Topic 7: Hiring and dismissing staff

Recruitment and selection
The recruitment process
Selection methods and their effectiveness
Dismissing staff: what are the responsibilities of managers?
Retaining staff

Selecting the right people is possibly the most important function of a manager. The future of any organisation depends on the quality and suitability of the people working for it. New people who do not share the values or the culture of the organisation are going to present ongoing problems of integration and management.

The first stage is to confirm that the job is necessary and to define the role that it plays in the organisation—how it contributes towards the organisational goals. A job analysis—carried out by someone other than the job-holder, and focusing on the contribution of the job to organisational objectives —is often useful. Once the need for a position has been established, the next stage is to define the nature of the job and the requirements for the person doing it. A job description should include a brief overview of the position, a list of functions, an explanation of the reporting structure and a description of the qualification needed to do the job Care needs to be taken when publicising the job description (for example, in an advertisement) that the real criteria you will use for selection are included. For example, if you write a purely technical job description, then you cannot reject someone who has the best qualifications but comes over as rude and unco-operative. The candidate is justified in claiming unfair discrimination.

The two main sources of people are from within the organisation and from outside the organisation. The best candidate for the position may be someone within the company. Current employees often expand their job skills and knowledge while working for their employer and may be much better educated or qualified for a position than their application at time of starting with the organisation reveals. Hiring from within should not be the exclusive practice as it can lead to 'inbreeding' and a perpetration of old ways while stifling creativity. The advantages of external hiring practices include: 'new blood', new perspectives, cheaper than training a professional, no group of political supporters in the organisation already and it may bring industry insights. One effective source of new staff is referrals from employees and friends. A major survey showed that this source had a better record of survival on the job than others. Naturally care has to be taken in using this approach, as there is a danger of nepotism and a closed shop.

Various processes are used to identify the most promising candidates; generally more than one process is used. Most organisations ask for a résumé or job application from all candidates. A selected group of candidates is then invited to attend an interview, a system of tests, or an assessment centre, or some combination of these. One of the best ways of identifying whether someone is going to be an effective member of staff is to work with them for a period.

Some organisations prefer to ask candidates to come in to the office and fill in an application form. This ensures that all the information required is included, and makes it more difficult for the candidate to distort the truth. For example, the format usually ensures that full employment records are provided and the résumé is prepared by the candidate and not by some professional agent.

The interview has been criticised by various scholars in controlled studies for having low validity and low reliability. However, overall, a well-conducted interview has at least as great a predictive power as other techniques, is less costly to conduct and is often more acceptable to candidates.

The main research finding is that unstructured interviews—the informal chat between a manager and a candidate—has low validity (Buckley et al., 2000). It is important that interviews be planned properly, have specific goals, and be sufficiently similar that candidates can be compared in an objective manner.

Many organisations use tests to evaluate the skills and competencies and personality of the candidates. It takes considerable expertise to devise and interpret tests of any but simple skills, so these are often better done by specialists such as recruitment agencies. Selecting the best candidate is not the end of the hiring process. It is advisable to make an offer quickly or the candidate might accept an offer elsewhere. Once the person starts, he/she needs to be inducted into the organisation.

There are two normal grounds for dismissal: one is serious misconduct. In such cases the employee can be dismissed without further warnings, and without notice. The other ground for dismissal is incompetence—failure to meet the standards expected and defined by the employer. In other cases, while there may be no performance problem as such, organisations will dismiss staff due to a lack of demand for products or services which lead to reductions in demand for labour.

Essential questions which you should ask yourself if you are involved in a case of dismissal are:
* Is it legal to dismiss the employee?
* What are your organisation's regulations and procedures?
* What are the facts of the situation?
* Have detailed written records been kept?
* Has the employee been treated fairly and with dignity?

The main problem with most competitive companies is not getting rid of poor people: it is retaining the good people. Most people leave an organisation not because they are dismissed, but because they choose to leave, generally for a better position elsewhere. This problem of retention is exacerbated by the cost of replacement. There is, however, a shortage of highly-qualified people available. All too often the best people are kept in lower positions, doing the same work for long periods, because 'they are too valuable to move'.

Loyalty has to be two-way—employee loyalty is the result of employer loyalty. If the employer sees someone through hard times with sympathy and concern, this generates staff loyalty (often from staff who are not the recipients of the special treatment, but who appreciate the decency of the employer). The first test of loyalty comes very early in the appointment, when the new employee finds out if the position and the organisation have been truthfully described. If they have been misrepresented, the chance of the employee staying long are not high. One of the useful measures to control the loss of staff is to have exit interviews—preferably some time after the departure. Unless the organisation knows why people are leaving, it cannot prevent further losses.

From: High Impact Hiring (1997) Chapter 8, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

The effectiveness of your interviewing can be increased in the following ways:
1. Determine the purpose of the interview.
2. Ask about only a few key job qualifications.
3. Use a structured interview format.
4. Limit use of preinterview information.
5. Create a relaxed interviewing environment.
6. Develop a system for scoring interviews.
7. Evaluate applicants' strengths and weaknesses on specific dimensions, not their overall suitability.
8. Don't make hiring decisions during the interview.
9. Train interviewers.
10. Evaluate the success of your interviewing.