What is values-based recruitment?

Our Founder, Joanna Cook, identified values-based recruitment as a key method for increasing the success of NHS hiring processes. But what exactly is it? We’re here to let you know.

Values-Based Recruitment

At its most fundamental level, values-based recruitment (VBR) is a method of hiring staff whose own personal values align well with the hiring company. 

Our values are those things that we place most emphasis on when deciding the paths our lives take – for example, an individual who values altruism and the equality of all people may decide that they will feel most fulfilled working for a charity body, whereas an individual who values power and achievement may be better suited to a corporation where hierarchies are prevalent. 

Our values are a set of beliefs about what is right, what is wrong, what is ‘good’ and what is not. They’re often intangible but pervasive forces in an individual’s life, and subconsciously guide the decisions we make.

For organisations, values are those often unidentified forces that determine the goals and focus of the company. An organisation that values power and money will likely be focussed on achieving financial goals and growth, sometimes regardless of the impact they are causing on the world. An organisation that values aesthetics will likely produce aesthetically-pleasing documents, and place an emphasis on their office space. 

Organisational values do not necessarily reflect in the strategic goals of the company, but their impact will filter down into the minutiae, such as the office environment or their approach to sustainability.

VBR is the alignment of the individual’s values with those of the hiring organisation. It requires identification of both sides of the equation: the individual’s values (via values assessments, for example) and the organisation’s values (via analysis of the organisation’s stated objectives as well as its culture and ‘unspoken’ goals). When an applicant is deemed a ‘good fit’, their personal values align with those of the organisation.

For Example: Fred the Financial Fiend

Fred is extremely goal-oriented, and his goals tend to centre around money. Ask him what his plan for the next 12 months is, and his response is likely to be “I want to buy myself a Ferrari and travel, first-class of course, to the USA”. Fred’s looking for a new job where he can make money and climb the ranks quickly, without caring much about those he’s trampling on to get there.

Fred interviews for Fledgling Corp., a start-up in the technology industry which shows a lot of potential for fast growth and big pay-outs. On paper, Fred and Fledgling Corp. are a good match: they both aim to make money and they both want to progress to the best that they can be as fast as they can. Fred gets along well with the hiring manager, and his chances are looking good.

However, Fledgling Corp. decide to try out a new approach – values-based recruitment. This process identifies extreme clashes between Fred’s values and Fledgling Corp.’s values. While both want fast growth and big profits, Fledgling Corp. has a focus on sustainability and creating long-term success, while Fred is much more concerned with immediate gain. These value-clashes are red flags for the hiring manager, who understands that Fred is unlikely to fit in with the culture of Fledgling Corp. and therefore unlikely to be a long-term employee – either Fred will leave, feeling unfulfilled and eager for faster gains, or Fledgling Corp. will decide to let Fred go, as he’s having a negative impact on the culture they’ve built.

Values in the NHS

While extreme, Fred’s example is illustrative of the impact of ignoring values when attracting, selecting and retaining staff members. The NHS has a long history and clear values of altruism, and hiring staff who look good ‘on paper’ but whose values clash with the NHS’ will have a long-term damaging effect, not only on the NHS itself but on patients in the NHS’ care.

Our Report, published in October, finds that VBR is a critical element of the NHS’ recruitment process and something that should be streamlined and standardised across all levels of the NHS. We found that, despite recommendations, only 50% of trusts use VBR for recruitment of nurses and only 70% use VBR for recruitment of Healthcare Assistants – meaning there remains a large proportion of individuals recruited who may have values that clash with the core values of the NHS. These people are a) potentially damaging the culture of the NHS, and b) unlikely to remain in the organisation long-term, meaning repeated hiring costs down the line.

Not only does hiring based on value-fit increase the likelihood of long-term, successful employees, it also reduces the impact of bias in interviews and other selection processes. As we saw above, an individual who gets on well with the hiring manager may feel like a good fit for the role – based on the values-bias of the hiring manager. VBR reduces the impact of unconscious bias in the hiring process by making sure employees are hired based on the alignment of their values with those of the organisation, as opposed to subjective alignment with those of the hiring staff.

Read more about VBR in the full report here.