Why I hire staff without the qualifications they need

What is uppermost in your mind when you look to recruit a new member for your team or company?

Why I hire staff without the qualifications they need

What is uppermost in your mind when you look to recruit a new member for your team or company? Are you looking for someone who has the same skills and background as the person they are replacing? Is it important that they come from a well-respected university? That they’ll get on with the rest of the team, and share a similar outlook to yours? That their ‘face will fit’?

That’s the safe route, and it’s the traditional way that most companies have recruited. It’s also why the business world lags so far behind society in the diversity of its workforce ‘ especially at senior levels. Have you ever wondered if the safest route is actually the best way forward for the future of your business? 

By taking the safe route, might you simply be recruiting someone who looks like you, acts like you, thinks like you and everyone else around them, and won’t challenge the decisions you make? Could you really do with someone who might challenge you from time to time, question your time-honoured way of doing things, recognise opportunities that you would never have spotted, and come at things from a different direction? 

The business argument for greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace is simply this: the more ways in which you can look at a problem, the better chance you have of solving it. Added to that is the fact that every business should reflect the clients and customers it serves, if it really wants to understand and connect with them.

When I joined the workplace, companies were run along broadly hierarchical lines: people stayed with an employer for years ‘ often a lifetime. They patiently ‘served their time’ in a role before taking the place of the person above them, by which time they had been moulded into that person’s way of working. The succession process was geared towards continuity, stability, and safety: important factors in business.

That might have worked then, but it would be a recipe for disaster today. Now we work largely in teams assembled for a specific purpose: light-footed groups that have to deal with regular changes of remit or even have to be rebuilt to deal with a new brief; teams that have to cope with frequent staff changes because no one stays in a job for long anymore; teams that might draw on outside contractors for specific skills or to bolster capacity; teams that have to work across international boundaries; teams that need to empathise with highly diverse client bases.

In this new reality, the last thing you want is a group of people who look, think and act in a similar way. The ‘clone approach’ to recruitment ‘ especially at a senior level ‘ was one factor that increased the scale of the financial crisis. 

Making sure that the business I manage is indeed reflective of society hasn’t always been easy. It has meant radically adjusting the lens through which I see the world. At times, I have struggled to find the right words to use with staff from minority groups. I have had to find ways to encourage my teams to change the way they work and persuade people in my business that the effort is worth it. I have had to convince others that I am not simply paying lip service or virtue-signalling.

Walking the walk now means that when I recruit, I will consider an individual who doesn’t have the qualifications and technical ability required for a role, or who doesn’t slot in as a direct replacement ‘ but who has the potential and will contribute most to their team. Often, I look for someone with a different perspective that will complement the others, while challenging their and my thinking when necessary: that approach alone has led me to appoint (and subsequently promote) people I would never have considered before. The more cognitively, ethnically, and socially diverse my teams are, the better they reflect the clients they serve and the more effectively they can rise to the opportunities and challenges we are presented with. 

Steve Butler
Steve Butler

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