Great recruiters do five things very well (I call them the GRE ó the “Great Recruiter Essentials”):
- Great recruiters consistently find top candidates. This is primarily through awesome networking skills. They know how to get their contacts and candidates to provide names of outstanding people who are NOT looking for a job (anyone can get names of people looking for work).
Both sides ó recruiters and candidates ó responded strongly to my article last week on customer service. Many recruiters wrote in asking how they could possibly provide the quality and personal customer service that I insist is a core element of being an effective 21st century recruiter. Here are a few quotes I received from recruiters: “I have received almost 500 resumes. Over 90% of these people are not qualified or not what my company is looking for.” And another, “I have been overwhelmed with candidates. Some fit our needs, but most don’t even take the time to read the job description…I wish I could reply to every candidate, but if I did I would not be doing my job!” A candidate, on the other side of the fence, wrote: “As a candidate going through a very bad dry spell in finding recruiting work, I rarely experience this common courtesy among recruiters who post jobs that don’t exist and fail to follow simple due diligence.” And this, “I’m a downsized corporate executive who has been repeatedly appalled by the way companies and recruiters are treating candidates during this economic downturn.” We all, I believe, want to provide candidates with great service, and we all know that those who have been ignored, dismissed as not qualified, or otherwise treated with discourtesy will not forget and may never recommend our firm to friends or apply again ó even when they may be an excellent choice. Every act of discourtesy will eventually be incorporated into the overall reputation that our firms have about people and how they are treated. As they say in the customer satisfaction business, for every customer that tells you they are satisfied, there are at least three dissatisfied customers who have said nothing. The same applies for candidates. So what does the overworked, overwhelmed recruiter do? How can you provide responsive service in the face of huge numbers of resumes? Here are three tips: 1. Don’t post job descriptions, but if you do, make them precise and specific. I have taken an excerpt from a job description I found on a website that is representative of many I see every day. The questions I ask is who, with even a modicum of technical ability and a dash of experience, will not feel qualified for this job? There are no specifics, no details, and no firm requirements. I almost feel that I could apply for this and justify why if asked.
You’re looking for more than just a job in information technology. You want a career that challenges your IT experience while giving you the freedom and support to succeed. Look no further than Company X. Our professional services offerings span the entire application lifecycle, giving our customers a complete solution and our employees the opportunity to excel on all platforms. With our technical focus and emphasis on delivery, we strive to hire experienced information technology professionals with broad skill sets and the desire and versatility to learn new businesses and skills. We are selective in hiring and serious about retaining those we do hire. We are looking for candidates with the following attributes:
If you’re interested in taking a more strategic approach to your sourcing efforts, the most important area to start focusing on is long-term relationships. You’ll also need to focus on the process of constantly identifying potential candidates who are “above the funnel”?? that is, individuals who are not candidates today, but are potential candidates in the future. Either way, one of the best methods of building these kinds of relationships is through permission marketing. Seth Godin coined the term “permission marketing” in his book, Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends, and Friends Into Customers, which is still viewed by many as the bible of permission marketing. The fundamental definition of permission marketing Godin develops in this book is that permission marketing messages are anticipated, personal, and relevant. Permission marketing has been successfully used in e-commerce for years, and it is fast becoming an important technique for building better relationships in recruiting. In this article, we’ll explore some techniques and ideas for building a targeted list of candidates, which is the important first step in fully utilizing permission marketing in recruiting. Create a Targeted List The first step in establishing a candidate relationship campaign based on permission marketing principles is to create a targeted list. This can consist of as little as:
This article is the fifth and final in a series of articles that covers how human capital management has changed dramatically during the last several years. Each article has highlighted one of five new principles that have characterized the recent transformation of Human Capital Management. The new principles of Human Capital Management already described are: a skilled workforce is a cash multiplier, the ubiquity of skills demand; the automated matching of supply and demand; and the recruiting supply chain. Each principle builds on the next. In this article, we examine the final principle: human capital management as a systematic process. Systematic Business Process Human capital management is a business process in which quality should be a central concern. International standards for management systems, such as the ISO 9000, focus on consistency and repeatability as a means to deliver quality. The same approach may be applied to human capital management. Consistency in the staffing process means that two recruiters will come to the same decision in identical circumstances. Attaining consistency requires that decisions be made on the basis of a systematic and analytical framework. A consistent, enterprise-wide set of criteria for defining success at a job – relied upon to inform the acquisition and deployment of human capital – will result in an increase in the quality of the workforce. Quality has to be achieved not as an accident, but as a matter of design. Putting It All Together The birth of an infosphere called the Internet (explained in an earlier ERE article series) has allowed the second principle, the ubiquity of demand, to become reality. An understanding of the ubiquity of demand makes corporations more aware of the true level of competition. The ubiquity of demand forces employers to become a brand, and to articulate a true value proposition to future employees. The technology within state-of-the-art staffing management systems enables the third and fourth principle, the automated matching of supply and demand and the recruiting supply chain. Automated matching of talent supply and demand provides a fast and high-quality fulfillment of corporate needs, while automation of the recruiting supply chain creates further efficiencies. However, it is only the leaders of organizations that can make human capital management a systematic process. It is the increasing amount of evidence of the first principle – a skilled workforce is a cash multiplier – that is pushing them to act now. The Role of HR Leadership We can now understand how much the job of a VP of HR has changed lately and how much technology has enabled new processes and new thinking. Corporate leaders must think about human resources as a true process, equally capable of being systematized as any other business process. If all business is a combination of science and art, HR has been the area in which the proportion of art has been higher than in other disciplines. New technologies and practices can introduce a more systematic and efficient approach to human capital management. The financial importance of human capital makes the pressure greater than ever to develop human capital management technologies and practices that acquire and optimally deploy top performers. From a clear connection of the financial impact of human capital management to the principle of supply chain management applied to recruiting, we have been through a true evolution. The role of a leader is to inspire the change, and engage a new systematic process by introducing best of breed technologies powered by validated content and process steps. Today, human capital management practices can be a true business differentiator for any successful business. These five principles should form a new framework for understanding how human capital management is changing. The true challenge now is putting it all together as a best of breed human capital management practice. With this focus, I invite you to send me your challenges so we can discuss them in future articles.
