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Practical tips on social enterprise recruitment

Published on: 8 Nov 2013

Simon Bascombe, suggests that recruitment in social enterprise is a balance between meeting the business needs of an organisation and finding people who will support its overriding social mission.

Recent years have witnessed the growth and success of social enterprise. This success combined with the rise of the social entrepreneur is driving demand for talented and skilled individuals to help organisations stay at the top of their game. But, wading through the talent pool to find people who have the right mix of commercial acumen and commitment to the cause is challenging, even in the best of times, and this is where a specialist can come in handy.

CIPFA has first-hand experience of striking this balance. Our own senior management teams recruit people who can juggle working for an institute representing the interests of members who work in public finance (with charitable status) and delivering the commercial aspects of CIPFA.

Highlighted below are some top tips for HR and senior management teams to consider when recruiting for social enterprise.

Employ people who have the right mindset

The nature of social enterprise today means that recruiters and HR teams need to look beyond whether an individual can meet set business objectives. When recruiting for social enterprise teams it is also important to consider whether the new recruit fits and understands the existing culture of an organisation.

Moving from a commercial organisation to a social enterprise organisation, where work is frequently people based, requires not only a certain skills set but also a certain mindset.

Don’t ignore your talent management programme

It is no secret that good talent management is at the heart of many a productive organisation, and it is just as important for the success of a social enterprise as it is for a commercially-driven FTSE 100.

Too often large social enterprises overlook the need for structured recruitment programmes with talent management and succession planning initiatives in place. In social enterprise work is overwhelmingly people-based and driven. Therefore, when one key player leaves the team it can be damaging to the organisation as a whole.

Don’t leave succession planning to the last minute

Succession planning and good talent management techniques play a significant role in the long term stability and management of social enterprises. Do not leave it to the last minute to put these initiatives into place and if your organisation lacks the expertise needed to do this, then outside specialists will be able to help.

Embed a culture of support

At the core of every social enterprise is its overriding social mission and this is often the main motivator for employees. Motivation and engagement provide the fuel to reach ambitious targets in social enterprise, and so embedding a culture of support and encouragement ensures that employees work together to full effect. In today’s workplace environment, employees have busy lives and are often faced with competing demands. Individuals as well as teams need support to feel that they can meet the challenges set at work.

Focus on leadership development

Concentrating on leadership development and individual capability will help deliver commercial and social objectives. Adopting this approach means that attention is paid to how to get the best out of individuals and teams plus ensuring that challenging commercial and social targets are met. By building and recruiting teams with these attributes social enterprises will stay at the top of the ladder.

Adopt an engaging approach

And finally, one of the best sourcing tools for new talent we have is conversation. Social enterprises frequently embrace the art of engagement through conversation and this aptitude is vital to recruit the best talent. A lot can be gleaned about a candidate from a short discussion  including: their suitability for a role, how they may come across in an interview as well as fully understanding what is driving their search for a new role in social enterprise. What are their motivators and do they fit with the culture of your organisation?

Verbal communication also requires a different skill set and being able to communicate effectively is important for social enterprise. Right at the start of the recruitment process candidates should be assessed for this skill. The right staff will contribute significantly to the success of a social enterprise, but the wrong staff can cause a great deal of damage to the same organisation. For this reason alone speaking directly to a potential candidate, particularly for senior positions, is crucial.

Consider using a recruitment specialist

Successful sourcing and recruitment of talented individuals to your organisation can prove a challenging task. Making the most of specialist recruitment consultants will help you to balance commercial goals and social missions, whilst creating teams that add vitality and attract success.