There is a myth in talent management. A myth that we perpetuate on a daily basis.
“The best will always prosper.”
And if you want to see a perfect example of why this is a myth, you need to understand the dynamics of youth employment and unemployment.
We decide to organise a race. We all know how a race works—the first person past the post wins. It’s a perfect meritocracy. The contestant who is fittest, fastest, better suited to the competition in question will reign supreme because of their ability.
But let’s then talk about the assumptions that we make:
- All the contestants start at the same spot
- They all know where the finish line is
- They know that they’re in a race
- They have access to the same equipment
What if these assumptions were incorrect? Would that still be a meritocracy?
When we look at the issues of youth unemployment in the UK, we see this exact scenario play out. And that hasn’t been and isn’t good for our economy.
What we need are the best candidates with the highest potential, not those that know how to play the game. And that requires us to rethink the assumptions that we make.
The rules that we assume that people know and understand:
- How to write an application letter
- How to write a resumé
- How to dress for an interview
- How to speak to a recruiter
None of these attributes reflects a genuine capability to do any sort of role—maybe other than as a recruiter. Unfortunately, recruiters and talent advisors so often use them as a means of determining who we speak to and for how long. It’s the unwritten rules of the game, and it’s a bit unfair. Do all kids know these rules? What underlying societal issues are at play that give one group of youth an advantage over another?
Instead, I’d argue, we need to think more about how we allow candidates to demonstrate their potential, regardless of their knowledge of these hidden “recruiter” rules. And if we do need to use some sort of criteria, we ought to spell it out in black and white so that all candidates, young and old, understand what to do.
Our business is people and our businesses depend on people. We need to grow and develop talent inside our organisations and also before it joins our organisations. That means we need to be more open, more transparent, less judgmental and less prescriptive in the recruitment process.
Talent is talent. But at the youth level, it doesn’t always naturally shine. Let’s find a better way to discover the diamonds in the rough.