As a consultant, I have the opportunity to visit dozens of firms each year, and without a doubt the most frequently asked question is, “What are the best practices in recruiting?” Well, one best practice that always appears near the top of my list is developing a “most wanted” list. A “most wanted” list is simply a list of pre-identified, specific individuals that you want to hire at the beginning of the company’s fiscal year. Because this is a “want” list, and wants change over time, so too must this list. In fact, it should be consistently evaluated and changed throughout the year as business conditions change. The contrasting practice that most traditional recruiting organizations utilize is the “wait and see” approach, which involves:
- Posting job openings and waiting to see who applies, or
The Internet has become a valuable tool to many recruiters over the last several years. With the growth of job boards as well as personal homepages, candidate information is all around us. It comes down to the simple skill of knowing how to find what you are looking for when using the Net. Finding diverse candidates has always been a goal of recruiters across the country, but using the Internet has been difficult, unless you know where and what you are looking for. Below are some suggestions of how you can locate diverse candidates using the Internet. The Old Way The way recruiters use to attract diverse candidates was by placing ads in diverse publications or contacting diverse organizations, hoping to get information from them on how they could get the word out to their members that they are hiring. Advertisements, as we all know, are effective for certain positions. But they often fall short in many job categories. Contacting organizations can be useful, but usually only at a local or regional level, and it can take quite a bit of time. Diversity Job Boards As the job market has changed, so have the faces of many job boards. In order to survive in the job board arena, you either need to be very large, with deep pockets, or you need to be specialized in a niche area, such as diversity. There are a number of sites out there that can help a recruiter easily identify qualified diverse candidates. Sites like LatPro, Asia-Net, IMdiversity, and Diversity Recruiting are just a few sites that have seen the need for diversity recruiting and now offer different services to recruiters that help them easily connect with different diverse backgrounds. By no means is this a complete list of sites, but rather a sampling of sites to give you an idea of what is available. To get a complete list of diverse sites, take a look in the 2002 edition of CareerXroads. Associations If diversity is what you are looking for, then many times you need to go no further than an association that is focused on diverse members. All you need to do is a little research to find these associations. Here are a few to get you started:
In Part 1, we discussed simplified hiring systems and good hiring tools. Part 2 covered hiring better technical professionals; Part 3, managers; Part 4, salespeople; and, Part 5, customer contact folks. In this part, we will discuss hiring blue-collar employees. Blue-Collar Employees A few years ago, the blue-collar employee could be seen carrying a lunch bucket to work where he or she would spend long hours doing the same mindless, repetitive task. No more. Today’s blue-collar worker is more likely to be trained in computer skills or six-sigma quality tracking. He or she is able to operate a variety of complex equipment, make quality decisions, and even deal directly with customers. Skilled and semi-skilled worker productivity differences are similar to customer service representatives – about 30% of base salary. This means a group of 60 blue-collar workers earning an average of $35,000 will cost the organization $630,000 each year due to productivity differences (60 x $35,000 = 2,100,000 x 30% = $630,000). There are many significant changes to blue-collar positions that make these folks more like semi-professionals than unskilled workers. For one thing, the level of required problem solving is considerably higher than ever before; decision making is often passed down from manager to operator; work teams make their own quality decisions and often decide among vendors and work processes; and ongoing improvement suggestions are an expected part of the job. The world has changed, and anyone who believes they can hire “Pat Lunchbucket” to perform “Pat Quality’s” job won’t be able to get there from here. All these increased requirements means that entry-level employee quality has to increase as well. This is a problem. Politicians eager to seek favor among their constituents have watered down already-watered-down public school accountability. The result is that many high school graduates don’t have the skills to balance a checkbook or read a bus schedule. Requiring a high school diploma is not the same guarantee of “the three Rs” it once was. In fact, some organizations are unable to find people who can read operating manuals and perform basic addition and subtraction. They have to hire teachers to conduct in-house classes in basic math and reading. And reading and writing may not always be enough. Another of my clients used a very thorough testing and behavioral interviewing program to hire assembly workers. They were surprised to find later that employees did not get along with each other. When we ran workers through a simple teamwork simulation, we saw that people who did poorly on the simulation also did poorly on the job. If this organization had added a short teamwork simulation to their hiring process, they could have avoided employee conflict. Measuring Blue-Collar Competencies The following section outlines a few common competencies for the skilled and semi-skilled blue-collar positions (they may not be all inclusive for your jobs, but that is the reason why “job analyses” are necessary). You might also notice that competency names are similar to the customer service representative. That’s normal. Competencies are always defined by specific job activities (e.g., problem solving for troubleshooting equipment problems and problem solving for resolving customer service problems are significantly different):
