The Curse of the Jobsworth in Recruiting and Hiring

imageWhile you might not ever have heard the term “Jobsworth” before, if you’ve ever worked in the business of talent, you’ve almost certainly run into at least a few of these creatures throughout your recruiting career, even if you didn’t know precisely what to call them (although for most of us, a few choice four letter words have long sufficed).

According to the indispensable lexicographic resource that is the Urban Dictionary, a “Jobsworth,” whose etymology stems from the mantra “I can’t let you do that, it’s more than my job’s worth” (spoiler alert: not bloody much, mostly) can best be defined as:

“A low ranking official who follows their instructions and procedures to the letter. Often just to piss you off and make them feel important.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s likely because this definition also aligns fairly closely with the mindset and mentality of most practitioners and leaders in the HR function, who are willing to resort to any means necessary to preserve their perceived personal power than actually “empowering” employees or those responsible for recruiting them.

Bureaucracy Now: Why Jobsworths May Be Costing You Candidates.

jobsworthThis has created an environment where compliance rules and legal regulations so often act as convenient crutches for hobbling change, preserving the status quo and limiting change by limiting challenges and restricting open dissent. The HR function seems largely predicated on the business of business as usual, which is just bad business, usually.

Here’s the thing: not even the strongest brand names or most recognizable logos have ever produced a scintilla of actual revenue. Even the most advanced or sophisticated business strategies can’t execute themselves, nor can search or social actually close a sale.

A company’s success is the sum of its people, and those people are more than every enterprise’s biggest competitive differentiator – they’re the biggest drivers of any organization’s P/L. In short, our people are the bottom line.

So why is it that so many companies make up so many excuses to preempt or prevent hiring top talent that truly lives up to its moniker, or becoming the employer of choice that the best and the brightest choose as a career destination? The answer, often, comes back to the persistent, pervasive prevalence of Jobsworths, who are either too lazy or too afraid to consider anyone who might threaten their carefully preserved and tightly run fiefdom.

Anyone who thinks outside that proverbial box, anyone who has original ideas or champions change, who embraces innovation and encourages experimentation – which are among the most commonly shared traits and most accurate predictors of high potential, high performing, high impact hires – is seen as a potential usurper.

Jobsworths, largely, would rather make excuses than make these sorts of hires. And some of these excuses seem so trivial, contrived and ridiculous that anyone with an ounce of sense is left shaking their head in amazement – or frustration, if you’ve ever seen how the sausage is really made.

3 Totally Worthless Jobsworth Excuses (And What Recruiters Can Do).

These are only a few of the many real excuses I’ve heard from Jobsworths lately. I know you probably think I’m exaggerating or being apocryphal, but even I can’t make this sort of thing up:

1. “We don’t allow anyone to use Chrome here at work. It’s completely unprofessional.”

emptyregsYeah, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from the IT policy police, either. I’m not 100% sure exactly how a web browser can be unprofessional, but I looked at him, mouth agape, and my thought of “WTF?” painfully visible on my face, waiting for him to let me in on his little joke. But it was no joke, and apparently, unprofessional browsers were no laughing matter.

No. Forget, for a second, that we have more positions open than recruiters to fill them, and keeping up with demand means scouring every source possible, including paying an obscene amount of money each year for licenses and access to a slew of paid sources, from job board databases to “professional networks.”

Despite the pressures of high hiring demand and the importance of direct sourcing and proactive search in maximizing our limited recruiting resources, already stretched too thin, the talent acquisition group was forced to stay stuck in the sourcing stone age and use crappy Internet Explorer.

While this may be more “professional” than Chrome (probably because of its ugly, anachronistic interface and counterintuitive, clunky user experience), making recruiters source with Internet Explorer instead of Chrome makes about as much sense as forcing them to use Bing instead of Google. Sure, it’s a Microsoft product that’s got some enterprise security features and complies with some outdated, overzealous IT policy, but those limited benefits come at the expense of some fairly obvious handicaps.

First off, Internet Explorer produces fewer results when conducting an X-Ray Search on Google (because what other search engine would anyone ever use?), has absolutely none of the manifold extensions Chrome offers to make recruiting and sourcing a little easier, and performs about as reliably (and about as quickly) as your average Yugo.

But the thought process among the Jobsworths running point on IT policy, of course, is that letting talent acquisition have access to any product that would either slash recruitment costs or improve efficacy could potentially help recruiting move from cost center to revenue generator would at least show up tech support. It might also put them in the firing line from the higher ups for having so steadfastly stuck to this Draconian policy for so many years.

It’s not about saving time, saving money or any other halfway justifiable business case – it’s all about saving face. But it’s good to be the King, even if you’re really just a peon with no power outside the strict confines of some asinine policy. Never accept an excuse like this at face value.

Challenge. Query. Delve. And don’t be afraid to fight a little bit – this is the sort of battle worth choosing.

2. “Who needs to go source free profiles and resumes? That’s why we work with the agencies.”

if-you-have-ever-said-thats-not-my-job-at-work-you-probably-dont-have-job-security-abde3When one of my counterparts informed me that she would rather pay a placement fee than deign to even look at free resumes on the likes of Indeed, I have to say I was stunned. I was speechless. And I really wanted to slap this in-house “recruiter” upside the head, if I’m being completely frank about it.

