Looking for ‘well-stocked minds’ in future candidates

What characteristics should employers look for when they are hiring in the future to successfully navigate business change?

Asking potential employees what they have done during the Covid pandemic should provide “a litmus test” in job interviews as to whether candidates are resilient, adaptable and self-motivated, depending on their responses, according to Margaret Heffernan, professor of practice at the University of Bath School of Management.

Delivering a keynote address for global law firm Baker McKenzie’s virtual ‘Future Work: Renewal strategies for a transformational workforce’ event in February, Heffernan outlined characteristics that employers should look for when they are hiring now, and in the future, to successfully navigate business change.

“What we need are well-stocked minds,” Heffernan said. “People who are capable of change, embrace change and are committed to lifelong learning.”

Asking questions such as what candidates are currently reading and what they did during the pandemic can showcase such traits, she said. “I’ve seen people do extraordinary things [during the pandemic],” Heffernan said. “I think that is going to be a real litmus test.”

Speaking of ‘transformation programmes’, Heffernan said that the failure rate is between 50-80%, often because of employee resistance. Often, she added, “they’re phony programmes. The ‘why’ has to be credible”.

Too often, transformation programmes are created behind closed doors which, Heffernan said, becomes “simply handing down dictats”. Instead, she urged, get more people across the organisation involved and secure their input, telling employees: “ ‘Let’s roll up our sleeves and design this together.’ Participation drives engagement and credibility and legitimacy.”

In the new world of work and acknowledging the economic effects of the pandemic, Heff ernan said: “Our challenge now is to build regenerative organisations that can sustain themselves, and… everything is up for re-examination.”

Innovation occurs, she said, when people “work outside their domain of expertise”, challenging and calling on “the human capacity for imagination”. Measurements such as key performance indicators (KPIs) “restrict imagination”, Heffernan said. During her hourlong talk, Heffernan also described traits of effective teams and recognising failure as a sign of initiative.

Image credit | iStock

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