Investing in your employee referral program (ERP) consistently generates one of the highest returns on investment in terms of both cost and quality per hire. Without lifting a finger, chances are you can get anywhere from 10-25% of your hires from employee referrals. Many companies look at this number and think, “Why mess with success?” The answer: because successful programs have the potential to generate 50-75% of your hires with a minimal investment. The next logical question is, “How can I improve upon a program that is already bringing me a quarter of my hires?” You’ve probably seen enough statistics to make your head spin about referred employees. For example, referred candidates:
I recently had the opportunity to speak with a group of recruiters about how the profession is changing. I put the following question to the group: “How is your organization addressing the current economic climate?” The most agreed upon response was a shift in focus. Participants discussed the necessity of becoming more generalized as a matter of survival. Some have completely done away with specialized sourcing teams, and all have had to learn more about the legal side of human resources. Interestingly, in an industry survey our team conducted early last year, employment law was shown to hold little importance for recruitment professionals. In continuing this discussion, I asked how many recruiters now had to work more closely with the human resources group, specifically on EEO issues. Again the trend showed this was happening more and more. Because the two groups typically have very different goals, this relationship has been strained. But did you know that your applicant tracking system (ATS) can build a bridge between these groups? An ATS is a powerful tool in the implementation and tracking of fair hiring practices, an area that recruiters admit they must become more knowledgeable. Through the use of data in your ATS, you can proactively identify and track your efforts towards reaching a broad candidate pool and making sure your practices are non-discriminatory. Let’s face it, broadening the staffing reach increases your chances of finding the best employees for your business – which, after all, is the mission of the staffing professional. Although most HR professionals are familiar with the OFCCP and the EEOC, many recruiters are not. For recruiters, those who have heard the terms fear these government agencies. I have seen many staffing functions paralyzed by fear of the dreaded audit. One client I met with earlier this year was completely paralyzed. The EEO group had an admirably flawless record in defending the company in audits. As a result, the staffing strategy was EEO driven, significantly limiting the reach of the staffing group and ultimately preventing them from identifying the best employees. In this article, I hope to shed some light on this topic for recruiters, and help HR professionals and recruiters come together on processes and procedures by using an ATS to consistently hire the most qualified candidates. First, let’s revisit some definitions Dr. Wendell Williams shared in an article back in January. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and the OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) are two separate and distinct agencies. The EEOC is chartered with enforcing the regulations intended to prevent employment and pay discrimination. The EEOC does not perform audits. On the other hand, the OFCCP, through its ongoing audits, works not only to prohibit discrimination by entities doing business with the federal government, but also to ensure that these organizations are practicing affirmative action, ensuring compliance to several acts and executive orders. Since we’re discussing compliance and the use of an applicant tracking system, it seems we should discuss the definition of an applicant. This would be much simpler if the definition were not so vague. The current definition – anyone seeking employment at your company – is somewhat problematic. However, the U.S. Supreme Court helped us out slightly in McDonnell Douglas Corporation vs. Green by finding that an applicant must prove that “he applied and was qualified for a job for which the employer was seeking applicants…” This reduced the applicant pool to those who meet the minimum requirements. While this case was helpful, it is important to note that there still continues to be much confusion and disagreement about the applicant definition. It’s an area in which federal contractors and the OFCCP have major and serious differences. (For more information on minimum requirements, see the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures.) One final definition that is important to our discussion here is “selection procedure.” The Uniform Guidelines defines selection procedure as “any measure, combination of measures, or procedures used to make a decision about an employee or an applicant.” Now that we understand the terms, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with your ATS. The answer is plenty. Here are a few ways to leverage your ATS to support your efforts:
- Develop your hiring processes at all levels. As in any mission critical initiative, commitment from the top down is a must. Work with your legal counsel and internal experts to develop your processes and procedures, keeping in mind the necessity of hiring the best people while limiting the number of “applicants” to be reviewed. As you develop these processes, keep in mind that there are record-keeping requirements and legal obligations for candidate tracking.
