Hiring type one types

Hiring Type One Types

If you've ever been to Paris you'll know that you only need to get within sight of the Eiffel Tower and you find yourself approached by street sellers, weighed down with armfuls of Eiffel Tower keyrings, magnets and other souvenirs. On a recent trip to Paris, it was only after we had been approached by the third or fourth seller that I realised something interesting... they greeted us in English. I only realised because I overheard a seller speaking other languages to other tourists afterwards. How did they know we were British? We weren't wearing the Union Jack, or anything obviously British. But they knew.

With so many street sellers about, and therefore huge amounts of competition between them for customers, and such a short window to get that first opening right, I would imagine that the more successful ones are the ones who can at-a-glance work out which language to use on their approach. Ask a seller (I didn't) how they knew we were British and I expect they may struggle to put it into words. Something to do with the clothes we wore, the way we walked, our skin colour (pale from the lack of sunshine)... I expect that they didn't consciously think about any of these factors though, they just took one look at us and their experience and snap judgement said "speak English to these people".

We have two operating systems in our minds, the conscious and the subconscious. The subconscious (System One) is a supercomputer and it processes information from our senses, is responsible for our emotions and instincts. The conscious mind (System Two) is a logical processor which works with rational arguments, understands numbers and interprets words. The former is super-fast and the latter is relatively slow and clunky. The Paris sellers' snap judgement on our nationality will have been made subconsciously, rapidly, using System One. To ask them to explain how they knew would have required them to describe their instinctive understanding, a System One thing, into System Two words. Have you ever just known something and not be able to explain why, when the best you could say was "I just knew".

Working with public health colleagues in the Midlands last week we came to talking about the recruitment processes they used for hiring front-line staff, processes which frustrated them because they explained, "there are people we interview that we just know would be brilliant with the public, but we have to recruit based on a strict rational process which means we get the best on paper, but often not the person we feel instinctively will have the biggest impact on the role".

Supporting people through the process of behaviour change is a mostly System One process. From the moment an individual decides to make a change, through the development of new habits and the abandonment of old ones, to surviving the triggers and emotional pitfalls that can trip them up. It's almost entirely emotional. Those who can create better rapport with their clients and who have better people skills are the ones that service users seek out when they need support. System One people. Most recruitment processes however, are System Two processes, assessing System Two qualifications, System Two CVs, questions about System Two factors such as how many people and how big a budget they have managed. Candidates are evaluated and compared in System Two scoring and then the final decision has to be justified in writing, System Two words.

Working in health improvement isn't just an occupation though. It's a pre-occupation - a little bit of your soul has to go into it. It's not just a job, but a way of seeing the world. My question is how can we better align the hiring process to identify the System One types, the creative people people, who are so passionate about what they do, who breathe and live what they promote and yet who may otherwise fall through the System Two hiring process.

I have come across some great examples of companies who use System One recruitment processes. Interestingly, something they all have in common is that they use emotional language to advertise their posts and to sell their organisations, to attract System One people.

  • Disney famously recruit people based on their attitude rather than their aptitude and, once hired, involve them at every stage in company decisions to make their customer experience even better.
  • Southwest Airlines in the USA say that working for them is not a job, it's a crusade! They hire for spirit and enthusiasm. They have posted outrageous adverts for staff including one showing their then CEO Herb Kelleher dressed as Elvis, with candidates asked to send their CVs for the "Attention of Elvis". They interview people in groups to assess the people dynamics and attitude and they ask candidates questions such as "what was the most fun project you have worked on?".
  • Internet giant Dropbox lists "working in an office over the road from the San Francisco Giants Ballpark" as one of the perks of the job. They also list "if you are ill stay home and get better" as a benefit. OK, that's kind of a given, but isn't it nice to read it in that kind of friendly language.
  • Another internet company, Weebly.com, offer their staff unlimited annual leave. I'm not normally a mind-reader but I'm sure I just heard you gasp and think "that would never work in my organisation - people would abuse that one." But would they? System One people, for whom health improvement is a pre-occupation, probably work more hours than they should, because they love it. Weebly.com are a hugely successful and profitable company so this benefit works for them.
  • Some companies post problems they are trying to solve in their recruitment pages and invite submissions of possible solutions. How amazing would that be to ask the public how they would solve some of our biggest problems? And not in a formal consultation process, but in an ongoing creative conversation style.
  • And if you don't have the power to change your hiring process, and you come across a gem you need in your team but you can't justify your decision rationally... simply write "It's a System One thing and it's locked away in my subconscious where I have no rational access to it. I just know." And if HR don't like it, send them my way...

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