Everyone has a different take on how 2021 will impact recruiting, but we all know it’s going to be a big deal. Gregory Lewis, writing for LinkedIn’s Talent Blog, unpacks 6 trends in recruiting and HR that everyone needs to watch. One trend stands out from the rest:

As candidates and customers look for companies to take stronger stances on social issues, recruiting leaders will increasingly focus on employer branding — and will see it in a radically new light. Instead of showcasing the company’s products, perks, and office amenities in polished marketing materials, they’ll publicize what the company is doing to support employees, customers, and communities in times of crisis. … To earn trust, employers will also be more vulnerable, holding themselves accountable for shortcomings and being transparent about their plans to address them.

Recruitment, in other words, will increasingly become a function of business culture. Even in the precarious position of the 2021 economy, prospective employees are looking for something more than a set of tasks attached to a paycheck and prestige. 

How can you, as a leader, audit your company’s culture while recruiting? How can you amplify what might be attractive to new employees? In this article, we lay out a few places that deserve your attention. Use these areas to build talking points with HR, as they negotiate with new recruits. (And yes: recruiting is a negotiation!) 

What Abstract Capital Do You Offer Recruits?

Beyond bottom-lines and profit performance, there are plenty of abstract and intangible benefits your company enjoys. These other forms of capital are of special interest to new recruits. Think about them, and be transparent with prospective hires.

Human Capital can be classified as the economic value of a worker’s experience and skills. This includes assets like education, training, intelligence, skills, and health. It also includes qualities such as loyalty and punctuality. You won’t find human capital listed on your company’s balance sheet. Assess your Human Capital with questions like:

  • What percentage of your workforce will retire in the next year or in the next five years?
  • What is the average tenure of people in your organization? In the last five years, has tenure increased, decreased, or remained the same?
  • What is your ratio of managerial to non-managerial staff? In the last five years, has that ration increased, decreased, or remained the same?

Relational Capital. Relational capital comprises all the relationships established between firms, institutions, and people. These include market relationships, power relationships, networks and cooperation. These relationships emerge from a strong sense of belonging and cooperation. The stronger your relationships, the better your bargaining position. Assess your Relational Capital with questions like:

  • Do you know the personal short and long term goals and business objectives of key people on your teams and in your networks?
  • Do you know the business and personal causes your people care deeply about?
  • Do you know the obstacles or commitments that are holding back people on your teams or in your networks?

Speed Capital. Speed Capital describes the efficiency and agility with which you accelerate, pivot, and get results. Speed Capital is the result of well-balanced Relational Capital. It is an expression of efficiency and flexibility on the job, which is a truly invaluable asset. Assess your Speed Capital with questions like:

  • Who are the Top People you can trust to act and make decisions without explicit executive direction?
  • Who comes to your mind when you think of someone who “comes through in the clutch”? 
  • Do you trust your teams to reorganize and act on contingency plans in a crisis? 

Furthermore, there is another form of Relational Capital that few people pay attention to, but that you are more than likely to encounter during a negotiation. Recognize it, and you will have a leg up on everyone else who doesn’t. We’re calling it Conflict Capital

Making Conflict a Cultural Asset

Christine Cheng, a historian and lecturer in War Studies at King’s College in London, coined the term Conflict Capital in reference to “a society’s norms, networks, and bonds of trust that are created in the crucible of civil war.” Conflict Capital is a way of explaining “the success or failure of post-conflict transitions.” She argues that “the intensity of shared war experiences leads to more resilient post-war networks and increased ‘stickiness’ in building and maintaining bonds of trust.” This “stickiness” is measured in terms of Conflict Capital. 

We can apply the same concepts to your business and relationships: your Conflict Capital measures the bonds of trust that develop when people go through successful conflicts together. These conflicts may include the day-to-day “warfare” of business, or the “civil wars” that erupt between team members during projects.  

