Toastmasters Lessons for a HR Recruiter
As a newly minted toastmaster, my experience thus far has been nothing short of enriching and invigorating. Every meeting has brought along fun, surprises and esprit de corps with the serendipity of how applicable and relevant the things I learnt were to my role as a HR professional. Here, I would like to share some food for thoughts from the talent acquisition perspective.
Lesson 1: Warm the Heart
Come to any toastmasters meeting and you will immediately feel welcomed. That’s how accepting and affable the club atmosphere is. The smiles and warmth quickly disperse any jitters someone going to a new environment normally feels, replacing it with a sense of familiarity and safety that comes only when we are in the company of close friends.
There is much HR can learn from toastmasters in its ability to break ice and rapidly build rapport with a person even before you know it. Before an employee joins the company, there is the selection and interview phase where potential employees will have their first encounter with HR. This is the best time to imbue upon the candidate the sense of customary toastmaster warmth and care.
HR might consider making a pre-interview phone call to brief the candidate on the job description, explain directions to the venue and run through the interview process and clarify any questions the candidate might have. The interview process is an anxious moment for most, if HR could help ease this anxiety for candidates and let them know there is someone looking out for them, the warmth will reach their hearts.
Lesson 2: Communicate and Convenience the Process
The way toastmasters communicate the meeting process is by providing program sheets and running through the agenda with all new visitors and guests. It will be untenable for HR to customize program sheets for each interviewee but whenever possible, surprises should be minimized. Some interviews require candidates to complete assessments, write essays or discuss case studies on the spot. If permissible, HR should prepare candidates mentally and emotionally by informing them beforehand.
Of course, there are instances where companies wanted to see how candidates react to spontaneous situations and perform under stress, much like the table topics segment in toastmaster, then perhaps HR could inform them if not of the content and nature of the test, at least the fact that they will be expected to take one and how much time they will be given for it, if it does not compromise the objective of the interview assessment.
The job application form could also be simplified as well if information is already provided via the candidate’s resume or other supporting documents. The amount of information required to make a job application and to be a toastmaster would be different but there is tremendous effort by toastmasters to make the process short and sweet, requiring only the most pertinent information versus a 2-4 pages typical job application form that job candidates need to populate rather extensively. Worse if they are required to do so on the spot.
Lesson 3: Mentor the Newbie
Toastmasters know that having a suitable mentor to guide new aspiring members and socialize the member into the club culture is critical. The mentor-mentee fit is critical because everyone have their own preferences and strengths and toastmasters makes sure that there is chemistry and compatibility by providing options and consults both parties on whether they are comfortable with the relationship. Sometimes, even multiple mentors are arranged, with one mentor covering a particular aspect as we all have different strengths.
Mentorship or buddy arrangements are not uncommon in the workplace for new joiners. Generally, they are assigned or volunteered roles that are based on seniority, competency and willingness levels. But such arrangements may not have taken sufficient consideration between the compatibility between the two personalities. For instance, pairing a person with direct communication style to one who is indirect could lead to unnecessary misunderstanding and ill-feelings. Making mentorship decisions based on foresight before more mutual understanding had been established between both parties does not seem to be designed for certain success.
HR could facilitate this process by developing and building a mentor pool and arranging network sessions where new joiners can mingle and interact with different mentors. Then let the chemistry work things out and have the mentees and mentors choose their own “partner” after they have gotten to know each other better. This might for example be incorporated in the induction or orientation program for new joiners. With the benefit of hindsight, it is harder to go wrong, just like how toastmasters do it.