The final of Britain’s Got Talent has only just finished and the British public is already awaiting The X Factor. These shows are certainly very popular with the public and they also give an opportunity for absolutely any one to show they have talent and potential.

Could this approach be applied to recruiting staff in the public sector?

I have always felt that we put too much emphasis on experience and qualifications and not enough on enthusiasm and values. It may be that a change of emphasis would result in appointing people with a more positive attitude to those they cared for and so would be less likely to abuse them.

When I was recruiting staff to work in large residential homes, I was desperate to change staff attitudes.

I had good managers who were champions of independence, choice, dignity and respect but who struggled to defeat the staff room culture. When they were on duty, walking around the building promoting and encouraging everything happened as it should but when they were on their days off, holiday or attending a meeting everything reverted back. 

The majority of staff could be influenced by the manager or the staff room leaders. Training resulted in people knowing exactly what was expected but even this did not stop them reverting to doing what was easiest when the manager was not about. 

When the opportunity arose to recruit new members of staff it was seen as a real chance to shift the staff room culture. What was needed were people with enthusiasm, energy, creativity, a desire to make a difference and set of values compatible with improving the lives of people living in the home. 

Specifications were drawn up for the vacant posts which were as inclusive as possible; no requirement for experience in care work, no requirement for working with the client group and no requirement for qualifications. The essential requirements were a positive attitude to the client group, willingness to work shifts and willingness to undertake training. 

The result was a large number of applicants and very little criteria to short list so we interviewed large numbers over several days. A bit like the early rounds of Britain’s Got Talent; we had to see a lot of no hopers to unearth a few gems. The interview questions were all based around the ability to apply values like choice, dignity and privacy in relation to situations within the home. We were also looking for enthusiasm.

This may appear a bit hit and miss. Someone might state that they would go to the laundry to find the dress a resident wanted to wear rather than persuade them to put something on that was in the wardrobe but how do you know they are not just saying what they think you want to hear? 

However couldn’t that be said for all interviews? How do you determine if someone is enthusiastic and how do you score it in an interview?  It seems to work well enough on Britain’s Got Talent; both the panel and the audience seem to be able to identify those with potential and you know a positive and enthusiastic person when you meet one. 

This talent show judging approach made some HR colleagues nervous and it was certainly time consuming but the impact these new staff had on the staff room culture was dramatic. Justification, I think, for giving more weighting in the interview process to enthusiasm and values, over the traditional emphasis on experience and qualifications.