Shaping Company Cultures with Self-organizing Recruitment (IEC Report)

By Rainer von Leoprechting for Enlivening Edge

For the Teal Organizations Track of the Integral European Conference in May 2016, I presented two sessions: Self-organizing Recruitment for All Company Cultures and a Professional-Success-Story-Gathering Circle. Both generated a lot of meaning and momentum for participants, described in this harvest report.

Both sessions were about a new paradigm in job-finding/recruitment: how one can experience and even measure the very concrete cultural and work requirements around a specific job by developing stories of what professional success in that job would be like. Once developed by people in the organization, insights from the stories can be used to match people to work they would want, in a place they are wanted.

This new paradigm started ten years ago with my insight that the normal ways of recruitment are broken. People can seek for their new work for years, and not find it. Positions stay open over longer periods of time, or worse, get filled with someone who will need to be removed a year or two later. Participants in my IEC session on recruitment told about many related experiences, and also had insights about how recruitment is broken. Yet, how can we fix it?

When I was confronted with this question years ago during my work with designing the European Commission’s personnel IT portal, I understood that the most important issue was matching people with work they want to do.

For this one needs to know what might be called the “meaning” that a specific position offers. I found that this meaning is constantly created and re-created by a circle of partners or stakeholders around this position. What they desire and need as a performance is what defines the field of possible success for the new worker.

To implement this insight, I developed a story-gathering setting and process which invites people to share a specific moment of professional achievement with colleagues. The typical result is that people sense the meaning of their work in the circle of their conversations, and leave with a much-refreshed sense of purpose. This story-gathering immediately generates many good insights about what motivates people to give their best in a company’s working culture.

That value was reflected in my story-gathering workshop. For an hour, about 20 participants, in groups of two or three, listened to each other’s stories about a specific professional success and about how they got to that success.

I first shared my experience how a story of a success at work contains all the culture that makes the storyteller thrive. As the stories they tell each other are real achievements, they also disclose to each other their company’s often-implicit factors related to achieving what are regarded as “good” results.

The participants started remembering a moment of achievement with the help of a few open questions such as: What was the actual success? What did you do? What did others do?

A listening-sheet enabled making notes about what the listeners could have observed if they had been around during the events of the story, descriptions of the motivations of the storyteller, and surmises about what might have been an overarching theme or life purpose of the storyteller, shining with its meaning through the whole story.

People took the whole hour sharing and listening very attentively. Faces opened up. They all loved to be listened to and understood. In the groups and in the whole room, we appreciated and celebrated our successes, the beauty of our purposes, and being alive at work.

I have practiced these specific story-gathering circles since I co-invented them more than 10 years ago. I experienced the same warmth and shared purposeful energy in this room at the IEC as I do in company rooms.

How does self-organising recruitment work using these stories?

There’s more to this story, than just creating such stories. I also collect the stories themselves so they can be played back to the company.

If partners, colleagues, or hiring managers can select those stories of success that they are looking for from a new colleague—if all these stakeholders can agree on a couple of scenarios or stories of success for an open position—then an open position can be tagged with the success scenarios associated with it, and posted in a specially-developed web application. A job-seeker can find it through a story search in a talent or recruitment website, and this new person can see for herself whether that story is meaningful for her. In other words, people interested in working for that organisation can choose the success stories of the open positions which they find most meaningful for themselves. Then they can apply for any position where those same stories are wanted. Once the job-seeker has identified their own preferred stories, the desired success from both sides then makes the match.

The room for the self-organizing recruitment presentation was packed with insightful and experienced participants. They were touched by the simplicity of the approach, and a few organizations present are now exploring how this could practically work in their context. You are welcome to join such explorations!

It’s become time for me to share this practice with more people, and you can contact me for an online guide and upcoming online or live seminars. You can watch the session’s recording, sign up to play with the prototype website, and write me your questions and comments, or join the conversation in this dedicated facebook group.

RainerRainer von Leoprechting (*1965) lives on a community farm in the South-East of Austria. He is a consultant, community builder, and entrepreneur. From 1994 til 2012 he worked from within the European Commission, where he built a community of internal change agents, started and led the in-house consulting team, and introduced many innovative practices especially around how people meet and make meaning with each other. Email [email protected].