Given this recession and the general slowdown in recruiting, it would seem logical to assume that customer service levels would have improved. But in numerous conversations I’ve had recently, I have been appalled to hear about poor quality service that seems to be getting worse. I have had numerous emails over the past few weeks from candidates who have been laid off and have been struggling to find new positions. They are very angry – not at the fact that there aren’t as many jobs as before, but by the complete silence from us after they submit their resumes and applications. Many of these candidates are the ones we would have been drooling over just six months ago. An acquaintance who was recently “downsized” from a major firm has never heard a single word from over half a dozen firms he has applied to, even though they have active job listings that he appears qualified for. A recruiter whom I have known for many years was on the market a few months ago and found the situation so bad that she now goes out of her way to provide service and communicate with everyone who applies at her new firm. My list could go on, but I think we all are well aware that the customer service levels in our profession are about as bad they can be. We don’t respond at all or else we take a very long time. We almost never give any feedback to a candidate, and phone calls are usually not returned. Maybe we all need to be out of work for a few months to appreciate the great and lasting value a few words can have to a candidate. Our lack of a position does not justify in any way the failure to communicate intelligently and maturely with them. If we don’t have positions right now, we can certainly maintain email or telephone contact and explain what the situation is. We talk about candidate relationship management a lot. More and more software is available to expedite the CRM process and many consultants and experts in the staffing arena are focusing on how to build these relationships, maintain them, and harvest from them when appropriate. Yet, I wonder if we can possibly be successful when we cannot manage the simpler process of basic customer courtesy. Here are three very simple and basic practices I would like to see recruiters and whole organizations adopt as first steps to improving the image of our profession, as well as our success rate. Adopting these will more than likely force changes in your recruiting process and in the software or tools that you use to contact candidates, but that is all for the good. Principle #1: Generally act toward any candidate the way you would want to be treated yourself. We all know what good customer service looks and feels like. And we all know how we would want other recruiters to treat us if we were looking for work. As a matter of fact, some of the complaint letters I have gotten have been from unemployed recruiters! This may mean giving the frontline recruiting administrative staff lessons in customer service or in making sure they know that the relationship between an organization and a candidate is often made or destroyed at the very lowest levels. A discourteous receptionist or an administrative staffer who is curt or unfriendly can ensure you never hear from that candidate again. Principle #2: Get back to every candidate with a response that provides some feedback. Don’t use legal liability, the fact that you are too busy, or company policy as an excuse to avoid feedback. There is a lot that you can say that is perfectly legal and shows respect. Let candidates know that you don’t have open positions or that the ones that are open require certain skills they do not have. Give the candidate some clue as to what they might do to be more attractive to your firm. Be honest if it is unlikely that any positions are going to be open in the near term, and outline your policy toward considering outside people if you have one that considers those laid off first. Principle #3: Develop a communications system – email or newsletters, for example – that will allow you to contact many candidates with a single process. Candidates I talk to don’t mind getting emails keeping them updated on a company or on a position type. Anything that keeps them informed is better than the deep silence that is more characteristic. They would rather get a newsletter than nothing at all. Many new recruiting tools make it easy to stay in touch, and I am certain these will be seen as required tools within a year or two. Broad, general communication to the people who have sent in resumes or filled out applications cements relationships and will make it much easier to recruit people when times get better. Keeping in touch with those who have been laid off and with those who are seeking out possibilities will reap benefits when the economy turns the corner (and that seems to be happening already). A skills shortage remains with us and will for the rest of your career. I have written before about the declining skills levels, the aging workforce, and the increasing demand for people with very specific skills. You do yourself and your organization a long-term disfavor by not having strong customer service rules, processes, and enforcement. Let me know what you are doing about customer service and how you are staying in touch with people who were laid off from your firm. If I get some good responses, I’ll publish them in an upcoming column.
Does this speech sound familiar? “Let me say, first and foremost, I am a people person. My door is always open. I would rather grant forgiveness than grant permission. There is no ‘I’ in team. I will always share the credit, and take the hit. You protect me and I will always protect you. You, the people who work for me, are always job number one. I would prefer to limit profit and maintain headcount than have things the other way around. Mistakes are merely new lessons, taught on the job. Errors are not terminal events on my watch. Nobody ever got in trouble disagreeing with my ideas. The only stupid question is the unasked one. There is always enough credit to go around. I play no favorites; there are no politics in my department, just equals. I don’t care if you are white, black, purple, or green; we are all in this together. “Sorry, no time for questions today, make an appointment with my assistant what’s-her-name.” I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of speech that motivates me to update my resume. I work on the assumption that those things others feel the need to tell you in speeches, especially if those speeches are an unending thread of clich?s, are in fact promises that are destined never to be fulfilled. As Shakespeare once wrote, “…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!” My concern heightens in direct proportion to the ratio of clich?s to paragraphs. For example:
- One clich? per paragraph equals a nervous person who feels on the spot.
