Did you know that organisations in the UK are failing to hire the right person for two out of five roles?
Budget cuts, concerns over research funding, increasing student target numbers, the pressure of global competition are just some of the challenges universities are currently experiencing. To be able to tackle these complex issues, it is more important than ever to take on competent managers.
Trained and diverse interview panel
You might be surprised to hear that making the wrong decision for mid-manager level with a salary of £42,000 can cost an organisation in excess of £130,000 (as per a report by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation). Although most universities are generally aware of the financial implications of poor hiring, they often fail to consider the indirect costs including wasted training, increased employee turnover, loss of performance and motivation and failed targets. If you want to ensure that your department is appointing the right candidate, you need to provide high-quality interview training.
The recruitment process can be a subjective experience because people tend to employ others who are similar to them. A diverse interview panel can contribute to more objective decision making and also building a diverse workforce. When your panel includes senior managers from a range of different professional, cultural or academic backgrounds, you will be able to select the most competent individual for the job.
The balance of attitude and experience
According to research conducted by Mark Murphy, the author of Hiring for Attitude, 89% of poor hiring decisions occur for attitudinal reasons and only 11% of them are due to a shortage of skill.
If you take a look at vacancies for university management positions, you will quickly notice that past experience weighs heavily in the selection process. Universities encourage applicants with previous experience coming from nearly (or exactly) the same role, from the same sector and from a similar organisation. It is understandable that they seek to minimise the risks of hiring by taking on staff who have already done the job.
However, they fail to note the perils of their approach. When you appoint managers with experience in a highly similar role, you start creating homogeneous management teams. In turbulent times, this can be detrimental to the success of departments. The currency of success comes from innovative, diverse and heterogeneous management.
You would probably agree with me that technical abilities are easier to evaluate than attitude. Yet, a sense of humour, entrepreneurial skills, proactivity, resilience, creative problem solving or enthusiasm for learning are just as important to consider as previous experience.
Behavioural interview questions, assessments, observation and body language can give helpful clues about candidates’ work attitudes. However, if you would like to significantly increase your chance of appointing the right person, you will need to consider internal candidates. Do not fall into the trap of ignoring potential talent within your university whilst you are seeking externally for the perfect individual to fill a management post.
If you are looking for a student recruitment manager, you might only think about promoting recruitment officers within your university. However, why not also consider staff members from admissions, marketing, business development or even human resources? Individuals from the above departments could have relevant skills, the right attitude and experience, and an outstanding work approach.
Talent management programmes can be powerful because you will be able to nurture potential high performers before any new job openings come up. Coaching, mentoring and technical courses can help quickly fill the gaps if the individual has the right attitude but lack some experience. Herb Kelleher, former Southwest Airlines CEO succinctly summed up the importance of attitudes:
“We can change skill levels through training. We can’t change attitude.”
If hiring internally is not an option, you may like to consider using an executive search firm. A reputable firm will help you to quickly find the right candidates. They will reach out to talented professionals who are currently working in the field and skillfully engage with them. Instead of hiring average performers, the firm will help you to appoint top performers with the right skills, experience and education.
You will save a considerable amount of time and money when you no longer need to sort through hundreds of applications. You will only interview the best of the best because the company will narrow down the number of potential interviewees using their skills and knowledge. This will free up time for you and you will be able to tackle important tasks such as leading innovative projects or writing policies.
It is wise to find an executive search company with genuine expertise in your sector. SearchHigher offers a tailored approach to suit the needs of the higher education environment. They have a highly collaborative approach and they have advised some of the most prestigious universities globally.
A great manager is skilful at selecting their team and fostering relationships. They excel at listening and showing empathy. They lead by example and manage with integrity. They praise generously and often. They continuously develop their own skills and cherish learning opportunities. According to Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: “A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.” Indeed, outstanding managers know how to bring people together as opposed to conquering and dividing them.