UK foodservice giant Reynolds trials radical approach to recruitment
Tony Reynolds (left) with two of the job candidates: Andrew Walker and Jill McDonald

UK foodservice giant Reynolds trials radical approach to recruitment

Gill McShane
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Inspired by the innovative recruitment model used by some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies, Reynolds, the UK’s leading independent distributor of fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, cooked meats and cheese to the foodservice industry, recently gave its staff the power to decide who should be hired for a key position within Reynolds’ hierarchy in a move which could shake-up the firm’s future recruitment process

Appearing on BBC Two’s new documentary Who’s The Boss?, the forward-thinking, family-run firm decided to try out ‘collaborative hiring’ to recruit a new Distribution Operations Manager who will work closely with the company’s drivers and wider distribution team.

The brand new series for BBC Two visits three very different British businesses experimenting with this radical approach to recruitment for the first time. The first episode, which airs next week, February 23 at 9pm, features Reynolds.

Watch a trailer for the programme here:

With 80% of employee turnover being down to poor recruitment decisions, according to BBC Two, the programme seeks to discover whether collaborative hiring could change the way traditional British companies hire people.

Embracing change

Although Reynolds’ recruitment process has always included a cross section of team members relevant to the role, third generation greengrocer and company managing director, Tony Reynolds, was keen to give collaborative hiring a go; believing that healthy debate is important.

“Whilst Reynolds is a traditional family business with strong values, we are a very forward thinking business too,” he comments. “So, the idea of using a modern innovative technique to recruit new employees was one which appealed immediately.

“Our business has always encouraged people to speak openly, which I’m sure will come across in the programme. Some of our people have strong views and aren’t afraid to express them!

“I wasn’t really worried about including the whole company in the decision. However, I can’t deny that I was a little nervous at times about whether the team would collectively make the right decision. As it turned out, they agreed with my view on which candidate was right for the role.”

To search for the best person for the job, Reynolds’ employees – from marketing and sales right through to warehouse workers – had to secretly scrutinise the candidates’ every move in a series of workplace challenges spanning the entire company.

There was a further twist too – while the candidates thought they’re taking part in an immersive week-long job interview, instead they were put through their paces during five days of challenging assessments and tasks without knowing that, behind the scenes, employees were watching, scrutinising and scoring their every move. At the end, with the candidates in the hiring line, the workers voted on who got the job.

Re-shaping recruitment practices

Reynolds’ managing director says the process created a real buzz of excitement at the company.

“I was taken aback at how involved everyone became in the process, especially towards the final ballot where the majority of the team voted on their preferred candidate,” he explains.

“Interesting enough, cultural fit was a common theme in decision making, often ahead of perceived ability or experience. I think that people want to know that new colleagues will fit in well and quickly become part of the team.”

Without a doubt, Reynolds said the experience has left a lasting impact on the business and may lead to changes in how it recruits new staff members in the future.

“It would be very difficult to recreate the process in its entirety because of the amount of time and effort it takes to engage with the entire workforce,” he admits. “However, our recruitment processes are currently being evaluated to ensure we engage with as many employees as is practical. I am also very keen on the idea of giving potential employees a chance to ‘try before they buy’!”

Reynolds serves some of the most respected names in the UK catering industry and has a reputation for reliability, flexibility and exceptional customer service.

Also taking part in the BBC’s documentary are Aberdeenshire-based craft beer company BrewDog and Beech’s, a fine chocolate manufacturer located in Preston.

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