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New Recruitment Solutions for a re-set world from Lee McQueen

I have never yet met any entrepreneur who hasn’t spent a vast proportion of their time on recruitment.   It is hard to find the right people, more challenging to achieve gelling a mix of people with very different skills, and perhaps hardest of all to retain them.  

Now, life is twice as hard.  We have rising unemployment, which will help the choice, but at the same time, we have increasing numbers of companies opting to run some or all of their teams remotely.  We have equally large numbers of the workforce preferring to work that way.  This new style of having to gel great teams remotely has added to recruitment challenges.

Lee McQueen - recruitment expert

By pure serendipity, around 18 months ago, Lee McQueen had an idea that would provide the answer to the new times that are now upon us.   Lee is one of the best known of TV’s The Apprentice winners, having beaten an astonishing 20,000 candidates to become Lord Sugar’s business partner.  He is also the only candidate ever to reach the end without a trip to the boardroom.  Lee teamed up with Lord Sugar and Lord Sugar’s son Simon to launch a digital media business.  Lee describes it as a fantastic experience, and he stayed two years rather than the traditional one.  

For Lee, people and what makes them tick are his passions, so he decided to go back to recruitment, where he started his career and started a company there.  The Raw Talent Academy is ten years old now and is very much competency and behavior-focused recruitment designed to make businesses more efficient.  His time there has given Lee what is now 20 years in the recruitment industry.

Lee decided he would use digital assessors to help with his own recruitment, but had little success.  I can completely identify with that, having found them less than successful when I used them a few years back.  I found them unsatisfactory at weeding out fraudsters and serial liars who appeared perfect in assessment, but were no fit with the culture.  In my optimistic and trusting way, it actually made my recruitment worse rather than improved it.

Developing his own Recruitment Platform

Lee, however, was not to be defeated.  He invested £250,000 in an internal platform for Raw Talent that did everything he hoped one would.  One of his clients was so impressed that they asked Lee if he would sell it.   Lee thought hard, realized he had hit on a massive gap in the market, and pivoted to set up a SaaS business called Phoenix51, of which that client has already given them business.  Officially, Phoenix51 launched on September 15 this year.  His other company, Raw Talent, remains a client alongside several blue-chip companies, including CenturyLink and Reach PLC.

I said to Lee that it was the psychology side of other assessment programs that had failed me in the past, and he explained that as his idea developed, he realized that he needed expert input on this side.  Lee met Chris Wimshurst, a business psychologist with cognitive-behavioral coaching and psychometric assessment qualifications through a client.

Chris Wimshurst - recruitment and behavioural advisor

Chris Wimshurst

Chris helps design systems and frameworks, and had just set up his own consultancy.  Lee brought him on board as COO to ensure the psychological side had expert input

Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of hiring people we like or people we feel empathy for because they are like us.  The reality is that a business profits from a host of different people with different skill sets.  Not surprisingly, research shows that competency-based, structured interviews, therefore, are nearly twice as likely to deliver a more appropriate hire.  With the lack of verbal conversation, the success rate drops lower, still with virtual hiring.

Phoenix51’s tech puts the accuracy back into both interviewing for recruitment, and assessment post recruitment.   Lee explained that you can also achieve a cultural match.  In any organization, if you examine people from senior managers to junior trainees, you find 2-3 core competencies that match the company’s values.  The platform offers what Lee describes as a “pick and mix” of core values that clients can identify so that the culture fit continues, even when recruiting globally.

The platform creates digital frameworks and scorecards that allow organizations to assess against key behaviors and competencies specific to a job role in vertical and horizontal hiring.  But it is much more than just an assessment platform as we knew them.

But it can also be used as both an onboarding and an ongoing assessment tool, making the process a great deal fairer.  Lee shared an example when they benchmarked 150 managers over five years. They found one chap who was brilliant and could promote him over the plodder who was still struggling but had been there five years.  Business owners can have no fear of promoting through personal likes and dislikes, or guilty obligations but foster a culture of true meritocracy.

Equally, you can tailor your team members’ development better, which means they get custom made development and far superior employee experience, which inevitably means longer retention.   People are only just starting to talk about the issues of virtual hire.  Lee’s platform is ahead by providing the solution for virtual assessments. Lee describes it as the start “of a new era in how business hires, benchmarks, trains, and retains their people.

A disciple of competency assessment and talent analytics though he is, Lee is also keen to point out that there is still a human element left in the recruitment process.  The simple reason is that humans crave humans.  But the process is hugely simplified. 

Because the initial selections are all achieved by data process, it also means users have automates records and proof of the sort of legalities that can’t be met with old fashioned notes and provide GDPR records and achieve genuine inclusion and diversity.   I know full well I was forever wasting time searching around for notes post interview to write up at dead of midnight and endeavour to score impartially.   While America has lagged on GDPR, new legislation is coming in January 21, which will make this information need to be time and date stamped.

No-one could have foreseen the timing, but this help is precisely what businesses need to smash recruiting and running global teams, hiring the right competencies.   Also, as importantly, to find and retain people aligned with the company values and form a strong team that relates to each other wherever they are.

Phoenix52 are currently going through first-round funding and have a fifteen-month window to achieve their 50-client goal.  Lee aims to deliver a SaaS business fully back into the market and exit in three years.  Potential investors are welcome to get in touch with him.

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