Let the team have a say in hiring

The IT director at Welsh firm Economy Power involves the whole team when interviewing and selecting new staff

The IT director at Welsh firm Economy Power involves the whole team when interviewing and selecting new staff.

Having to work with colleagues you would rather not work with can make an IT department an uncomfortable place to be.

Normally managers choose staff and incumbent workers have to live with their choice. But one of the reasons Chris Ready, head of IT at Welsh utility company Economy Power, thinks his department is award-winning is because he does not choose who his staff have to work with.

"Recruitment is very much a team responsibility," he said. "New members have to meet the individual expectations of the existing team, and this ensures we only recruit people we can all work with."

Economy Power is not short of people to choose from. "We get about 60 applicants for every job," said Ready. Potential recruits go through a selection process: CVs are sent to Ready for initial screening and then the applicants are invited in for an informal chat.

"We do the informal chat before the interview to get a feel for the person. We want to know if we like the look of them and if they like the look of us. All the team members meet the applicants and we have collective responsibility. It is not just my choice, but rather one the whole team feels comfortable with," said Ready.

Stephen Ligget, system programming analyst at Economy Power, said, "We try to get to know applicants. Will they fit into the team and grow with the firm?"

Ready agreed. "Most of the questions are not about IT but about the person. We can find the talent, but it is about whether we can all work together."

This method of recruitment can often mean it is not necessarily the most technically qualified or skilled person who is employed.

"The people who are the most talented are not always the best team players - you need a balance," said Ready. "For example, you can have a very talented analyst who is not good at working with others, and ideally needs to work by themselves."

The formal selection process - an interview and practical test - follows the informal selection.

For the recruits, hiring by collective consensus can be unnerving, said Lee Nelson, a senior IT administrator who joined the firm three years ago. "But it works. No one is left out."

It also works from the management point of view, as the right choices seem to be made. "No one has been sacked," said Ready.

Recruitment can be time-consuming. "But if we hire the right person, that time is not wasted," Ready said.

Getting staff buy-in to the recruitment process minimises the risk of taking on the right person. "IT is complicated - no one has all the answers. We must share problems and solutions and help each other," said Ready.

"Everyone has been chosen by everyone else, so we can all ask each other for help," said service development delivery manager Sally Walker Jones. "We need people who like a challenge."

Does team hiring ever result in a hung vote? "No," said Walker Jones. "We all come to the same conclusion."

Economy Power won the Computer Weekly Best Places to Work in IT 2003 award in the utilities and communications category

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