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Hire for Values or Skills?

You have a vacant position which you need to fill as soon as possible. Which is it easier to hire for: Values or Skills?

Skills such as calculating, coding, presenting, and punctuality are talents or abilities that can be developed over time with practice, training and/or experience. Skills are often easier to hire for because they tend to be visible, simpler to quantify, and seem like the rational decision choice, especially when many competing applications are fighting for your limited time. With work waiting to be done, and all candidates motivated and ready to get started, why waste any more time on hiring! The candidate with the best skills can get started faster and be productive quicker.

Are you maybe feeling like values is the right answer here or a least needs equal consideration? After all, respect, trust, equality and other values form the core beliefs that motivate behavior. The values that are lived, daily in your business, define your culture! Aren't values rather nebulous to rest a hiring decision on since values may be hard to see and even harder to quantify?

“skills don’t tell the whole story”

as he explains further that many executives have found having alignment with a company’s culture and values counts much more than skills or experience! From my experience coaching many executives and leaders, workplace challenges involving people, often center on differences in values not a mis-match with skills or experience. A mis-alignment of values can have enormous negative ripples throughout a business. Results may include staff increasingly distracted from the work, more disengagement, broader spectrum of conflict, and heightened stress which can lead to more absences or extended leaves.

In Building An A-Player Culture, coaches Jerry Fons and Graham Mitchell highlight that,

“if your executive team is not living the values, they’re not worth the paper, vinyl, or cardstock they’re printed on”

and further,

“there must be alignment between the core values of your organization and the core values of every individual within – starting with the leadership team”.

Some simple exercises or formal assessments can help people identify their values. Contact me for a free one-page personal values identification exercise.

Here are some reasons why recruiting for values is becoming increasingly important:

  • Cultural fit and team dynamics: Hiring candidates who align with the company's values helps foster a positive and collaborative work environment. When employees share common values, it enhances teamwork, communication, and overall team cohesion. This leads to increased employee satisfaction, productivity, and better collaboration.

  • Long-term employee engagement: Employees who resonate with the organization's values are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. When individuals believe in the mission and values of the company, they tend to be more motivated, dedicated, and willing to go the extra mile to contribute to the organization's success. This can result in higher retention rates and reduced turnover.

  • Adaptability and growth potential: Skills can be developed and improved over time through training and experience. On the other hand, values are deeply ingrained and tend to be more stable. By hiring candidates who share the company's values, you can foster a workforce that is adaptable, open to learning, and more likely to embrace changes and challenges. Values-aligned employees are often more willing to develop new skills and contribute to the growth of the organization.

  • Brand reputation and customer satisfaction: When employees embody the values of the organization, they become ambassadors of its brand. Customers and clients appreciate interacting with individuals who genuinely care about the company's values and mission. This can enhance the organization's reputation, customer satisfaction, and loyalty.

  • Ethical considerations: Values play a crucial role in ethical decision-making. Hiring candidates who align with your company's values can help ensure that ethical considerations are prioritized in the decision-making process. This promotes an ethical work culture and reduces the risk of misconduct or conflicts that may arise when values are not shared.

It's important to note that skills are still essential for roles and tasks. The ideal approach is to strike a balance between skills and values when making hiring decisions rather than defaulting to an over-focus on skills, which may too often be the case with SME businesses. By considering both factors, you can build a well-rounded and high-performing team that not only possesses the necessary skills but also shares the core values that drive your organization's success.

Hiring for values can take longer and require more dedicated effort by leaders. As suggested by Alan Lewis, in How My Company Hires for Culture First, Skills Second, don’t combine the interview for skills and values. I suggest having another person lead the values review to reduce personal biases from the skills review, or alternatively have staff and team members participate in a discussion with a candidate, guided by some values-based questions.

Recruiting for values instead of skills is a growing trend in the hiring process, as companies recognize the importance of cultural fit and shared values within their teams. While skills and qualifications are certainly important, focusing on values during recruitment can lead to better long-term employee engagement and overall organizational success.

Here are some steps you can take to recruit for values:

  1. Identify your company's core values: Before you can recruit for values, you need to clearly define and articulate the core values that drive your organization. These lived values should reflect your company's mission, vision, and desired culture and be discussed on a regular basis.

  2. Incorporate values into job descriptions: When crafting job descriptions, go beyond listing technical skills and qualifications. Include information about your company's values and how they align with the role you're hiring for. This will attract candidates who resonate with your values and are more likely to thrive in your organization.

  3. Conduct behavioral-based interviews: During the interview process, use behavioral-based questions that assess how candidates have demonstrated your company's values in their previous experiences. Ask candidates to provide specific examples of situations where they displayed values such as integrity, teamwork, or innovation.

  4. Assess cultural fit: Cultural fit is crucial for long-term success within an organization. Consider including a cultural fit assessment as part of your recruitment process. This could involve having candidates meet with potential team members or observing their interactions during group activities.

  5. Reference checks and background screening: When checking references, ask specifically about the candidate's alignment with the company's values. Former supervisors or colleagues can provide valuable insights into a candidate's behavior and values in a professional setting.

  6. Implement assessments: Consider using assessments such as DISC to help gauge a candidate's alignment with your organization's values. These assessments can provide additional data points to inform your hiring decisions.

  7. Provide onboarding and ongoing training: Once you've hired candidates who align with your values, ensure they receive proper onboarding and ongoing training to reinforce and nurture those values. Incorporate your company's values into performance evaluations and career development discussions on a regular basis.

Recruiting the right people is critical for business growth. As a CEO, founder, or leader, your time is very limited. Too much focus on skills and qualifications, which might seem easier in the moment is more likely to constrain business growth goals.

Finding the right balance and prioritizing candidates who not only possess the necessary skills but also align with the organization's values and culture. By doing so, you can build more cohesive and engaged teams that contribute to the long-term success of your company.

Time for you to rethink your approach for improved success?

Jerome Dickey, MA, PCC, CPHR, Q.Med


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