Basically, the quality of your conflict capital has a direct effect on your relational and speed capital, and the agility with which you recover from setbacks. Conflict capital impacts your ability to Predict future problems and their solutions, based on your ability to navigate and learn from conflict and the solutions that emerge. If you want more and better results, you need the bonds and relations that emerge from high quality conflict capital

When entering into negotiations, take advantage of the Conflict Capital that you share between different parties, and that you’ve developed in your own organization. Your ability to handle conflict during negotiation will also be perceived as a form of capital, in the forms of Composure and Confidence. Successfully weathering conflict in the crucible of negotiation will make your value and offerings seem that much more attractive. Use this to your advantage. 

Recruits Want to Play Poker, Not Chess

In addition to your abstract capital, recruits will take an interest in your organizational behaviors. Specifically, they’ll want to see a team that makes mature decisions and doesn’t get bogged down in biases. One of our favorite books on this topic is Annie Duke’s Thinking in Bets. Duke encourages leaders to take bold risks even when they don’t have all the information by reframing their decision-making processes, not in terms of “right and wrong” decisions but in terms of good and bad “bets.” She suggests three mindset shifts and several practices that we believe will be increasingly attractive to new hires in 2021: 

The Poker-Player Mindset:

  • Guards against “Resulting”, or judging the quality of decisions based purely on their outcomes, which is a recipe for disaster. 
  • Recognizes that we typically attribute failure to luck and success to skill (i.e. Self-Serving Bias). This is a tendency we can curb collecting information and listening to diverse voices. Guarding against Self-Serving Bias also protects us from resenting others for their success. 
  • Finds delight in processes, not their outcomes. Enjoying the “game” of negotiation for its own sake leads to better decision-making and a happier life in general. 

Poker-Player Behaviors:

  • “Life is Poker, Not Chess.” In Chess, all pieces are on the board; there is always a right move. Most of life is like Poker, making decisions with partial information. Judge yourself and others accordingly: the sum of our lives is decision quality, plus luck.
  • “Wanna Bet?” A ‘Bet’ is a form of accountability: it forces us to stand up for our beliefs by risking something on their validity. ‘Bets’ make us hyper-aware of the strength and quality of our beliefs through good-natured tests. Those who when bets are ultimately those with the most accurate beliefs, Plus, leaders who think in bets, and thus exhibit less than 100% confidence, are highly attractive and trustworthy to others. Accept this and be liberated by it. Earnestly practicing low-stakes “bets” in your daily life will prepare you for high-stakes negotiations.
  • “Bet to Learn.” Thinking in bets shifts your sense of reward from being right to learning something new. When forming new habits, beware of “motivated reasoning”: the desire to justify something you already believe.
  • “The Buddy System.” Maintain accountability by surrounding yourself with a crew who will hold you to high standards of accuracy and objectivity. They are your lifeline against resulting, complaining, and self-serving bias—and also powerful sources of Conflict Capital. 
  • “Take Adventures in Mental Time-Travel.” Bet on behaviors that will make your future self thank your present self. Imagining negative future outcomes leads to greater present motivation for learning and acting on those things you can control. Practice playing some mental Chess with yourself and the information available to you before playing Poker at the bargaining table!

Impressing Recruits with Personal Practices

Feeling the need to implement more “poker-playing” behaviors into your organization, making for a more de-biased and therefore attractive company culture? Duke has some practical recommendations for that, too:

Test the Two-Minute Rule. Our goal is to get our reflexive minds to execute on our deliberative mind’s best intentions. Lasso your reflexive mind to your deliberative mind’s long-term goals by setting strict time limits on your decision-making. This will train you in finding ways to execute your best intentions–deliberated in advance–within the constraints of the speed expected by your environment. Results do not matter so much as guarding against resulting, separating signal from noise, and learning to distinguish between the fruits of your skill and the winds of chance. 

Put Yourself in Another Person’s Shoes. Self-serving bias leads us to accept positive outcomes as results of pure skill, and to offload negative outcomes onto bad luck or sabotage. We flip this script when we analyze the successes and failures of others: we impute their success to dumb luck, and their failure to incompetence. Both are distortions of reality, and the truth is somewhere in the middle. 

