Recruiting for values - Getting the right fit

Values cartoon

11 / 12 / 2013

Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) trust has been implementing a cultural change programme for a few years now.

Getting the right fit

The trust's primary objective is to be 'delivering compassionate excellence'. As part of a holistic approach to embedding the right values in its current, and incoming workforce, OUH is looking at options for values based recruitment. Values based interviewing (VBI) is one specific methodology they are using within this. We spoke to OUH to find out more about their work on VBI. This is what they told us:

When and how it all began

In 2011, we talked to our staff and patients to establish our values as an organisation. The aim of having a new set of values was to use them to steer our behaviours in working life and, importantly, help the OUH explain to our patients, staff and stakeholders what is important to us as an organisation. We worked with them to really scrutinise what it was within the organisation that we valued. By 2012 we were able to define the following six values for OUH: OUH values. 

Introducing values into our recruitment processes

We then looked at how were we going to recruit people that really supported and aspired to those values, and what that process might look like. We had been lucky enough to receive a grant from the Health Foundation which enabled us to work with the NSPCC, which has done some excellent work in introducing VBI for their organisation. We worked with them, and with staff and stakeholders to align behaviours to the organisational values; ie what behaviours would we expect to see from a person committed to delivering each value.  Alongside these, we also defined negative, or non-aligned behaviours; those which we would not want to see in our staff.

Following this, we identified people who wanted to train as values based interviewers, and some pilot areas, which would allow us to see whether or not this technique would work. We knew that it had worked for the NSPCC and for a number of organisations they trialled it in, but we wanted to see whether it would work within in an (incredibly complex) NHS setting. We are a huge organisation, which recruits over 2,500 people a year; would we be able to introduce what was effectively an hours interview for every candidate coming in?

Care of the Elderly, Children's services and our Clinical Support Worker Academy were chosen as the pilot areas. We then put managers in those areas through a two day training course to learn how to be a values based interviewer. They were completely struck by how different this process was, compared to normal interviewing techniques. Many went in expecting to learn a few skills but not necessarily a lot they didn't already know, but they were coming off the course having learnt a completely different way of talking to people, and getting information from candidates by using this technique to help them really understand who they were.

What does VBI entail?

Values Based Interview (VBI) is underpinned by robust research and it has been proven that this interviewing method facilitates the recruitment of people more aligned with organisational values and behaviours and helps recruit high performing and effective staff.

VBI as a process involves much more investment in finding out about candidates. Many of its features challenge how we've learnt to interview traditionally...a few of many examples of this include;

  • the absence of hypothetical questions, in favour of real examples from the candidate’s experience (what was the situation, what were the outcomes, what was your action, what was the result?)
  • much more probing about how these situations made a candidate feel
  • in depth and verbatim note taking by the interviewers to ensure fair scoring
  • scores based on behaviours aligned/not aligned with the organisational values.
For these, and many other reasons, much investment is needed to train the interviewers to work in this different way. Once the pilot areas started to use VBI in real interviews, we started to get feedback that they were getting so much more from people in these interviews than they had in traditional competence interviews. Many started to say that they were struggling to see the value of any other type of interview. So, we're really not sure now how much value now to place on our technical interviews having seen how much we get out of VBIs.

VBI also presents a very different experience for the candidates, so the format and intended outcomes from the interview should be explained to them before they start. Having gathered feedback from candidates, these are some of the comments we’ve had on their experience by candidates:

  • 'that was a really nice conversation'
  • 'it was exhausting'
  • 'they were very emotional discussions'

Early findings

We carried out an initial impact assessment quite early on. We weren't expecting to see too much, but actually it's been very revealing. Having sent out an 'on boarder questionnaire' to new employees a month to three months after starting, 140 responses have been received to date; we were quite struck with some big differences...

  • a much higher percentage of people who had been interviewed for their values were likely to recommend the OUH as a good place to work than those who hadn't been
  • overall, they were more satisfied with the support they received from their managers once they had joined the organisation
  • those who had been interviewed and recruited for their values strongly agreed with the statement ' the OUH is a safe place to receive care and treatment.'
Although this is an only an initial impact assessment, the results are positive. There are also some challenges to introducing VBI. It takes a lot of time to complete these interviews. It is also not a comfortable process for some interviewers, who choose not to interview in this way, having completed the training. We are now trying to understand these issues in much more detail, so we can overcome those barriers.

Now that we understand the behaviours behind our values, we're also looking at values based appraisals and values based performance management. We're also doing work around rewarding staff who demonstrate our values, and working to make sure our role models in the organisation, our leaders, are modelling behaviours you'd expect of them, and ensuring that we continue to talk to people. A lot of work going on. We understand how important it is not to recruit people with the right values in isolation - this is part of a wider cultural change for us.

Oxford's nine recommended steps to VBI

Step 1 Develop your values in consultation with staff, patients, stakeholders 
Step 2 Get your values approved and sponsored by board.
Step 3 Develop your behavioural indicators that underpin your values in consultation with staff, patients and stakeholders 
Step 4 Develop your questions and behavioural indicators 
Step 5 Start training managers in the technique 
Step 6 Provide on-going support to managers using the technique 
Step 7 Interview using the technique in a pilot area
Step 8 Evaluate the results 
Step 9 Roll out the technique across your organisation.

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