Recruitment, Pre-employment Selection and Compassion

  • August 6, 2013

By Daniel E. Martin and Ulf Alexandersson

How many employees are scared at work? Is it fear of interacting with your boss, the new guy who may replace you, or dreading being laid off as a wonderfully nice but economically redundant employee? There are plenty of daily workplace interpersonal interactions that contribute to stress, the largest area of workers compensation claims, but an area that is not considered frequently in regards to stress is the interaction between recruitment and candidates. While workplace stress has become endemic, it is even easier to see how stress and fear might manifest themselves in job seekers given the high-stakes nature of pre-employment testing. With rent, mortgage, family support, and food on the table at stake, it is easy to become nervous and fearful of loss as the days tick by.

Feedback
A major problem with recruitment and selection is the void between initial contact and a report of no job offer. The candidate receives no useful knowledge regarding learning opportunities that can help them, and therefore has no way to focus on what might be helpful for them to work on in the future. One way of establishing opportunities across competencies for candidate and recruiter/selecting manager is interacting in a safe, supportive pre-employment environment that has clear job-related competencies, outcomes and continuing feedback cycles. We see the missing element in driving the ultimate success of the candidate and the organizational acquisition of talent (and reputation) as being compassion for candidate, community and organization.

Organizations and Compassion 
At least three elements of compassion have been established: noticing another's suffering, empathically feeling the person's pain, and acting to ease the suffering. The impact of not being compassionate is becoming clear in the management literature. For example, when managers do not express compassion when conducting layoffs or pay cuts, employees are more likely to file wrongful termination lawsuits and engage in workplace deviance. On the other hand, employees are less likely to leave their job if their employer/ leader is pro-social. Compassion is strongly correlated with improved immune system, physical wellbeing, as well as improved psychological functioning, all of which benefit employers through improved performance and lowered health care costs. Why is this so rarely valued in the workplace?

Compassion for Others and Self
Compassion is not only a response to organizational pain, but can also be a value, linked to tangible behavior that occurs both within and outside of the organization. Candidates for positions deal with multiple opportunities and challenges. Stress impacts performance in not only the recruitment process, but also personnel testing and subsequent work. Accordingly, long-range relationships with labor pools should be considered for organizational reputation, opportunity, community wellbeing and corporate social responsibility while recruiting in a transparent manner. Conversely, self-compassion takes that idea and turns it toward oneself, differing from global self-esteem in that, self-compassionate people tend to have higher resilience and are better able to cope with failure as they tend to be driven by a desire to learn. Sharing these self-development approaches may encourage self-development, community wellbeing and stronger candidate pools.

Any job related interaction has the potential of driving productivity and building reputation of both individuals and organizations, especially if this interaction shares why the candidate did not get the job, and how they might develop the required competencies. Critically, the interaction continuously develops the interpersonal skills of candidates, recruiters, and selecting managers and offers the same benefits soft skills trainings used when a manager has too many voluntary separations (aka bad management).

Transparency in Recruitment as Compassion
Employers that practice transparency in their human resources recruitment practices are fully able to leverage their compassionate strengths by:
1. Ensuring candidates understand the exact requirements for any position
2. Share the mechanisms by which they will be evaluated
3. Share the results of the evaluation
4. Offer ideas as to how to acquire the competencies that they did not score well on
5. Invite the candidate to develop those skills and apply them again in the future

The manager (and organization) should not stop there as finding the right employee does not mean that they will be supported, trained and developed though their career.

Satisfaction with the recruitment process means clarity as to why one was (or was not) selected, continually learning from the recruitment process, and subsequent individual/community development. Ensuring a clear understanding of the tasks associated with the competencies required to execute for a job are part of the recruitment and selection process, organizations ensure the best selection, and give back to the candidate pool by ensuring they know where they to grow, develop and facilitate new opportunities.

Researchers led and supported by the Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) are conducting a long range investigation of the impact of compassion on recruitment success, candidate well-being and social/human capital with Sprint, a Swedish human resources and recruitment firm with international clients and a strong commitment to compassion and competence. To see the expanding portfolio of compassion research, applications and education at CCARE, please visit ourwebsite, or our video collection.

Daniel E. Martin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, CSU East Bay
Department of Management

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