Today’s piece comes out of an interview I ran with a Michelin chef, Ruben Koopman, who at the time was running Frogmore Creek Vineyard’s outlets and oversaw the most engaged, enthusiastic staff I’ve ever seen. He certainly had a ‘secret sauce’ for recruitment and I was keen to find out more.

After the history of his chef’s journey, when we reached the present iteration of his work and career, I asked him, what was his interviewing process? How did he select that perfect person that fitted with him, with his vision, with the job, with the space?

Ruben’s answer was an eye opener. He described the issues they, like everyone in the industry (and any business) had been having in finding good staff:

  • resumés were sketchy or just plain eye-rolling in their sameness, so couldn’t be relied upon;
  • so often staff were applying for a job, any old job, without any thought as to whether they should actually be there in the first place;
  • interviews themselves were too short to actually have a really good look at the applicant;
  • did the venue itself look as good a workplace as it could? How to get that communication across to the applicant?
  • recruitment at best was hit and miss, and there were too many misses for his liking.

Like all great chefs, Ruben is a problem solver, so called a brains meeting with the upper echelon of management and a couple of sous chefs and put this to them:

“How about we distil what we do, and why, into a set few words that represent the entire ethos of Frogmore? And when we have done that, why don’t we ask our applicants to give their take on those words so we can see if,

  1. they’re suited to us
  2. they’re suited to the role they want or could be better elsewhere?
  3. We can gain real insight into the people they are and the experiences they’ve had?”

Recruitment suddenly became a huge focus. And so Ruben and his management team brainstormed, argued and reached for a solution – it took many hours until they all agreed on the 8 words that to them, collectively, represented the business. It was deep and meaningful, for sure, but for many, it was revelatory, and brought them together as a team more than any group activities or team building ever had.

That single exercise made them think, as individuals and as a team. About the business that sucks up many of their waking hours, and energy. For Ruben, it was a watershed moment that defined him as a boss and fellow worker. Put into practice, it turned the business. Right. Around.

What did this singular process do?

  • Within a few months there was much less turnover of staff
  • The staff felt listened to, and
  • Felt they were placed where they were the best fit
  • Staff worked together better as a team
  • Management were more relaxed
  • Markedly less stress showed in everyone
  • Profit rose.

And that’s the juice. One of the best techniques I’ve had the good fortune to come across and its multiple benefits will keep unfolding. Of that I have no doubt.

If 8 words can turn that big business around, then I am sure it can work in most businesses and workplaces. But the essence, the key of its genius, is it forces the employer to listen. Carefully. To actually see the person in front of them who is applying for work. And to see if they fit. That’s the best outcome one could wish for. Recruitment issues? Solved.