Is AI the last straw for values-based recruitment?

Some blocks with different values

WPG have just returned from an energizing and informative two days at the ABP Conference 2024. The theme of the conference this year was Minds and Machines Unite: The Human Side of the Augmented Workplace

Our Associate Director, Emma Morley, participated in a panel discussion with Ben Williams of Sten 10 and James Bywater of KornFerry to discuss ‘is AI the last straw for values-based recruitment?’ We caught up with Emma to get her reflections on the discussions, and the 2024 ABP conference.

Can you remind us what we mean when we talk about values-based recruitment?

To prepare for the panel, we started with a lot of discussions about values and what we mean when we use that term. 

There are many different definitions, and models of values as well, and, but there is generally consensus that values are beliefs or mindsets that drive people to behave in certain ways. We also agreed that values are: 

  • Drivers for our behaviour: they influence our actions, as do our attitudes and our personality traits.
  • Evaluative: they help us to make judgements about the relative merits of different behaviours, and the behaviours of ourselves, other people, or even organisations
  • General: they remain relatively stable rather than changing based on the situation, although they can adapt as circumstances and context changes 

We concluded our panel session would focus on how we assess an individual’s personal values, rather than corporate values, and why we would bother to do this. 

So when we talk about values-based recruitment, we mean recruitment processes where some (or all) of the assessment stages are focused on exploring an individual’s values. Our panel session covered how this can be done throughout a selection process. It might happen at shortlisting, where you could use a situational judgement test (SJT) to explore values, or a personality assessment to help shape questions for an interview. Structured interviews also allow lots of opportunities for probing candidates and understanding why they do what they do. 

What benefits can recruiting for values give to organisations?

Understanding someone’s values at the recruitment stage can be really helpful for organisations. Values don’t necessarily predict how well someone will perform in the role but values can predict how committed someone is to the organisation, and how long they might stay in their role

It’s also really important that, for some roles, individuals behave in the way they do because they believe in core values that align with the organisation: healthcare is a good example of this. 

Work Psychology Group worked with the NHS to design a values-based recruitment model  which came about as a result of the 2013 Francis report. This report identified that certain healthcare staff weren’t acting in ways that put the interests and care of patients at the centre of how they worked. One of the key recommendations from the report was to embed values within each stage of the employee journey, including recruitment. We provided the background research and evidence for the framework that outlined how to implement values-based recruitment, and we worked alongside NHS England and NHS Employers to publish a toolkit designed for recruitment teams to use, which has been informing recruitment in the NHS for the last 8 years.

Another benefit I’ve been also thinking about recently are the related conversations about skills-based recruitment, and how roles are changing so quickly as a response to technology advancements. So, bearing in mind that values are more likely to stay consistent in an organization over time, whereas skills may keep evolving very quickly, it may be more sustainable to think about assessing for values rather than focusing solely on skills.

What do you think we need to be mindful of when assessing for values?

Of course, some jobs may not require as deep an understanding of an applicant’s values for that person to be successful at the job, so it’s not necessarily an important focus for every role. I think there is also a risk that people making hiring decisions will end up hiring people who have the same values as them. That could lead to teams made up of very similar people, and possibly cause tension with ED&I initiatives focused on diversity and inclusion as a result. It’s important to make sure your assessment of values is objective, fair, and aligned to the values and objectives of the organisation. 

So how does AI relate to values based recruitment? Does it threaten it?

We spent a long time discussing what we wanted to cover in this section! There are two main ways we could have approached this discussion: 

  • Does an applicant’s (or recruiting team’s) use of AI during recruitment make values-based recruitment more or less relevant and helpful?
  • Does an increase in use of AI in the workplace make values more or less important when recruiting? 

We decided that the discussions about point 1 covered all kinds of recruitment (not just values-based recruitment) and is a bit of a moving feast, so we focused on the more strategic conversation around point 2. 

We feel the emergence of AI at work could signal huge changes in how jobs may evolve over time, and it’s really important to consider if an individual’s values are more or less important in this context. We think more important!  If use of AI means individuals have more time and autonomy at work, how will they use that time? What are the parts of roles that AI can’t perform – things like creative thinking, building relationships, demonstrating empathy – and how will people lean into those areas? If AI can be used to augment human decision-making, how will people critically evaluate the data an AI tool provides them with? We can explore answers to these and other questions by delving into why people behave in the ways they do, and how their values are driving those behaviours. So, assuming you can assess values in a robust and reliable way, we feel values-based recruitment will become more and more important as AI becomes more prevalent at work.

What were your key takeaways from the conference?

There was a lot of content on AI from various angles, which was really interesting and reminded us all to keep questioning how it’ll affect both what we do and how we do it. It felt quite exciting – there hasn’t been anything this big to happen in the workplace for a long time and it is really interesting to think about the possibilities it could bring. There were some themes I’d like to reflect on more, such as how psychologists could use AI tools to reinvent some of the tasks we do which haven’t changed in a long time, such as job analysis. There were also some really useful reflections about how we’ve dealt with other big shifts in the past and how we can approach the challenge of AI bearing in mind all our expertise from past organizational changes.

High points of the conference for you?

It was great to spend time beforehand collaborating with Ben and James on the panel discussion; it’s quite a different experience to presenting a solo session and I found our discussions to prepare what we wanted to say really valuable. I also enjoyed Bruce Daisley’s keynote – it was so engaging and made me think about the importance of communities at work and how important it is to have meaningful relationships in our workplaces. 

I also made lots of new connections during the conference, and also reconnected with people who I haven’t spoken with in a while. It was great to be able to attend and hear what everyone had to say!

 

A big thank you to the Association for Business Psychology for another excellent conference, and to all the presenters who contributed to the discussions. We’d love to hear your reflections on the conference – please add your comments!

If you want to hear more about how WPG approach values-based recruitment, or discuss how you might embed values into your selection processes, please contact us.