Once a month, we invite members of All Together to join a confidential round-table discussion on a business issue of shared interest, hosted and moderated by our Volunteer Advisors. Last month, we were delighted to partner with leading executive search firm, Drayton, and so it seemed fitting that we ask the co-founders, Rob Seery and Ian Pickett, to share their expertise at May’s CEO Circle.
Rob and Ian founded their company in 2010. Since then, they have helped hundreds of consumer businesses find the right senior leaders to enhance their performance and boost their growth. As experts in the field, Rob and Ian shared key insights into when, why, and how CEOs should look to hire new staff, as well as highlighting the benefits of psychometric testing.
Founders and CEOs are notoriously busy people. And as their businesses grow, so do their to-do lists, making the need to delegate ever more pressing. They need people around them who have the knowledge necessary to cover blind spots, and to bring expertise to a more established business.
The tumult of the last two years has undoubtedly accentuated this, with several of our CEOs noting how significant shifts in the market and consumer behaviour have exposed weaknesses and presented new opportunities. Weaknesses must be remedied and opportunities must be taken advantage of if businesses are to remain competitive and continue to grow.
Ian Pickett’s CV //
1997-2007: Supply Chain Leader, Nestle
2007-2010: Senior Search Consultant, Nigel Wright Consultancy
2010-Present: Founding Partner, Drayton
Rob Seery’s CV //
1997-2004: Various Senior Trading Roles, Marks & Spencer
2004-2010: Senior Manager, UK Consumer Division, Nigel Wright Consultancy
The most logical solution to both lies in recruitment,but the questions of when and how to go about this process are challenges in themselves, particularly for small businesses, where finances are usually limited and time is a most precious commodity. This is where, traditionally, experts like Rob and Ian would come in to simplify and guide the process to ensure a high quality of candidates. For most early-stage CEOs, however, the fees incurred at this stage are prohibitive. So, our partners at Drayton were kind enough to offer their advice…
Rob and Ian immediately stressed the usefulness of psychometric testing to assist with the recruitment process. “You can use psychometric testing not just to assess potential hires, but to assess yourself and your team, too”, Rob explained. By understanding what makes the people within your organisation tick, as well as their strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes, you can identify the areas you need to strengthen and the sort of people who might complement your existing team. This will help you to understand not only what role your business needs most, but also what kind of person to look for.
Psychometrics should also be used within the interview process itself, ideally at the shortlist phase, according to Drayton’s in-house psychometrician. “The Occupational Personality Questionnaire is the gold standard when it comes to psychometrics”, she explained, “it assesses personalities across 32 dimensions to tell you about how affiliative someone is, what their social confidence is like, things like that.” Assessing the psychometrics of your top 5 candidates can help you see where they would fit in to your team, what gaps they could fill, and how they might work with existing members. Nevertheless, Ian was eager to clarify that psychometrics should not be used as the sole factor to determine which candidate you hire.
“Be careful with psychometrics”, he said. “Don’t use them as a yes or no answer; use them to get a broad understanding of the individual and craft questions from that to deepen your understanding.” Rob added to this by underlining the importance of marrying psychometrics with soft referencing. “Sometimes people aren’t so good in interviews. Listening to someone that worked with them for a year will give you a better understanding of the individual than you can ever get from 4 hours of interviews.” Even with both of these strategies in place, you cannot know for certain whether a new hire will prove to be the right choice in the long-term, which brings us to our next solution.
Test the waters
One of our members referenced a particular strategy they’d had a lot of success with: fixed-term contracts. “We hire on 6-12-month contracts”, she said, “and that lets you see how well the candidate is able to fulfil the role. We’ve hired up to 10 people this way.” Fixed-term contracts are undoubtedly an effective tool, and are something worth considering, but Ian mentioned that it can be hard to attract people to fixed-term contracts. Something similar, but slightly more flexible, are interim roles.
“Interim roles can be extremely useful,” Ian claimed. “Bringing in a contractor on a daily rate allows you to test the water, evaluate the financial ramifications of a hire, and see how it works in practise. You can clearly see whether making the position permanent would be beneficial.” This option is so useful for small businesses because interim roles can be terminated whenever they like. Rob supported this idea further, saying: “Contractors also offer a great opportunity for your team to learn. By having them around, your employees can extract their knowledge and expertise to help with their own development.” It may even lead to an individual in your team improving so much that they become a strong candidate for the role you’re after.
Both of these options are very cost-effective, both in terms of time and money. The flexibility they provide means you can immediately begin advertising without extensively deliberating over exactly what you need, saving time. If you hire someone and immediately recognise it isn’t working, you can either terminate the relationship or simply wait until the 6-month period is up. You aren’t tied into long-term, financially intensive contracts, meaning you can continuously refine the role you are looking for until you settle on what’s right for your business.
Keep it simple
Even with all this advice, CEOs and founders will find it difficult to recruit if they don’t keep it simple. As mentioned previously, one of the most common traps small businesses fall into is adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach, where they try to hire one person to fulfil multiple roles. They do so either because they can’t decide which role will benefit their business the most, or because they don’t have the finances available for two new hires.
“We see this all the time”, said Ian, “and it rarely works.” Rob followed up at this point, stating how “hybrid roles are extremely difficult to sell to people who have developed specialisations in particular areas.” Their advice was to try to stay away from hybrid positions as much as possible, but – if you have no other option – it is better to promote to those positions from within, rather than hiring externally.
For external hires however, it is crucial to be clear in your job advertisements. Job titles, for example, have become a lot quirkier in recent times to make businesses seem unique, but this tactic is one Ian recommended avoiding. “Different job titles create ambiguity for the individual. They don’t quite understand what the job actually is”, he explained. “If I’m advertising a job, I’m using the most standard title because I know that’s going to get the maximum number of people looking at it.” The more people who look, the more applications. And the more applications you get, the more likely you are to find someone who fits the bill.
* * *
We’d like to say a huge thank you to our generous partners at Drayton for providing such amazing advice for our members. Rob and Ian concluded the discussion by welcoming All Together members who have more questions about recruitment and psychometric testing to follow up with them.
If any of these issues apply to your business, or if you could benefit from more advice, apply to All Together today for up to five hours of pro bono support from a leading UK CEO