In Part 1, we discussed a simplified hiring process and some good hiring tools. Part 2 discussed hiring better technical professionals; Part 3, managers; and Part 4, salespeople. In Part 5, we will discuss hiring better customer contact representatives. The Customer Contact Position No one gets “hammered” more than the customer contact person. Customer service can be either outbound or inbound, on the phone or in person, sitting or standing, behind a counter or behind a phone. The job is about the same: hours and hours resolving issues and occasionally taking verbal abuse (usually caused by someone else). Customer service people are among a group of employees considered to be semi-skilled. Productivity differences for these folks are estimated to be about 30% of base salary. That means a department of 30 CSRs earning an average of $35,000 will lose $315,000 each year due to productivity differences (30 X $35,000 = 1,050,000 x 30% = $315,000). Customer contact people represent how the company really feels about customers. Here is a good example of a customer service program to avoid. A few months ago, my wife called the customer service department of a large bank. It seems like our 15-year-old credit card account had been passed from one acquiring bank to another until it ended up at “GreatBigBank.” (The actual name shall remain confidential, but it contained the words “First” and “Union”). Anyway, in the process of one bank gobbling up another bank, GreatBigBank sent us a very nasty letter about a single late payment. When my wife called to complain about the tone of the letter, the Customer Service Rep told her GreatBigBank was the third largest in the country and there were more people wanting to open accounts at GreatBigBank than close them. Then, the “customer service” rep hung up on her! Isn’t it ironic? No matter whom you call today, a phone call for help is just as likely to increase your blood pressure as it is to decrease your problem. GreatBigBank’s advertising drive to acquire customers was totally undermined by their customer service drive to retain them. Measuring Customer Contact Competencies The following section outlines a few common competencies for the customer contact position (they may not be all inclusive for your jobs, but that is the reason why “job analyses” are necessary). You might also notice that competency names are similar to other jobs we have discussed earlier. That’s normal. Competencies are always defined by specific job activities (i.e., PROBLEM SOLVING for credit card holders and problem solving for resolving computer problems are significantly different):
Let’s face it, most hiring managers aren’t great interviewers. They tend to base their judgments about candidate competency on first impressions, intuition, and some level of skills and experience. The best recruiters know that many errors are made during an interview. They minimize them by coaching their candidates and hiring manager clients through the assessment process. If you want to improve your hiring percentage rates, the area to work on is the candidate/hiring manager interview. One sure way to improve your odds is to prep your candidates to deal with untrained interviewers. This will insure that they can cope with whatever questions or circumstances arise. If you handle the candidate prep well enough, you can also prep your clients without them even knowing it. Here are some key points to address when prepping candidates:
- Make sure they know their own strengths and weaknesses. Have your candidates write down their four or five strengths and one or two weaknesses. Have them include a short, one-paragraph example of some accomplishment they’ve achieved using each strength. With the weaknesses, have them write up a specific situation where they’ve turned that weakness into a strength, or have overcome the weakness. As you’ll see in the “Universal Answer” below, these examples are critical.
At the Charles Schwab Corporation, Charles Schwab himself or Dave Pottruck, the co-CEO, often make personal appearances at new employee orientations. At National Semiconductor, new recruits play board games to learn the history of the company, and at AMD, new college hires go on outdoor adventures as part of the team building and assimilation process. Organizations are devoting more time to the on-boarding process. They’re employing more creative and exciting techniques in an effort to get their newly hired employees productive sooner and to lay a foundation that will help retain them. In fact, employees who have gone through some sort of on-boarding process?? one that is more than the usual paper-processing administrivia?? report feeling better connected to corporate strategy and to the company culture. This translates years later into a loyalty that keeps the employee and makes it easier for them to turn down offers that tempt by simply offering more dollars. There are at least three reasons that orientation or assimilation programs are becoming popular:
- They help new hires feel that they are part of a larger organization and that they are important. By introducing new employees to senior management and by spending time to build in them an appreciation of the organization’s past and future direction, these programs create a sense of security and comfort.