Adjust Your Thinking Habits. Habitual behaviors form through a pattern of Cue→ Behavior→ Reward. We receive a cue from our environment, act in a certain way, and feel happier for doing so. Our brains are geared to seek positive results from our habits; but if we don’t get those results or come up short compared to others, the “loss” weighs heavy on us. “Thinking in bets” teaches you to get your mental rewards from the chances you take and the accuracy of your beliefs, rather than the “wins” you rake in.

Example: A $20,000 grant is more valuable than a $100,000 grant if you have a 50% chance at winning the former, and a 5% chance of winning the latter. “Thinking in Bets” leads you to be more satisfied for having recognized this reality and pursued the better value, rather than the “bigger win.” 

Recruit Into an Accuracy Culture

There are two kinds of thought-cultures: “Confirmatory” and “Exploratory.” Confirmatory thought cultures attempt to justify beliefs the group already holds. Exploratory thought cultures consider all new information with an even hand, changing beliefs based on new evidence. 

Create a Group Charter in your organization that encourages Exploratory thought by through accountability to an interest in accuracy and celebrating a diversity of opinions:

  1. Reward truth seeking, objectivity and open mindedness.
  2. Create accountability, for which the group should have advance notice.
  3. Reward openness to various ideas. This produces strong bonds among group members, and encourages them to collectively generate sound reasoning. 

The Charter must be unambiguous to all members. Maintain accountability. Create and stick to a “code of conduct” that combats resulting, complaining, and self-serving bias. Where venting is needed, be explicit that you are briefly suspending the “code,” and be ready to go right back to talking productively about improved decision-making. Make sure everyone opts-in to this cultural change; you need everyone playing by the same rules.  

Create tangible evidence of group approval in truth-seeking–anything from candy to AA-style medals. When a group member receives positive affirmation from the larger group for being self-critical and making good bets, they become more sure of their competency and capable of making better decisions, as well as analyzing those decisions after the fact.

Well-deployed diversity of viewpoints can reduce uncertainty due to incomplete information by filling in the gaps in what we know. The “Dissent Channel” is a military example of inviting and rewarding contrary opinions for the sake of gleaning additional information. Create such a channel in your own organization. Learn not to take dissent as “backtalk,” but rather as “gaining new information.”

From your Group Charter to your Dissent Channel, teach your organization to practice “adversarial collaboration” to make decisions and solve disputes. Follow the acronym CUDOS:

  • COMMUNISM: All data belongs equally to everyone in the organization. 
  • UNIVERSALISM: Apply uniform evaluation standards to all claims and evidence, regardless of where they come from. 
  • DISINTERESTEDNESS: Remain vigilant against conflicts of interest and self-serving bias that can influence group evaluations and decisions. 
  • ORGANIZED SKEPTICISM: Foster discussion among the group to encourage engagement and dissent. 

Remain committed to combating drift in your groups which leads to uncritically accusing others of being locked in an “echo-chamber.” From choosing our friends to our hiring processes, we need to select for diversity of viewpoints in order to gather all possible information. 

“Mental Time-Travel” for Organizational Success

With such behaviors in place, your company culture is better prepared to do the sort of proactive thinking that makes other want to get involved:

Most Bets Are Best Against Ourselves. Few of our best are actually bets against others. While we naturally see ourselves in competition, most of our best are made against other possible versions of ourselves. We made decisions against certain possible futures, believing we’ll be better off if we take a certain course of action. Don’t focus your bets on highly visible but ultimately pointless metrics of competition (like social media). Focus your bets on forming possible futures where you come out on top (by producing something rare and valuable). 

Guard Against Gremlins. We’ve all got a gremlin in us: a tired, hungry, irresponsibly person who makes decisions like staying up late or drinking too much. In the morning, the more rational version of us regrets ever giving them the reins. Organizations on deadlines can act like this, too, and really shake up your culture. You can guard against your gremlins through different types of Ulysses Contracts. Just as the Roman hero Ulysses had his soldiers tie him up so he wouldn’t do something stupid while under a spell, tie your present self up to keep your future self from behaving badly. Pack healthy snacks, set multiple alarms, etc… If you’re struggling with motivation, Reconnaissance and Premortems will help you map pathways to possible futures so that you can cut off the worst ones early on, and plan contingencies if some of your bets go badly. Start with possibility, and narrow to probability. 

