Instilling a ‘quality culture’ in any organisation will always be a challenge. In today’s recession-battered, lean, mean organisations the drive for profitability – at a time when margins are squeezed and competitive pressures are high – tends to sometimes marginalise the need for consistent quality.
So how do overstretched executives ensure the workforce remain committed to creating and maintaining quality? Some might think it’s down to regular ‘quality circle’ meetings or a barrage of ‘quality newsletter updates’ but I think there is more to it than that. These initiatives undoubtedly have their place, but let’s be honest; it’s not always easy to ‘teach’ quality. Sometimes it has to come from ‘within’ – which begs the question ‘should recruiters be tasked with the challenge of recruiting quality at the outset?’
This is not as crazy as it might seem. Maybe the real answer to creating a quality focused workforce is not so much about training and changing mindsets as recruiting quality orientated individuals right from the start. Maybe HR departments, interviewers and recruiters should only be appointing new staff who demonstrate aptitudes and behaviours that demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of ‘quality’.
So how would this work in reality?
To start with let’s take the four steps of recruitment – the ‘job description’, the ‘job application’, the ‘interview’ and the ‘probation period’. Ideally the job description should clearly reference the organisations attitude to quality and any information pack should include things like the internal ‘quality policy’ and any other supporting material like a ‘customer charter’ or ‘working practices’ statement. Equally, candidates should be asked on their application forms to include any relevant information relating to working in a ‘quality culture’ supported by evidence of ‘quality awareness’ and ‘best practice’.
At the interview stage these same principles should be probed and explored. This will give the interviewee the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding and practical application of quality as well as providing the interviewer with the opportunity to ask specific questions. Successful applicants should then be monitored for the period of probation to ensure that they exhibit the desired actions and behaviours pertinent to a quality culture.
Historically most organisations have paid little heed to this approach. Although there are a few visionary companies who already ‘interview for quality’ as a standard approach the majority of organisations still take a narrower and more ‘silo’d’ view of recruitment. In other words accounts staff are interviewed for an Accounts role in isolation as are admin staff for an Admin role and technical staff for a Technical role. This might seem obvious but the key point is that all these staff need to work together for the good of the company as well as for clients and customers. If they have a shared understanding of what quality means from the outset – and how it is manifested – then they will work more productively together.
To make this concept a reality the Quality Manager needs to work closely with the HR Manager in order to ensure interviews always include the key ‘quality questions’ so that ‘’recruiting for quality’ is embedded in the culture of the organisation from the roots up.
I firmly believe that if more organisations adopted this approach and thought in terms of ‘recruiting for quality’ rather than ‘recruit first’ then ‘train up for quality’ a lot of unnecessary effort could be avoided and a ‘quality culture’ will then arise more naturally and hopefully permeate the whole organisation.