This article, the fourth in a series, covers how human capital management has changed dramatically over the last several years. This series of articles is intended to highlight the five new principles that need to be understood by anybody in this field who wants to act with insightfulness. In previous articles, we looked at the idea that a skilled workforce is a cash multiplier, examined the ubiquity of demand, and learned how it is possible to automate the matching of supply and demand. In this article, we examine the fourth principle of human capital management: the staffing supply chain. Supply Chains Defined A supply chain is the set of links between the individual steps in an overall end-to-end business process. In manufacturing, the supply chain encompasses the business steps from order to delivery. A typical supply chain may involve suppliers, the manufacturer, wholesalers, and a retailer. The staffing supply chain spans from requisition to having an employee on board, and touches hiring managers, recruiters, media sources, agencies, as well as background checking and other service providers. Sourcing is one of the most upstream points of the human capital supply chain. Downstream components of the human capital supply chain include retention, training, and development. Supply Chain Management A recent business practice, called supply chain management, oversees the flow of materials, information, and money between the nodes of the supply chain. The goal of supply chain management is to improve the performance of a supply chain while deploying the same or fewer assets. The role of information technology in supply chain management is to coordinate all players by instantaneously propagating information concerning levels of supply and demand up and down the supply chain. In bridging supply with demand, supply chain management always starts with demand, and seeks to drive supply to match it. As discussed in my previous article, matching supply with demand in staffing requires a common platform on which to define job requirements and talent in terms of skills and competencies. Starting with demand means that the information necessary to assess a match with the job requirements can be pulled from candidates as required. Staffing Supply Chain Defined A central principle in supply chain management is the digital integration of suppliers. In state-of-the-art staffing management systems, for instance, media sources, agencies, and referrals are linked electronically through one-click multi-posting, agency portals, and electronic employee referral programs. The core benefit of supply chain management is the real-time processing of information. Recruiting cycle time can be reduced dramatically through workflow automation, pushing tasks to collaborators, as well as real-time assessment of candidates (as covered in my previous article on the third principle). The value of reducing supply chain cycle time is evident in situations of inventory obsolescence. The obsolescence of inventory is a key feature of many supply chains?? in the high-tech industry, grocery retail, and other sectors. Reducing cycle time is most important where obsolescence sets in rapidly. Inventory obsolescence is an important factor in the staffing supply chain. Qualified candidates are not available for long, and the likelihood of availability of a qualified candidate diminishes with time. Each new candidate has an associated sourcing cost. Being able to react quickly to establish contact with the candidate and conduct a real-time assessment increases the return on the sourcing dollar. Thinking of staffing in terms of a supply chain brings about an overall shift in the concept of human resources, moving towards a more strategic model. It is likely that Internet technology and the staffing supply chain will change human capital management as much as supply chain management had its effect on physical assets handling. The goal is the same: to optimize the deployment of assets. A corporation?s primary asset is its people, and staffing has a strategic mission in talent acquisition and deployment.
“Oh the times they are a-changing…”
- Bob Dylan The social changes Dylan heralded were directed squarely at the times. Our culture and our social fabric were changing back in the 1960s. Heavy stuff! Some of us (a few?) remember the raised fist and “Right on!” or the salutary, “Peace,” when we encountered anyone?? signs of the changing times. No hand gestures for recruiters yet. But in subtle yet meaningful ways, our jobs as recruiters are going through a major change. And the one change that I believe will dominate all others in the recruiting process is all about quality. What Have The Times Had Us Doing? As recruiters, we’ve been doing what we have been asked, and we do it well. But it’s interesting what management has asked us to do. Fill positions, match job specs, and stay within budget. These tasks resulted in a time and cost metric. We were driven to show results by hiring faster while lowering cost, and were measured on time to fill and cost per hire. As the talent market tightened, quality was squeezed out of the process. This drive for more labor faster at lower cost is antithetical to quality. As important as time and money are, quality will become the key metric. And securing quality talent will take more from recruiters. Let’s Dig Deeper As a recruiter, management asked me to fill requisitions and that’s what I did. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a few, some easy, and some hard. Your world has been the same. We are recruiters: we source, we use our contacts and wits, and we fill positions as quickly as we can and then go on to the next. And that’s how we’re measured and reported on to management, on our success to deliver labor. Fill positions faster and lower acquisition cost. These are very tactical measurements that help define and justify our value. Good, but not good enough for future business. Businesses will make it or not based on the quality of talent they attract, hire and retain. And when you take a hard look at accountability for talent, the responsibility falls directly on us?? the recruiters. Well, our times are changing and recruiters will change with it, I believe, because of two things that have dramatically affected our world:
Article by Dr. John Sullivan, Susan Wong, and Master Burnett Few things set us off more than uninformed people making assumptions without facts. And our “peeve of the century” is the misconception that using employee referrals has a negative impact on diversity. Time and time again, recruiting is promoted as a leading-edge profession, yet it all too often is one of the least scientific of all business roles we have encountered. Very few recruiting departments take the time to track which recruiting tools are the most effective. Most rely on tradition or assumptions rather than facts. Some that are used frequently (like some newspaper ads) often produce mediocre hires, while other less-used recruiting tools consistently find top performers. If you run the numbers, you know that employee referral programs (ERPs for short) are the most effective recruiting tool corporations can use. We have talked to dozens of companies and the results are almost universal. So, if you don’t have an ERP already, what’s stopping you? And, if you do have one, is it achieving all that it can? The Number-One Concern: A Misguided Fear of Adverse Impact Let’s get straight to the point. Properly designed ERPs have no adverse impact on diversity. Time and time again, the number-one excuse we hear for not having an ERP (or under emphasizing it) is the fear of an adverse impact from the program. When we ask heads of employment or VPs of HR why they believe this, the overwhelming response is that they are concerned that “people attract like people.” HR professionals are often quick to assume that the only people current employees know are people just like themselves. When you take a step back and really think about it, if you already have a fairly diverse population, then the fact that your employees recruit people just like themselves will only further your existing diversity rates. On the other hand, if your organization presents little or no diversity in the first place, you can easily design an ERP that encourages and rewards employees for seeking out and referring diverse individuals. If you approach your employee referral program like any other business problem?? through program design?? you can not only improve your recruiting effectiveness but also positively impact diversity at the same time. Why ERPs Are the Answer In our roles as academics, authors, and advisors to management, we have been given a great opportunity to work with hundreds of leading firms?? almost all of which will swear up and down that ERPs are fast, cheap and effective at recruiting the best! But if you don’t believe it, here are some simple facts that might make you reconsider referrals as a diversity tool:
- Eighty-six percent of the “50 Best Companies for Minorities,” as ranked by Fortune Magazine, use employee referral programs as a recruiting tool.
