Recruitment practices are failing Kiwi businesses, resulting in underperformers and inadequate hires, says a survey.

The Hudson survey "paints a bleak picture for employers", saying: "Of every 10 employees: four are not good hires, eight aren't engaged in their work and six are actively seeking other employment."

Roman Rogers, executive general manager of Hudson NZ, said the research surveyed hiring managers across the country, "not just those who engage with Hudson".

The quality of hires is a concern. "Often the right people are not being found for the right jobs - there is a need for hiring managers to look at how they are recruiting people.

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"What tools are they using and are they effective?"

Rogers says the tools used by two-thirds of hiring managers are narrow and not accurate in predicting high performance. "These tools are reference checking, resume checking and background interviews.

"There is a focus on technical skills and knowledge of a particular function. What they don't focus on is what the company is actually looking for - what constitutes high performance, what behaviours and cultural fit work for a particular company. These are what would be called 'soft skills', but they are important in predicting engagement and high performance."

If these things are not taken into account, hiring becomes a bit of a potluck affair. "Mismatches can and do happen often. What's happening is people are not being recruited for what the company sees as most important."

Rogers says that reference checks are not a good way of predicting future performance and a skills-based approach is not conclusive, either.

"We should be recruiting around the most important things. If your focus is to attract and retain high-performance employees who will be engaged with their work and give that bit extra, you need to ensure that the person you are hiring fits the company culture, wants to stay for a few years at least, demonstrates discretionary effort and behaves in a way that is good for the company."

Someone may be a high-performer on paper but unco-operative and a poor team player in reality.

Recruiters should look at skills from a behavioural perspective. Rogers says: "What are the motivational drivers of a job candidate? How do they see things? Is there a career fit? Is there a motivational fit? Will they keep satisfied and interested in what they are doing?"

This does not mean that you neglect to look for the skills and knowledge required for the job. "Some jobs do require certain qualifications. However, the interesting thing is that it's well-documented that companies hire on skills and fire on behaviours.

"A way to distinguish candidates with the required education is to look at those all-important behaviours and career fit. One can make the final decision based on softer skills."

It's also good to remember that certain skills can be learned on the job. Behaviours are more difficult to teach.

"Notice how a person goes about negotiating. They may be blunt and that could be the behaviour you want - others may want someone who is subtler."

Recruiting the wrong individual is costly and can have a negative effect on the team. The new staff member's behaviour needs to be aligned with the requirements of the organisation, and the recruiter needs to understand the organisation's style.

An employee who needs a lot of structure may do well in a hierarchical organisation, while a creative, open person with the same skills may find such a set-up soul-destroying.

"Hiring managers need to question what the company requires and use methodologies to ascertain how a person will act and behave within the given environment," Rogers says.

Also, it's not only about where the organisation is now, but knowing where the organisation is headed. "Many organisations are adapting and changing, and need people who will go with this change. They need to look at their strategy - what is their style in moving forward?

"So, it's not just about knowing thyself, it's also about knowing your future self. What you need in a behaviour set could have changed.

"You may need people who are flexible, show initiative, are resilient and display some of the 'softer' behaviours. These may be the people who are most worthwhile recruiting if your environment is about change."

Hudson looks closely at behaviours to ensure client satisfaction. Rogers says: "It takes a holistic understanding to ensure that the right people are in the right place."

And it's important that candidates have thought about their own drivers. "It's really important that candidates have an understanding of their developmental path - where do they want to go, what is the nature of the role and does it fit in with their career or life planning?

"Is the candidate looking for leadership opportunities, or is that person happiest with an environment where there is openness or transparency?"

Of retaining staff, Rogers says employers need to accept that they won't hold on to people forever.

"A job-seeker may see moving on as being a part of their career development. However, that job-seeker can become an advocate for you if they've had a good experience being an employee in your organisation.

"If people leave a company feeling good about it, it creates a better career brand for the organisation. You get a good reputation as an employer - and find it easier to attract good talent."