Sorting the wheat from the chaff through automation

January 2016
By: Steve Simmance

The business world is a funny old place. We like nothing more than to feast on the words and guidance of others - most notably those noble business men and women that define their journey to the top.

One quick glance in the business books section identifies the familiar names of Sugar, Trump, Brady, Gold, Branson and more recently Ferguson.

The inclusion of Alex Ferguson is an interesting one, a man that now lectures about leadership and management out of Harvard - guiding future business pioneers to his way of working, thinking and leading.

This poses an interesting question of how we in FMCG find the talent of tomorrow. We can fuel tomorrow's business leaders with as much education, insight, knowledge and guidance as can be consumed, however, considering the way we currently recruit in the world of FMCG, would any of the aforementioned have succeeded in making it through the door? Would they have won a place on a much cherished graduate scheme? Would they have risen to the top of a blue-chip company? Fitted the profile?

Or would they have faltered right at the start, at the hands of psychometric evaluation, reasoning tests, group assessments and political correctness, never getting the opportunity of just displaying their business nous and being good at the job.

Our obsession with psychometric testing is excessive to say the least - putting fresh faced, plucky and energetic graduates under the employment guillotine at the first given opportunity. What do these tests actually do - aside from reducing the mountainous volumes of applications? Do they in fact remove all the important business traits of those above - personality, individuality and sheer personal determination to win in business at all costs? Have we let the robots of automated assessment take control over our human instincts? Choosing an employee because they ‘feel’ right, have the right attitude and we ‘believe’ in their ability. God forbid that an employer would use gut instinct to make such a decision - many would suggest such a decision would border on stupidity.

I would love to see the FMCG industry lead the fight against this. We need to be inspiring, and attracting new talent, entrepreneurship and the leaders of tomorrow as early as possible, not putting up boundaries and reasons for them to look elsewhere. With the embracement of entrepreneurialism and individuality in other sectors, let alone the draw power of the technology industry, FMCG is no longer on the radar or the go-to industry that it once was, for ambitious graduates, pioneers and inventors.

The streamlining of applications is an understandable process due to the numbers of applicants. The need to narrow and select is fundamental to effective recruitment. However, my recommendation is that we should not let the automation determine or overrule the qualitative nature of assessment, human judgement on those who are right, over those who are wrong.

It raises an important question of flexibility. Experience has taught us that those most successful in business are those that adapt and evolve to changing factors. Surely a one-minded workforce that has been raised on propaganda of company values, where automation is the norm, every employee ticks the same boxes, does not allow the fluid of creativity to help change the way we work and think for the better.

It is quite telling that Harry S. Truman once stated that ‘Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.’

Perhaps we within the FMCG recruitment community should remember this and apply it a little more often.


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