In Part 1, we discussed how to simplify hiring systems and use a few good hiring tools. Part 2 discussed hiring better technical professionals and Part 3, hiring better managers. In Part 4, we will discuss hiring better salespeople. The Sales Position Salespeople are the “life’s blood of the organization.” Hire a poor salesperson and you can lose market share, fail to make sales goals, waste time coaching the “uncoachable,” and lose some of your best customers to the competition. Most sales managers have highly selective memories. On the one hand, they will agree that 80% of their sales comes from 20% of their salespeople, while on the other they insist, “I know a good salesperson when I see one!” I always wondered what these managers would say if I asked, “If you always know ‘em when you see ‘em, did you intentionally hire the bottom 80% just to make the top 20% look good?” Give me a break! Hiring salespeople is not a place to rely on “gut feelings.” Good decisions require good data?? particularly when the job is as critical as sales. What about cost? If we used our sales manager’s 80%/20% productivity estimate, we could quickly compute that a salesperson in the top 20% produces about 400% more than a sales person in the bottom 80% (80/20 = 400%). Dare to put some dollars on that figure? Measuring Sales Competencies “Sell me this pencil,” is a favorite question asked of new salespeople. It tells you a lot about why salespeople tend to fail: they spend too much time listening to themselves and not enough time asking questions to discover the customer’s problems. Other reasons include lacking confidence to initiate sales calls, not asking the right questions, focusing on their own needs, being disorganized, belief they can persuade anybody to buy anything, or not learning about their product. The following section outlines a few common competencies for a salesperson (they may not be all inclusive for your positions, but that’s the reason why “job analyses” are necessary). You might also notice that competency names are similar to other jobs. That’s normal, because even though competency names may sound generic, they are always defined by specific job activities (e.g., “problem solving” for selling cars and “problem solving” selling IT products are significantly different):
The business and economic uncertainties of 2001 resulted in many companies choosing to delay their investment in recruiting technology. It wasn’t uncommon for projects to come to a halt midway through the vendor analysis process. But now that 2002 is well underway, budgets are opening up and the vendor selection task forces are beginning to assemble. For companies that started the process last year and think that they can just pick up where they left off, you need to think again. Your purchasing budgets may have been put on hold, but the vendors did not stop making improvements, adding new features, building alliances, and consolidating. Features that were not offered six months ago are now an integral part of some vendors’ packages. Cumbersome processes have been revamped to make them more user friendly. “Add-on” features are becoming more the norm than the exception. What does this all mean for you? It’s time to go back and re-evaluate vendors that you may have eliminated in the first half of 2001. It’s also time to take a closer look at the vendors that you are currently considering. Has anything changed in the last six months that you are unaware of? Here are a few ideas to consider as you start your 2002 vendor selection process. Reevaluate Eliminated Vendors Go back to your list of vendors and reconsider those you really liked but eliminated because they either did not offer a feature you needed, had processes that were too cumbersome, or offered a pricing model that didn’t work for your company. Chances are these vendors have added those needed features, revamped their processes, or changed their pricing model. Don’t be afraid to consider vendors that you don’t hear as much about publicly. Some of the best, most flexible pieces of software are developed by little known vendors. Many are the result of collaborations between really talented software developers and recruiters, and chose to invest their money in technology and not in large-ad campaigns. That isn’t to say that you should consider every vendor. However, if you have heard some good things about a vendor but haven’t seen lots of advertising, consider giving them a chance to demo their systems. You may be very pleasantly surprised. Consider priorities for today’s and tomorrow’s needs. Consider what you want today and what you think you may want in six months or a year. Evaluate vendors not only on what they can deliver today, but on what they are planning for the future. Don’t accept lip service. Do appropriate due diligence. What has their history been on delivering promised upgrades? Has there been recent turnover in their technology development group? Has the turnover resulted in a stronger or weaker technical organization? Understand Vendor Alliances Companies are beginning to recognize the value of having such features as employee referral program management software, job launching software, and more advanced candidate screening and testing tools incorporated into a candidate management system. While some vendors have chosen to develop these features internally, many do not have the technical bandwidth or investment capital to do so as quickly as is necessary to respond to market requests. These vendors tend to establish alliances with software companies that specialize in these add-on features. These alliances typically create a “win-win-win” situation: for the add-on vendor, the