Even with your gremlins  in check, regret is inevitable. Good Decision Makers Frontload Regret–i.e., they know the proper time for regret is before you’ve made your decisions. Ruminating on regret following a decision is useless, as the outcome cannot be changed (Friedrich Nietzsche). Remembering regret–calling it to mind in the face of a new decision–can help calibrate you emotionally before embarking on a new path of behavior (H. D. Thoreau). 

Learn to recognize Tilt: the state of emotional burnout that erodes decision quality (and relationships). Our feelings about our decisions are path-dependent; how we get the results matters as much as the results themselves. Tilt happens when we blow a recent outcome out of proportion and use it to generalize. Walk away when you’re tilting. 

Give yourself a Decision Swear Jar. Attach some material cost to bad habits that negatively impact decision making. If you are already familiar with swear jars, here is some damnable profanity you can add to your list of vulgarities:

  • “I Know,” “I’m Sure,” “I Knew It,” “It Always Happens This Way,” “You’re 100% Wrong,” “You Have No Idea What You’re Talking About,” “There’s No Way That’s True,” “Zero Percent,” “One Hundred Percent,” “Best,” “Worst,” “Always,” “Never,” 
  • “I Can’t Believe My Luck,” “I Planned it Perfectly,” “I’m At The Top of My Game,” “They Had It Coming,” “They Brought it On Themselves,” “Why Do They Always Get So Lucky?”
  • “Idiot,” “Donkey,” “Typical,” “Gun-Nut,” “Bleeding-Heart,” “Worst Day Ever,” “Day From Hell,” 
  • “Conventional Wisdom,” “Everybody Says,” “Ask Anybody,” “Can You Prove It’s Not True?”, “Everyone Agrees With Me”
  • “I Have the Worst Judgment,” “I Should Have Known,” “How Could I Be So Stupid”
  • “WRONG.” (Remember, “WRONG” is a conclusion; not a rationale.)

Use the Right Recruiting Tools 

All of the advice above will help you create a company culture that skilled people want to be part of. By knowing your culture and recruiting for fit, you increase your chances of a successful hire. There are plenty more variables in play though, and a new attention to culture won’t cover all of them. For when the rubber meets the road, our certified facilitators at Leadership Reality recommend PXT Select (TM) , a suite of assessments that provides talent management tools that help leaders and managers collect accurate, objective, and reliable data to select, manage, develop, and retain employees that drive results.

With PXT, you can:

  • Cut Down Turnover. Identify applicants whose interests align with your organization, better assuring that they will be engaged and satisfied by their work and role.
  • Simplify Your Hiring and Selection Process. Provide yourself with metrics that let you see, at a glance, which applicants do and don’t fit what you’re looking for.
  • Engage Your Talent. Develop a personalized interview process that will humanize you in front of applicants and get them even more excited about the opportunities you’ve offered.
  • Reduce Hiring Bias. We know how tempting it is to default to feelings when overwhelmed by information. PXT sorts and clarifies that information for you, placing you face to face with the realities of who you’re considering and how likely they are to excel in their role.
  • Replicate Top Performers. Use PXT to generate Performance Models based on your most valuable team-members, making it a breeze to hire replacements or to clone their value.
  • Decrease Cost of Bad Hires. One bad hire can cost as much as three good ones. Weed out the bad fits from the beginning, and receive tailored coaching and mentorship advice on how to accelerate onboarding for those people you choose.

If your needs are greater than those we’ve addressed in this article, you can work with Leadership Reality to identify for your team-building pains and figure out which suite of assessments works best for you. Select from pre-existing Performance Models, take our survey which will automatically build a model for you, or take matters into your own hands to build your own model for exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll receive job-fit and interview questions that will help you personalize the interview process for those you’ve assessed through PXT. Ultimately, we’ll help you get a clear understanding of a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses well before they sit down for their interview. 

Whoever you decide to hire, you want to have tailored coaching and mentorship guidance for onboarding, helping you accelerate development, growth, and integration into your larger team culture. We hope we’ve helped you take some crucial first steps.

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