Perhaps you saw the BBC 2 series ‘Who’s the boss’. Three programmes featuring collaborative hiring, a relatively new concept in recruitment whereby the entire workforce has a say in who to hire. They followed three small companies as they tried the technique for the first time with mixed results. It was a fascinating insight, not only into a new way of recruiting but also into the problems faced by small companies looking for a key hire.
It is probably no surprise that collaborative hiring has been used by Google, Facebook, and Apple with great success, companies who are innovators both in their products and services and their staff development. They have also adopted or possibly even created new approaches to personnel management such as team-based goal setting, 360° feedback, and team decision-making. But to disrupt traditional manager-dominated hiring is something most companies have not yet considered, particularly in the UK.
There are many advantages to collaborative hiring and a few quite significant disadvantages, namely the time it can take and the disruption to the company’s output. But if your company is faced with a key hiring decision, it would make sense to get feedback from the workforce on the candidates as they are the ones going to be working alongside them and they know more than anyone, what it takes to be great at the job.
There are quite a bewildering number of pros and cons to collaborative hiring which suggests it is quite an individual choice whether it will be successful or not.
Authentic voice of the employee – they may be the most effective brand ambassadors. They are likely to be viewed by the candidate as credible and authentic, so what they say is likely to be believed. An important point to note is that it is vital that your employees are engaged and enthusiastic or they might actually end up putting the candidates off the role and/or the company altogether.
No surprises for the new hires – the candidates are likely to get a realistic job preview of their job and their teammates before they accept the role and so there should be fewer surprises or disappointments once they start.
Reduction in hiring errors - using collaborative hiring means everyone will assess the candidates in a slightly different way from their own individual perspective resulting in a more thorough, rounded process.
Employee involvement may improve referrals - being involved in the hiring process can encourage the workforce to feel more valued and can encourage more employee referrals.
Competitive advantage - publicising innovative hiring techniques can improve brand image, and future recruiting.
Improved productivity – if the employees feel they had an important role in hiring a candidate, they may feel motivated to stay involved in helping, mentor, and train the new hire as they have more of an incentive for them to do well.
Faster on-boarding – the candidate will have had a chance to get to know the company well during the interview stage and will find it easier to settle in.
Retention benefits – existing employees could be reminded of what a great place it is to work as they get involved in ‘selling’ the company to the candidates.
Reinforcing company culture with collaboration - knowing they have a voice, being trusted, and feeling needed are inevitably going to improve employee engagement and may increase retention rates.
Time taken – Clearly, if the entire workforce has a say in a new hiring, the recruitment process is going to take longer and there is a risk of losing top candidates as well as a loss in production for the company itself. On several occasions in the BBC programmes production was completely shut down while the workforce met to discuss the process. Delays can be minimized with practice if the system is adopted for all senior hires and in our experience as recruiters, many companies use long recruitment processes already and collaborative decisions could be included within this scheme. Technology is now so advanced that live remote video could allow everyone to participate without having to leave their workplace.
Lack of formal recruitment training – there is a risk that members of staff could unwittingly ask the wrong questions or discuss areas that are illegal in the hiring process and it would be difficult to monitor all interactions with the candidate or even record them in the event of a formal complaint.
Under-hiring – a brilliant candidate may make some employees feel threatened or made to feel insecure. There is a danger therefore of some employees purposely or unconsciously recommending the weaker candidates. This isn’t necessarily a unique problem to collaborative hiring as the same thing can occur when hiring managers are in charge.
Cost of lost productivity – as mentioned previously there is a real danger of losing significant employee productivity because of the time devoted to the hiring process. You could argue however, that hiring the perfect candidate collaboratively saves money in the long run, reducing the need to have to re-advertise and hire again when the first candidate doesn’t work out.
Confidentiality – there is a risk that when so many people are involved, candidate confidentiality could be compromised.
Doing HR’s work for them - recruitment managers are paid and trained to do the hiring, so care needs to be taken to reassure the workforce that they haven’t abdicated the responsibility for reasons of cost or laziness. The employee’s opinion is key to the overall decision making process rather than burdening them with a responsibility they feel unqualified to deal with.
Ignoring employee input – if using the collaborative hiring model, it is important to embrace it wholeheartedly. If employee feedback is only advisory, it should be made very clear from the outset. If employees feel that their advice is ignored or disregarded, it may result in resentment or refusal to participate in future.
Evidence – there have been no definitive studies of the success or otherwise of collaborative hiring so it is a brave company who decides to try it without any evidence one way or the other.
Ethics – in the BBC programmes, the candidates were unaware of the fact that they were being assessed by the entire workforce until the end of the process. The reason given that the candidates would behave differently if they knew. It is questionable however, if this is ethical as they were effectively tricking the candidates or at least misleading them. The interview process must be a two-way, equal process for both employer and candidate alike.
Collaboration restricted to recruitment – once the workforce gets a taste for being part of the decision making for the company, restricting it just to the recruitment process might cause resentment and a company may find themselves agreeing to all decision making to be collaborative. This obviously could be a good thing but possibly more than the management team bargained for.
When it goes wrong.
One of the BBC programmes featured a company called BrewDog, an artisan brewing business with a distinct culture. The collaborative hiring experiment spectacularly broke down when the CEO intervened midway through the process and withdrew the job on offer from the three shortlisted candidates as he didn’t feel they were suitably qualified. He offered them an alternative role but none of them accepted and the company were left with no area manager they were recruiting for and a workforce who inevitably felt disgruntled at their input being ignored and a lot of time wasted in the process.
It is important to clarify in our view, that this failure was not one of collaborative hiring gone wrong but rather incomplete preparation before the collaboration began. If a company is going to hand over the hiring decision to the workforce, it is essential that the senior management are happy with the shortlist before they are put forward to the staff. The BrewDog CEO was totally right that the three candidates were completely unsuitable for the culture of the company but the failure was not identifying the problem before the collaborative process got underway, not the process itself.
Should you use it?
Collaborative hiring would be an excellent choice if a company was faced with two or three very suitable candidates that were all well qualified and suitable for the role in question. Handing over the final decision to the employees to decide who they would prefer to work with could be the win-win situation for everyone involved. It is not a process to be attempted without very careful thought and thorough preparation for workforce and candidates alike but could have an excellent outcome with many added benefits to the company and staff.
At Chapple we specialize in sourcing candidates in external and internal communications, employee engagement, change and business transformation roles.
Contact us on 020 7734 8209 for more information about how we can help you find the right people for your business.