primary vendor, and you. However, as the industry landscape changes, the nature of these alliances may change as well, possibly leaving you on the bad end of a deal. As long as you ask the right questions and build in solid contract terms, you should be fine. I am a strong advocate of these types of vendor alliances. Why reinvent the wheel? If another software company develops a great feature that can be added on to a vendor’s current software without integration issues, then the entire marketplace benefits from the alliance. The message here is not to discourage you from working with ATS vendors that have alliances for various components of their systems. It is merely to heighten your awareness of staying abreast of industry trends and to ask the right kinds of questions before you sign the bottom line. Hundreds of small software companies have developed unique solutions to address the varied needs of recruiting departments. While most have developed great software tools, market success tends to be slower without the benefit of vendor alliances. There are two primary reasons for this. First, many of these small vendors cannot afford the advertising, nor do they have a large enough of a sales team to make a significant impact on the market. Second, and more importantly, companies tend to want to deal with one vendor for their entire Candidate Management System. They want to be assured that all features integrate properly and that any issues can be resolved through one primary resource. By building alliances with primary vendors, these small software companies get the market exposure they need; the primary vendors can offer a suite of tools their client’s want; and you only have to deal with one primary vendor. Hence the “win-win-win.” Sounds great, everyone is happy?? right? Most of the time, yes. However, in today’s ever-changing marketplace, there are a few things to consider, and you need to ask the right questions:
- What happens when another vendor purchases your alliance vendor? Are you covered?
Recently I collaborated with Global Learning Resources on a survey examining best practices for the use of screening in the employee selection process. This research effort provided some important insight into the perceptions of online screening amongst staffing professionals. Of primary interest to me was the fact that, of the 105 firms surveyed, about 70% do not utilize any type of online screening in their hiring process. The fact that many of these respondents indicated that they will at least consider using online screening in the future is certainly encouraging (and fits in well with the trends discussed in my article last month). Despite this, our results indicate the presence of some barriers to the adoption of online screening. Unfortunately, I think that many of these barriers are the result of false perceptions. In my experience, one of the major objections to the adoption of online screening is the perception that it is not a legally defensible way to select employees, or that it is somehow not as legally sound as old-fashioned paper-and-pencil screening. This idea is supported by the fact that almost 100% of our survey respondents indicated that legal defensibility was an area of major concern when considering the adoption of online screening technology. In fact, properly constructed and executed online screening tools are every bit as legally sound as their paper-and-pencil counterparts. What Is Legal Defensibility? Legal issues surrounding the use of screening tools for the purpose of selecting employees are a very complicated subject, the discussion of which can easily go well beyond the scope of this article. In order to keep my discussion simple, I will discuss legal defensibility as the direct result of two things: attitude and understanding. Legal Defensibility Is An Attitude It doesn’t matter what type of screening tool is used or how it is delivered: if the context in which the tool is used does not provide the proper foundation, the legal defensibility of that selection tool will be jeopardized. This means that understanding legal defensibility as an attitude held by an organization is just as important as understanding the nitty-gritty details of the various legal requirements associated with screening. The attitude I’m talking about is a “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” kind of thing. That is, there is no one individual thing that will make your employee selection practices legally sound. Instead, legal defensibility is a product of the mindset that you adopt when developing employee selection processes. This mindset is built on the use of innovation and best practices. Organizations whose selection polices, practices, and procedures are guided by this type of attitude are much more likely to make legally defensible hiring decisions. Below are a few concrete examples of actions that reflect the attitude I’m talking about. Each of these make an important contribution to the creation of a context that will increase the legal defensibility of individual screening tools. In the grand scheme of things, the attitude conveyed by selection systems employing these types of practices is much more important to legal defensibility than the delivery mode of any screening tool used within that system:
- Recruiting for diversity. It is a simple fact that the more diverse your applicant pool, the more likely you will be to select minority applicants. This means that recruiting efforts should be focused on ensuring that your applicant pool reflects an appropriate level of diversity. Choosing a paper-and-pencil screening measure over an online one will not create diversity out of thin air.