How do future of work organisations hire the right employees?

Irrespective of their organisational model, it’s not easy to for companies to find competent and highly motivated employees. If, in addition, these companies engage in unusual forms of work and leadership, for example, if they are holacratic or self-organised, the hiring and onboarding process is even more challenging.  

Usually, companies have a lot of experience in defining the competencies necessary for an employment – agile project management, business fluent english – and finding out in job interviews whether a candidate really comes with these qualifications. By contrast, organisations often find it difficult to explicitly and clearly describe their own collaboration and leadership culture to new employees, especially since the values listed on the company website are often quite different from their lived practice. Likewise, it’s difficult to tell in a job interview to what extent a candidate fits with the lived company culture. But, as numerous studies have shown, the fit between the values and attitudes of the individual and the company is decisive in determining the success of the collaboration. Only when I, as an employee, feel that my mindset resonates with that of the company, will I fully integrate myself with all my competencies, be motivated and inspired. 

Leaders, for whom stability, security and a sense of duty are important, will guide their department using instruments like milestone planning and regular meetings to check the progress towards these. As a dynamic candidate, driven by innovation, I will experience very little resonance in such a rather bureaucratically structured company. At the same time, my behaviour will not meet the expectations of the company. The same applies vice versa as well: with agile leaders, who prioritise creativity, freedom and flexibility, very security-oriented employees will feel overwhelmed and left to their own devices. 

Also for companies that are moving in the direction of the Future of Work, hiring processes are an important subject. How can they make sure that new employees and the Future of Work organisational model match? 

At the betterplace lab, we’ve gained a lot of experience with this over the past five years. At the beginning of our team transformation, we thought it would suffice for candidates to read up on our leadership and collaboration model as described in our constitution in advance. If, during their job interview, they could credibly present that the their described processes and structures were interesting and fitting for them, then we believed them and continued with the hiring process. 

But we soon noticed that some of our new employees were overwhelmed by the unaccustomed freedoms and fluid processes, and wished for more structure and instruction. After having had to let go of two new hires within the probation period, the team reworked the whole process.

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Above, we described how, having failed to recruit suitable colleagues, the betterplace lab team redesigned the whole recruitment and onboarding process. Here is what we did:

The most competent colleagues in the given area lead the hiring process. They put out the job ad, including requirements for different outer and inner competencies, and meet with a selection of applicants. A final selection then meets the entire betterplace lab team and presents a task set in advance. 

In their evaluation, they spend just as much time on the thematic, content fit, as on the question of how well they will fit into the team and what their inner competencies are. They try to find out, which values guide the candidate. How does this person reflect their individual balance between the psychological basic needs of “security” and “desire to grow”? And, in the case that stability and security play an important role, the team describes its experience that new employees often feel less well oriented and more insecure during the first year, as the structures are more flexible and the team cohesion is maintained through clear, transparent communication. And new team members need some time to grow into and accustomed to that. 

Even though the team knows how important specific competencies, like self-reflection, autonomy, empathy, conflict abilities or process consciousness are, it remains difficult to really work these out in a job interview. The reason for this, in my opinion, is that most of us don’t know themselves very well. How easy or difficult is it for you, dear reader, to answer questions, like the following, clearly and precisely? “How good do I feel?”, “do I know what triggers negative feelings and reactions in me?”, “what do I need in order to be creative?”, or “how well can I view processes and experiences from a distance or bird’s-eye-view in order to recognise essential patterns?”

In advance, trial days, in which candidates follow the company’s work, shadow employees and get a better sense of the work atmosphere, can also be a good tool for approaching each other. 

Apart from more intense job interviews, the betterplace lab team has also developed a good onboarding process. Every new employee gets a godfather or godmother, who aids them in questions on company culture and regularly holds feedback talks. 

In retrospect, one special competency in regard to the hiring process for Future of Work companies seems essential to us: to be able to describe one’s own culture and values as clearly and precisely as the individual abilities that are needed for a successful collaboration. As many of this is new and unfamiliar, teams should think hard on how to assist new members. In the betterplace lab, for example, everybody gets supervision sessions with Bettina. 

When the decision has been made, a reliable onboarding process allows the new team member to arrive in the company, find their place and, if necessary, acquire new competencies and capacities. 

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