Can LinkedIn find your next rock star employee?

A new LinkedIn tool can replicate your "rock star" staff, but could it go further?

Tom Marsden, CEO of Saberr, discusses LinkedIn’s novel developments in talent search, and how the tool could be even better.

LinkedIn made headlines recently by announcing a novel new feature buried within its updated Recruiter tool.

Simply put, the feature allows recruiters and hiring managers to easily find “career doppelgangers” by selecting the LinkedIn profile of a high-performing existing staff member, and the platform will generate a list of suggestions for people who are similar.

Many recruiters will find this to be very useful indeed: shortlisting candidates for interview is a notoriously lengthy process, and while business managers are keenly aware of who the high performers are, they are often less certain over how to replicate the success of these “rockstar employees” with new hires.

However, when we delve a little deeper into how the feature works, it becomes clear that the tool isn’t quite giving people the full picture.

The information on the LinkedIn platform is generally limited to education, experience and hard skills. These indicators are a great way of narrowing down the pool of hires.

However, there’s a danger that this innovation reinforces an existing bias to focus on the visible “hard” skills, rather than the less visible but critical “soft skills”.

Hidden factors

Businesses need to give much more weight to “hidden” factors such as social cohesion, personality alignment and interpersonal value tolerances.

Harvard Business Review research suggests that only a few companies excel at one or more aspects of the hiring process, and just a handful come anywhere close to a hiring “gold standard”.

This isn’t just “Dilbert-style” corporate speak: candidates’ social and cultural fit within their teams and the wider organisation has a huge impact on overall company performance.

McKinsey, the consulting firm, estimates that 40% of jobs in developed economies require a high degree of collaboration.

The company also suggests that in highly collaborative environments, there is a performance differentiator of up to 10 times between high-performing and poor-performing organisations.

In this new environment, social skills have a key part to play in determining the overall effectiveness of an individual and a team.

Research shows that employees who fit well with their job, team and organisation have greater job satisfaction, are more likely to remain in their organisation, and show superior job performance.

In an era of ever-increasing employee turnover, and where attrition is estimated by PwC to cost between 12% and 40% of a company’s pre-tax income, finding an efficient way of assessing how well employees will work together is more important than ever.

But is it possible to create a LinkedIn-style “matching” system for personality and social values?

A different approach

Personality tests like Myers-Briggs remain common, especially in large organisations such as McKinsey where they are in wide use. There are a raft of new companies offering personality testing, often gamified, as a driver for a more algorithmic approach to hiring.

As John Donne said, “no man is an island”, and that’s especially true in the office today. Tools such as Saberr’s focus on how individuals interact in teams.

Data-driven recruitment practices have the potential to either reinforce or alleviate biases within an organisation. Well-designed, data-driven, approaches can actually help bring about the latter. All questions asked should be reviewed to confirm they don’t discriminate “protected characteristics”.

Critically, algorithms have the benefit of being open to review and change: if an error was made in the process, it’s possible to go “under the hood” and figure out what went wrong.

This is the opposite of the “gut feel” approach that many hiring managers take when it comes to questions of whether or not the candidate will fit in with colleagues.

I predict that, alongside LinkedIn-style matching systems for “hard skills”, there will be parallel systems matching candidates to companies for their cultural fit potential and social traits.

I’d love to be notified of candidates that the algorithm suggests would fit our team culture perfectly.

No more frogs

I’m sure that the chances of success will be much higher and we’ll all spend a lot less time “kissing frogs” before we find the prince/princess.

I’d want to understand the basis of that suggestion. I’d also want to test the suggestion in “real life” with a rigorous cultural assessment.

Hiring managers can set this up by having an honest assessment of their own organisational culture.

Leaders need to be clear about the difference between the kind of company they are and the kind of company they aspire to be. Once this is defined and specific, managers can begin to undertake “cultural fit” assessments which will be more rigorous and well informed.

Using online platforms such as LinkedIn to find employees with similar skills is clearly a boon to HR managers, saving them much time and money. However, such a system needs to be used alongside a rigorous assessment of soft skills.

Businesses today need to appreciate the power that good teamwork has to improve overall results, and begin to develop a clear policy on how to assess candidates in terms of how well they will fit in with their immediate teammates and wider organisational values.

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