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Peer Inside the Fishbowl for Your Recruitment Policy

A US inventory management company called Fishbowl, recently featured in Forbes magazine, is a good example of what we have been saying on this blog and to our clients: forget about hiring only the most stellar champions of your industry – and create them yourself!Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 3.13.47 PM

Hiring on potential and values means the old checklist of resume details is somewhat relegated. That doesn’t mean that past experience, skills, qualifications and academic achievements are no longer relevant; but it does mean that they are less relevant, less the deciding factor, less the sole reason for hiring someone.


Peering Inside Fishbowl

Fishbowl is based out of Utah in the US. Since 2001, the company has been providing software packages that make asset tracking and distribution easier for manufacturing businesses.

Challenged with finding top talent, the recruiting team found it tough to attract the right people to the business initially: most of the best local industry professionals were happily employed elsewhere and moving was not an option unless huge (and impractical) incentives were offered.

Their hand was a little forced, but they decided to target candidates who exhibited the potential to turn into top performers. For this they considered certain personal qualities that they actively sought in candidates:  loyalty, trust, respect commitment, courage and gratitude were key amongst them.  They read a little like a list of human virtues, don’t they? The point is that anybody can possess them, regardless of their work or academic background.

This approach was challenging, and was not without mistakes being made, but it has proven so successful that the recruitment team still actively uses the approach today. It has honed its ability to recognise the desired traits in people and, in this way, it is able to attract and create future leaders rather than bringing them in from the outside. For instance, of their eighteen software developers only two had serious programming experience before being hired.

The success is clear to see: Fishbowl has grown 70 percent in the past three years and has received awards for product and management quality. Perhaps most significantly, turnover of staff has been under two percent since 2001!


No Desperate Measure!

There is the temptation to paint this recruitment strategy as one built on necessity and desperation: phrases like “global talent crisis” and “skills gap” are bandied around.

However, nothing could be further from the truth. It is based far more on long-term thinking than traditional “fire-fighting” recruitment policies. The Fishbowl example shows how it can help to define a company culture and be an intrinsic part of how it operates.

Far from being a desperate measure, it can help to shape the future of a company, maintaining stability and job security during economic ups and downs; it can become part of the vision and what the company stands for.

In essence, values-based recruiting becomes part of the values of the business.


What is Needed?

There is a challenge and a learning process involved in hiring on values and potential; few recruiters are adequately equipped to jump straight in and start hiring using this method.

Plenty of groundwork needs to be done first – not only in defining what values you are looking for, but how you spot them. Job descriptions, job ads, interviewing techniques, and decision-making criteria all need attention before you can start. Rushing it will lead to more expensive mistakes.

In order for it to work, you must:

  • Profile the traits and values of current top performers, as well as the values your company holds dear, and treat these as core selection criteria for potential hires.
  • Learn new techniques to assess and recognize these traits and values, and adapt hiring processes accordingly.
  • Establish learning and competency goals to provide a clear direction for the future development of the company.
  • Over time, develop an organisation that nurtures and encourages learning, skill acquisition, and mentoring, so that it becomes part of the culture.


The Middle Way is Often the Best Way

Nobody is suggesting jumping straight into the Fishbowl head first!

There are times when hiring on values may suit the role (like for entry-level positions) and other times when more specialised knowledge or skills are required from the off: often more senior or technical positions, or where the company has a lack of mentors and leadership. This is not a one-size-fits-all policy.

It’s a case of “horses for courses”. You can combine this strategy with a more conventional recruitment strategy, if the goals beforehand are clearly defined. Recruiting usually involves assessing a wide range of factors including abilities, experience, and knowledge, as well as motivation, values and potential.

The people you choose need to fit in to your long-term strategic goals, as well as the pressing concerns of now. Setting up to assess people based on potential and values is one of the best ways to stabilise an organisation for the future.

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