Impromptu Summer Social

Last weekend saw the annual summer social for Team Impromptu. As ever, it was a relaxed, engaging and fun evening where team members had a chance to catch up off-duty. It struck me at the table that even ‘newer’ team members have serval years of engagement, and some of us are now counting off not just the years, but the decades. This got me to wondering about how this tremendous longevity, sense of commitment, and …dare I say it ‘working family’ …… came to be. The honest answer is that Impromptu didn’t have a specific “recruitment strategy”. The team evolved through word of mouth, personal recommendations from exiting associates, and a dose of goodwill and instinct.

As a team who support clients in recruitment, via assessment centres and (commendable) efforts to provide an impartial, fair, contextualised and interactive approach to staffing it struck me as interesting that our own internal process have been somewhat more fluid than in other contexts. Performance arts recruit through auditioning, something we have not adopted, and business organisations often offer validated, contextualised, multi-modal means of identifying the top candidates under simulated – and other – conditions.

I thought about what the difference was, concluding that clients that role play teams support are recruiting, usually, to a specific grade or role. Teams like Impromptu need to source associates who can be adaptable across industries, and situations, globally. The overall picture is – obviously – mor esubtle than this as qualities like ‘professionalism’ are sought across sectors, but it did give me a moment of ponder. As someone who has had the opportunity to do research on assessment including recruitment, including national selector centres, I am a big supporter of creative, but robust, impartial and standardised recruitment processes for vocational roles. I’ve been fortunate in being part of teams who’ve contributed evidence base for innovative assessment, and have learned from those findings.

Yet, when it comes to recruiting individuals are not being considered for a specific role, post, or vocational remit; where the situation that demands eople that can flex professionally, personably and authentically across a wide spectrum of roles and engagements, there is still something to be said for instinct. Yes, any associate must have the requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes (values) to be able to ‘do the job’, which can be – and is – measured thought experience, performance in a simulation, peer and client feedback and so on. But there is something else.

The something else is a fundamental sense of that person fitting. A sense of their character, which is hard to define on a check listed task. Clients who work with seasoned role players can be reassured that we have a process for recruitment, of course, involving scrutiny, interview, pairing with a project lead, mentoring and client feedback, but there is still the point of that person simply “fitting”. This may be a challenge in recruitment for all sectors. – the obvious need to provide evidenced, impartial feedback that supports fair appointment decisions, while allowing expetienced recruiters to draw on their experience of the culture of their business to ensure a healthy, productive and diverse team.

Looking around the table last weekend I realised Impromptu’s own recruitment has been diverse. Ranging from (you know who you are) transference from an established team, to formal interviews for a new suite of work up North, to word of mouth (‘you must meet this person’) introductions to a connection made at a sawdust ring at a show….

However it came about it has worked. Yes of course for high stakes appointments robust testing of capability is recommended, and important. Tests show what they show. Situational Judgement Tests for example show you how a person judges based on a paper case situation, and there is use in that in terms of thinking or decision making process. Live context recruitment simulates actual human interaction (rather than verbalising ‘intent to communicate well’) and reveals useful insight into performance under relatively authentic conditions . But overall there is still something to be said to support – additionally – the instinctive judgement of the recruiter, based on their cumulative knowledge of the team and the context.

The challenge is, as ever, to be able to capture such perceptions in an evidenced way, that excludes bias, and offers all work seekers a fair interview process with honest, transparent feedback. No assessment is perfect, or ever will be, but we all need to make it as good as we can. The way forward is for recruiters to use their antennas, and observations, and train themselves to quality that in feedback terms that make sense.

We make no excuse for the recruitment of Team Impromptu being based on part observation and part instinct. Looking at you all it was a good call!