply to them to situations that require a little more flexibility.

Assessment centres often get good press from employers because they give you the opportunity see how a candidate performs over a longer, and more consistent window.  The value of this is quite high as you can see how a candidate will actually perform, rather than how they say they can perform.  One major drawback to simply using an interview!

Totem Gummi Bears

Start by being particular when choosing the competencies for any given role, being mindful of the requirements for the job – does it involve planning and organising? Motivating others?  Clear communication?

There are a surprising range of possible competencies and the ones which are relevant to a particular job are determined through job analysis.

In recent conversations with our clients, particularly those seeing a resurgence in hiring activity, such as Retail and Professional Services, we’ve come across two recurring challenges:

  • How do we measure remote management, inspiration and engagement of people when we don’t all work together in a store or office?
  • How do we measure adaptability in client meetings or face to face customer conversations?

Similar skills, different contexts.

For these two examples, a structured interview combined with a work sample test are going to be extremely insightful for finding the best candidate – perhaps just as useful as a more expensive, full-blown assessment centre.  The difference being that an assessment centre is measuring a wider set of competencies and takes a long time, whereas here we’ve paired it down to strictest essentials.

If you’re recruiting for a role where you need to see how a candidate reacts in a critical situation faced frequently in the post, it might be worth you using one of these work sample tests.  Think about that situation that can make or break someone in the role, and design an assessment that helps you pick the best candidate.

So how do you design a strong, robust work sample test?

Here are some top tips:

Write out and agree what behaviours you’re looking for – so you’re creating your scoring forms.  Be really specific eg “asks the client what their measures of success would be,” or “explains their key message to the store manager over the phone, then asks them what that means to them and how they can implement it”

Create a scenario typical to the role that someone can step into for the purpose of the assessment “eg you’re in a field management position and need to call one of your store managers, or you’re about to meet a client who has let you know they’re not happy.”  Write a more detailed brief about the situation and what you want them to do

Check that the scenario and the brief you give the candidate, gives them the opportunity to display all the behaviours you’re looking for

Observe each candidate in the scenario and score them against your pre-agreed scoring forms.

Using the above method, you’ll be to reduce the amount of time and spend on assessment centres and quite importantly, you’ll be supporting the hiring manager to really focus on the core elements of the role they’re recruiting for.  That’s extremely helpful for overcoming the classic “I like him” or “she seems like a good fit.”

To get in touch with Totem about your assessment design needs is simple, click me!

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Using Transactional Analysis in L&D

Bringing Transactional Analysis alive…

When you’re designing learning content that covers difficult conversations, being more effective, self-awareness, influencing, people management…. In fact, for almost anything to do with people, Transactional Analysis (TA) could be a helpful concept to introduce.

In this article we explore a bit of the background and how you can bring the concept to life to help your learners.

Analysing interactions (or transactions) between people, spotting where things are going wrong and looking at what we can do better: that’s what TA is.  And so, whenever we are looking at personal effectiveness and working with others, there is an opportunity to look at this wisdom from the 1950s.

Eric Berne developed the idea of our three states: Parent, Adult and Child, releasing his first book on the subject in 1961.  As you’ll see below, the Parent and Child states are further broken down into two sub-sections.

We can all think of times when we have been keen to care for someone, maybe fixing something for them: this is our Nurturing Parent way of being.

We have been strict, telling people what to do or telling them off: this is Critical Parent.  We have been rebellious, disagreeing with someone or on the flipside, working overly hard to please them: that’s our Adaptive Child.  Finally we have acted like a child enjoying themselves, having fun, doing a wheelie on a bike or squealing over coloured pens and new stationery: say hello to your Free Child.

When we have our best conversations, we can usually see that we have been rational, logical and spoken to someone like they were our equal: that’s the Adult.

How is this useful?    

Think back over the times when you have demonstrated each of the states and you’ll spot that the impact you had on the other person or situation overall was generally more positive when you stayed in the Adult state.

Recognising the times when we tend to fall into Parent or Child states can help us spot the unhelpful behaviour and choose to move back to Adult.  You could try this exercise for yourself and with your delegates….

Draw out the following chart and fill out the boxes for you personally.  Everyone’s answers will be different, so do this just for you.  We’ve filled in examples from our own experiences and stories we’ve heard on workshops, to give you some ideas….

Transactional Analysis Table
Responsive websites really don’t like tables – so we’ve created this picture for you to use!

Now you have considered all of this, you can prepare to both notice your behaviour changes and beware of situations that cause you to move out of Adult state.  Bringing awareness to these shifts in behaviour means you can have more control over them, rather than unconsciously acting on auto-pilot.

So next time you are running a workshop that looks at people and relationships, you could consider adding in a bit of work on Transactional Analysis: helping people notice their changes in behaviour and choose more effective, Adult-Adult conversations.

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