What is values-based recruitment and how can it help your business?

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What is values-based recruitment and how can it help your business?

Staff retention, better productivity, and higher morale are all claimed benefits of recruiting candidates based on their values. But what is values-based recruitment and how could it help you? At its most basic level, values-based recruitment is where you attract and select candidates according to whether their values and behaviours align with those of your organisation.

You can teach skills and competencies, so the thinking goes, but you cannot teach candidates to be the right cultural fit for your organisation – that is inherent in them and so being able to look for and assess this in the recruitment process is essential to making sure you hire the right candidate for your business.

This is particularly pertinent for accountancy firms, says Alastair Barlow, founder and partner at Flinder, an accounting, advisory and data analytics start-up. “The biggest challenge any accountancy firm has is not winning new clients – though, of course, everyone wants to win more clients and win more revenue – but actually, people are the engine to that growth, and culture and values are the oil.”

The initial benefits of values-based recruitment are obvious: using the approach, individuals you hire are more likely to be a good fit, which means they should feel an affinity with your mission, be happier and more productive. This will not only boost staff retention, but it can also help you reduce the chance of making a costly hiring mistake.

“If you actively live your values, then anyone who does not fit those will not be a good fit,” says Rob Blythe, founder and director of talent acquisition company Instant Impact. “Then you have a difficult decision to make: whether to let a recruit go or keep them on regardless. This is a tough position for both the organisation and the employee.”

Far from just avoiding hard situations, Barlow says that having their values-based culture – and, importantly, being open about that on social media – has “transformed” Flinder’s recruitment.

Publicising their culture has attracted many high calibre candidates to the company organically, he says. This does not just help with ensuring candidates are the right fit, it can also save on recruitment fees as some of their more experienced hires came directly to them.

“There are some tangible benefits in terms of hard numbers and some intangible benefits,” he says. “People seem happy, bought in, aligned, work well with each other, really enjoy the team and the culture at Flinder. Generally, they are a lot more aligned to what we are trying to achieve and our purpose as a business.”

Research shows that a strong values culture can support organisation resilience during times of adversity. A study  by the University of East Anglia and the University of Queensland found that organisations with a strong identity – a measure which included values alignment – were four times more likely to maintain “high levels of organisational performance” during the 2008 recession compared with those that had a weak sense of identity.

This is particularly important for organisations facing the challenges and upheavals of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recruiters and HR departments should be thinking carefully about how they support values and belonging during this time, says Professor Kevin Daniels from the University of East Anglia. “The human stuff is really important here, as well as making sure the production lines are still running and delivery is going ahead,” he says.

Even away from current challenges, values-based recruitment could help to ensure your organisation is adaptable. “EY looks to recruit people with the right skills and attributes in order to adapt to new ways of working and encourage diverse perspectives,” says Dan Richards, recruitment director for UK & Ireland at the big four firm.

“Technological innovation continues to challenge and change how we work, and keeping pace with new developments requires an ability to adapt and an agile mindset open to fresh ideas,” he adds.

Be careful about how you apply values-based recruitment, however. Blythe says a typical trap organisations fall into is going for the personality fit of candidates, rather than looking properly at a values-based approach. This can reduce your organisational diversity and allow bias to creep in, he warns.

Done well, however, EY says the approach can help to improve diversity and inclusion. “We’ve adopted a strengths-based recruitment and selection methodology and use technology to help test a candidate’s skills and potential,” says Richards. “Our objective is to ensure that candidates are not disadvantaged due to their background or factors beyond their control, ensuring the profession is open to all and enabling us to recruit the brightest and best talent.”

If you would like some tips on what to avoid when trying values-based recruitment, read our expert insights here 

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