Replacing Jeremy Clarkson-a lesson in recruitment.

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Since March this year, the papers have been filled with the fall out of “that punch” and subsequently who would replace Jeremy Clarkson on the popular Sunday evening motoring show.

I’m not that bothered personally, but I think there are things all organisations could learn from the way the BBC have gone about it from a recruitment perspective. They have shown a real sense for understanding their customer needs, their business needs (or in this case, the requirements of the show) and a firm grip on culture, values and direction of where they want to go.

The success of the show has been mainly down to the personalities who present it and their chemistry. With that in mind, it would be easy to try and find like for like. Sometimes that is the right choice, sometimes not and in this case, it is definately not the right choice. People have grown up with Jeremy Clarkson and there would be an inevitable backlash if you tried to just “replace him”. The closest you could get to that would be appointing someone like Piers Morgan (old, unpopular and popular in equal measure, opinionated and confrontational). But he lacks many of the other facets needed for the role so is a quick rejection.

Another element of the show is obviously the encyclopedic knowledge of cars, a passion for the apparent beauty, smell and noise of all things with an engine and four wheels. So people throw the name Guy Martin, the very northern TT Racer, in the mix. He has made some enjoyable Channel 4 programmes, and knows his engines, but is he really a creative and confident presenter with a strong enough character (and fan base) to replace someone like Clarkson? No pile for him.

Then there is the “petrolhead” aspect of the role. Hence the names Steve Coogan and JK are thrown into the pot. But both of these people are popular amongst the viewers, but just tick that box, and don’t have the other strings to their bow. As much as I would love to see Alan Partridge take the helm, it just wouldn’t work.

Many people made comments that you have to go in a completely different direction as you can’t recreate the show without those personalities and to a certain extent they are right. So what is the opposite to a chauvinistic, untrendy old ugly man?? A female supermodel. Enter Jodie Kidd. She also has pedigree in presenting a competing show and loves cars. She may still make the cut, but I don’t think she would ever have the strength of personality to run the show.

The final question was whether to replace him at all. Why not just save money and make do with the other two? Okay so they took themselves out of the mix, but even that wouldn’t have worked. Their strength was their dynamic, but also Clarksons creative input, his production experience as well as his divisive character which even if you didn’t like him, you were still intrigued as to what dross he would come out with next!

So the news out this week is that Chris Evans has got the job and I think it is a great appointment. He has the strength of personality, he has pedigree, he has the creative and production track record and he loves cars. The key is that he is also very different to Clarkson in many ways, but there is enough similarity there for the programme will likely keep its current fan base, but probably add more. Additionally, Chris has previous experience in stepping into well worn shoes (i.e. Terry Wogans breakfast show) and making them fit. So he should hopefully build on the legacy left by Clarkson, rather than just try to re-do what Clarkson has done for so many years.

So what does this teach us about recruitment? What can we take away and apply for our next appointment?

1. Know what made the previous employee great.
2. Know what you would have liked to have improved on the previous employee.
3. Know what your business needs to move forward and what the next person needs to bring to the table to make that happen.
4. Know what your customer base expects.
5. Take note of other opinions, but don’t make decisions solely on them- only you know the answers to the above points.

And most importantly, don’t just dust off the old JD and say, “get me another one of them”. Each piece of recruitment is an opportunity to evolve, to get better and drive your business forward. Think of your mobile phone- when its time to upgrade, do you ask for another Nokia 3210 or do you want the iphone 6?

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Will technology wipe out recruitment?

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I think every service industry has been asking itself this question over the past decade or so.  Having moved into a new role, I’ve been looking at the business to see what we can do differently to get ahead of the competition and one thing is clear- people are trying to find the solution in tech!!  To rub salt into the wounds, a few HR people have told me that apparently the recruitment industry will die because of things like Linkedin or online recruitment solutions, but I’m not sure I agree, and the main reason for this is because our product is people.

Who knows if one day we’ll have drones  dropping candidates off for their first day at work…..?

Undated handout artist impression issued by BAE Systems of a small UAV carrying a person as 3D printers could be made so advanced that they could create small unmanned aircraft, BAE Systems scientists and engineers claim. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday July 6, 2014. By 2040 3D printers could be made so advanced that they could create small unmanned aircraft, BAE Systems scientists and engineers claim. Nick Colosimo, a futurist and engineering manager at BAE Systems Systems' research and development team in Warton, Lancashire, said: "Of course we don't know exactly what sorts of aircraft technologies will be used in 2040 with any certainty, but it's great to be able to show the public some concepts that might be possible through projecting where today's technology could get to. See PA story DEFENCE Aircraft. Photo credit should read: BAE Systems/PA Wire  NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
“Rent officer 1342 reporting for duty”

Or having “virtual interviews” with holograms to save on travelling to the businesses……? Or will we be sending R2-D2 to our client rather than John Smith……..?

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“I am your Housing officer”

Maybe, but I don’t think any of that will lead to the demise of the recruitment industry.

The recruitment market has changed hugely in the 13 years that I have been plying my trade.  We used to fax CVs to clients (remember the fax???), we worked from folders of contacts which you would tippex out people who had moved on (remember the joy of tippex???), and there was one model for the provision of recruitment services.

As a young industry, recruitment has embraced technology and uses it to enhance its offering.  There are now many different RPO’s (Recruitment Process Outsourcing), which aim to provide low cost, high volume solution, often online.  There are companies offering video interview facilities and applicant tracking programmes.  There are literally trillions of online job boards.

Interestingly, I feel that in my sector, Social Housing, many of these “less human” solutions actually create more issues than it solves.  It takes the recruiter one more step away from the end client, which reduces our understanding of the end clients intangible requirements.  And lets face it, has anyone ever valued a blanket e-mail rejection from an applicant tracking system?

Housing is a people business and no algorithm is yet able to be as perceptive as human intuition.

Whilst procurement professionals love RPO’s, as it will inevitably reduce the agency spend, front line recruiting managers often pro-actively seek out their old agency relationships.  In fact, these online solutions have actually helped clients to understand our value.  After the initial joy of having to not deal with recruitment consultants (after the balloons have deflated and the party poppers have been cleared away), many hiring managers notice the drop in quality when direct contact with the recruiter is taken away.  The value of human interaction, understanding the personalities involved, building trust and being accountable comes to the fore.

So the reality is that the value of human perception, judgement, sensitivity and intelligence should always mean that we are a key element in the recruitment process, but we must make sure that we dovetail with technology solutions to ensure constantly improved services.

And if not, then I’ll just have to dig out my new uniform….

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