But somehow, I managed to clench my fists at my sides, restrain myself and asked how much, exactly, she was paying said agencies. “Oh, you know, the standard 25%,” she replied, as if to say, you know, that seems pretty reasonable for typing a few strings into a free database and sending off a few shit submissions.

In my head, at this exact moment, I have two thoughts. The first is that clearly this woman is a complete idiot and should be remanded to whatever asylum she escaped from. The other: “Holy shit, agency recruiters make that much money for that much work? Maybe I’m in the wrong racket.”

But while these thoughts swirled in my head, I instead took a minute (and a deep breath) and replied with what seemed a simple, straightforward question.

“So, let me get this straight,” I asked her. “You would rather pay an agency north of £15,000 per placement than spend 5 minutes running a couple searches and setting up an e-mail alert?”

I’ll take it from her response that she thought this was rhetorical – the convenience of getting away with being abhorrently lazy was apparently well worth the costs. Plus, she had it in her budget, and those are literally made to be spent, right?

If any of your recruiters have this kind of attitude, or would even dream of justifying using a search firm when a search engine will suffice, then it’s time to axe their lazy asses and send them packing to whatever time warp they jumped out of. This is 2015, and if you can’t proactively source your own candidates, you probably shouldn’t be in this line of business to begin with.

The job market has changed, and clearly, it’s long ago passed this particular species of Jobsworth by – which is why the only hope they have for a future is keeping everyone else stuck in the past. It’s this kind of silly, superficial self-preservation that’s often the most destructive.

3. “Sorry, that site is restricted.”

computer-says-noI thought that maybe, when I got an access forbidden message while trying to pull up Facebook on my work computer the first time, that there must be some sort of mistake. After a few futile attempts, though, I was informed that the mistake was, in fact, all mine.

“Well, the computer says no,” someone actually said. “Besides – none of our employees are allowed to use Facebook at work – no exceptions.” I started to protest, but the HR Manager raised a finger to stop me, and I staggered out of her office, stunned.

Let’s take a look at this: sure, I get how allowing rampant employee use of Facebook or carte blanche access to social networks could be a time and productivity killer for a lot of line workers and LOBs.

But putting Facebook behind a firewall is guaranteed to have the same deleterious effect this policy purports to preempt – a decision that basically means that recruiters can’t access the BILLION highly engaged users who log onto Facebook every day (which, by the way, makes LinkedIn’s usage look like chump change in comparison, despite the exorbitant price we were being charged to access their puissant profiles).

What gives? This is actually fairly typical, and a great example of times when Jobsworths, particularly those with some managerial responsibilities or direct reports, summarily dismiss solutions or explore alternative approaches simply because their response is rooted in fear, and the apprehension that in this case, what they don’t know just might hurt them.

This sort of social selectivity – Facebook bad, LinkedIn good – is more prejudiced preconception than realistic rationale, believing in product marketing and messaging to inform their position on these networks, however misinformed they might be as to the evolution of these networks or the efficacy of their individual case uses.

Jobsworths have always hated and feared social, because these networks let workers turn their conversations about their jobs, the company and, of top concern, their managers or HR Business Partners from one dictated to bureaucracy to one that’s more or less predicated on democracy.

HR would rather suppress employee’s access to these networks than cede control over intracompany communications, even if company intranet, employee newsletters and solutions like Sharepoint are completely obsolete and unnecessary when most every employee is already using social to talk to each other – and about the worthless Jobsworths they work for – with or without official permission. It’s not like blocking access via firewall is going to keep employees off, either; they’ll just use their smartphones, instead.

The digital age is coming of age, and it’s time for Jobsworths to finally grow up when it comes to employee social media usage. Again, challenge. Query. Delve.

And above all, demonstrate exactly how a network like Facebook can really work at work – and once they see what they’ve been missing, their objections should dissipate along with that sense of unknown causing their fear of Facebook in the first place.

Now, if only there was some way you could convince them that you didn’t need to send over every career related tweet to the comms team for review prior to publishing.

Hey, a recruiter can dream, can’t she?

unnamed (7)About the Author: Katrina Collier has been showing SMEs to blue chips around the globe how to source their staff on social media since 2009. With knowledge gained from over a decade of in-house and third party recruitment and over 9 years of social recruiting experience, she understands the pressures Recruiters face attracting the best talent. 

She is a social recruiting specialist, a hands-on trainer and speaker, sharing proven tips and techniques that are always outside of the main stream. As an independent consultant, Katrina cuts through the noise of marketers who say their solution is best, to give you advice that eases the pain of your recruitment and is easy to implement.

Katrina is one of The 100 Most Influential People in HR & Recruiting on Twitter and her opinion is quoted in HRReview, SHRM, The Staffing Stream, and Cambridge University’s Strategies for Success. 

She writes avidly on her own blog and is a global HR & Recruitment keynote speaker. She also wrote and delivers the social media recruitment training for the CIPD, the UK’s professional body for HR and people development. 

Follow Katrina on Twitter @WinningImpress  or connect with her on LinkedIn.

 



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