It’s been a real rollercoaster of experiences over the last couple of years at Red Kite, as we’ve strived to develop a team of great creative and passionate people. Creativity is something we look for, but it has often proved difficult to find. On other occasions though, it’s been like waiting for a bus, with three or four great talents applying for the same job, all at once. Ordinarily, most organisations might accept the best candidate and promise to keep the other details on file, but I see it as a hugely missed opportunity.
If you notice something in someone – if they demonstrate your organisation's values and your gut tells you they would fit in your organisation – then you’re probably onto something. Potential is sometimes easy to see, but harder to nurture, and over the course of some recent recruitment, we’ve noted some key learning which I think is worth sharing...
Lesson one: Don’t compromise on people who tick most of the boxes - it rarely works out. Sometimes you have to wait for special people. Our approach to recruitment is about finding personalities and not people, because you can teach someone a skill or a task – what’s harder is finding a character that makes for a great colleague.
Lesson two: Be flexible. If you’re lucky enough to have more than one great candidate, think seriously about whether they can fit somewhere else in the organisation. If you don’t have the flexibility to do this, why not? Recruitment is expensive and time-consuming, so make the effort count.
Lesson three: Keep trying new ways to attract the right people and use your whole organisation to get your key roles out there. Building a great team is everyone’s responsibility, and they know who they can and can’t work with.
Lesson four: Create the right environment – it’s critical to your business success. Having a bright and modern place to work, with plenty of space for interaction, is a good start. But even more than that, having dedicated creative time for the whole organisation to take time out and solve problems (for us it’s every Wednesday morning), and do things that we don’t normally have time for, is such a good way to add value. Think about removing hierarchy in terms of the ‘do as you are told’ model, in place of nurturing people to take responsibility and embrace their skills to find new ideas and solutions.
Lesson five: Encourage creativity. One of the experiences I initially found really frustrating, was the number of people we interviewed who couldn’t demonstrate any creativity whatsoever and sat dumbstruck when asked to share a few of their thoughts on the things they would love to do if there were no boundaries.
On reflection, I realised that maybe most of these candidates just never had the right opportunity to develop their creative side in a work environment. It mirrored the same feeling I had when I talked to my staff about the concept of empowerment and taking responsibility, something I was passionate about. For some, it wasn’t a concept they were used to or had been encouraged to practice previously, so it was interesting to see how they responded.
Of course, there is always more we can do to encourage everyone to find their creative streak. For some it’s easier than others, so by creating an environment that allows for it, we can be confident that at least all our colleagues feel inspired to give it a try, as I genuinely believe that we all have some degree of creative capacity, it just needs to be unlocked!
These lessons might sound really easy (or really hard, depending on your character) but I can assure you that in practice, when applied, really work. At Red Kite, they are demonstrated by some really tangible qualities that I notice everyday in our office. There is a great feeling and a buzz when you walk through the doors. Our people have thrown themselves into problem solving and creating new ways of working. "OK, so what have we learned?" is a phrase I hear all the time. New starters very quickly become part of our family and tell me how relaxed they feel.
Here at Red Kite, we create teams of people who feel released and comfortable to use their creative talents. I hope that none of my team will ever apply for a role if they choose to leave, and then withdraw because they become daunted by the level of personality and freedom allowed by the role, as we recently experienced. If your organisation is not allowing you to develop your creative side, you are really missing out. It’s time to move to one that will!
Contact me at CEOtalentspot@redkitehousing.org.uk.