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October  2002 RSS feed Archive for October, 2002

How To Make Hiring a Two Sigma Business Process

by
Lou Adler
Oct 31, 2002

Here are some further thoughts on my last article about making your hiring a formal process instead of an event: “Hiring is #1,” the mantra chanted by 90% of all top executives, is just lip service. Few companies have actually made hiring a formal business process. The investment in resources and management attention needed to make hiring #1 has not yet been put in place by most companies. That’s why companies have so much difficulty consistently hiring top people. Until hiring is a repeatable process with metrics, it will never be #1. Hiring Can Be a Two Sigma Process But hiring can realistically be a Two Sigma process. This is about an 80-90% effectiveness rate. It’s a far cry from Six Sigma, which is less than one in a thousand errors, but still a worthwhile objective. Compared to the effectiveness of most hiring processes?? which is probably closer to .5 sigma (an effectiveness rate of less that 25%)?? 80-90% looks great. One key overriding problem I’ve noticed about most hiring processes is that the needs of the best candidates are typically overlooked. Instead, hiring processes are focused more on meeting the needs of active candidates looking for positions or on managing reams of data. But ignoring the needs of the best can inadvertently exclude them from ever applying. The Best Are Different Than the Rest Since hiring the best should be the primary objective of the hiring process, their perspective must be considered at each step. This impacts how ads are written, how websites are designed, how interviews are conducted, and how offers are negotiated. If a company’s hiring processes aren’t designed with the unique needs of the best in mind, top candidates won’t apply?? or they’ll opt out somewhere during the process or turn down poorly crafted offers. Here are some ideas for designing a hiring process around the needs of the best. One thing you’ll notice is that much of the hiring processes I’m suggesting involves quickly getting top candidates in direct contact with a recruiter. The best candidates require more hand-holding and personal contact than the average candidate, so having a strong recruiting team is important. (Send me an email if you want my checklist of the top 10 things a strong recruiter needs to do?? lou@powerhiring.com.) What Do You Need To Do To Hire Top People?

  1. Move quickly. The best candidates always have multiple opportunities, including counteroffers. This is why you must differentiate each of your jobs, and why you must get a recruiter personally involved as soon as possible. Once a top candidate is ready to move, you’d better be ready to move as well. This means that hiring managers must change schedules at a moment’s notice; HR must process offers more quickly; and pre-written scripts must be used to handle every possible objection. Recruiters hold the deal together, handling every contingency and pushing people to make decisions. This is why they must be involved early.
  2. keep reading…

Worth a Closer Look

by
Yvonne LaRose, CAC
Oct 31, 2002

[EDITOR'S NOTE ó This article originally cited the fictitious resume of "Harriet Martin," which is in no way related to any real person with the same name. "Harriet Martin" has since been replaced by the more fictitious-sounding "Jane Smith."] Jane Smith’s resume is on your desk. You look it over, push it aside, pick it up and reread it, then put it down again. The resume shows some stellar credentials, work history, and progressive advancement ó that suddenly drops off. She isn’t vying for a managerial or executive position. Instead, it’s simply some type of second-tier situation. It’s a job ó or so it seems to you. You go ahead and interview Jane and find an affable, bright, engaging, knowledgeable woman who’s capable of much more than a second-tier position. This makes you wonder why she is undershooting and whether there’s some dark secret that will kill your reputation if you take a chance. I’ve seen these types of resumes in the past. The observation that a major life circumstances that caused a change was confirmed. Although not true of every case like this one, the dark secret may just be that she is a domestic violence survivor making a fresh start. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In 1996, President Clinton declared October 1 “Domestic Violence Workplace Education Day.” So even though today may be the last day of October, it is still fitting that I explain to you why the Jane Smiths you interview might be worth taking a risk on. Poor Work History Jane’s work history has short stints at nondescript situations that aren’t remarkable. During the interview, she talks about looking forward to a situation with a long-term commitment. You start wondering about that, given the work history. The truth of the matter is she truly does want something long-term with growth potential. With the abuser out of her life, things are a lot more stable, and that form of constant, unpredictable disruption is ended. After the first interview, you have Jane take some skills and candidate assessments. You know and trust these instruments. The results report that she is a very talented person with high intelligence. She has natural skills in certain critical areas and also has potential in several others with some small amount of training and development. You start wondering again. The reason for her making a lowball application is to reduce the failure factor and gain a means of earning some type of income. It’s called getting a job and a shoe in the door. Judith Herman calls it in, Trauma and Recovery, getting reconnected. Poor Credit and Background Check Okay, so you trust your assessments tools. A second interview results in more positives. Now you’re thinking strongly of making an offer. So you run the credit and background checks. They come back in terrible shape. There’s a trail of debt, write offs, slow pays, and other red flags. The background check confirms the work history with a few short-term situations that weren’t listed. Although you wonder whether it’s even worthwhile to do reference checks, those initial gut instincts urge you to do so. Some are raves, some milquetoast, one or two say something about some sort of instability. Ginny NiCarthy’s You Can Be Free, Jan Statman’s The Battered Woman’s Survival Guide, and Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery all speak of these credibility assaults as part and parcel of the survivor’s background. Typically in domestic violence situations, the abuser has access to all finance and credit tools and controls all sources money. The abuser will also create bills in the target’s name or else coerce the target to create unaffordable debt. The abuser might also use a number of tactics to isolate the target and discredit them. These are the bases of the negatives in this situation. She is now on safer ground and the abuser out of the picture, that old background is history. Trust your assessment tools. Strengths Jane has a lot of positives. You’ve already noticed that. That’s why you finally interviewed Jane and did all of that qualifying work. That’s why you’re toying with making an offer. But there’re so many red flags, you’re starting to second-guess yourself. And well you should. Jane Smiths are exceptions to the rule, and they are rare. Your first instincts about good skills are correct: this is a valuable person to have on your staff or present to your client. She has a lot of strengths, and I will now discuss with you why the domestic violence or the abuse survivor of this ilk is worth more to you than may be apparent. Unfortunately, not all survivors are like Jane. Some will drive you mad because it takes three minutes for them to decide whether or not to turn on the computer. They will stammer and stutter when asked to explain anything that is said in a normal, respectful tone, and it will take them twice as long to do something because they keep trying to avoid making mistakes. But the person you have before you may not be like that. She is an exceptional talent who needs a small amount of opportunity in order to blossom into the placement you’ll be proud to have. Don’t waste your time on the run of the mill. But you may want to give Jane more consideration, because of the following qualities:

  • Determination. Someone must have had Jane in mind when the word “determined” was coined. If it takes working long hours to get a project properly delivered, she will willingly do so. The basis for this determination, according to Sister Anne Kelley, Executive Director of Good Shepherd, a shelter for battered women with children, is to avoid having to return to the abusive relationship. With financial freedom and empowerment, she can do so. You have a motivated employee for these and several other positive reasons. As for that project, its difficulty is overlooked in deference to finding a way to get the job done.
  • keep reading…

Leadership and Recruiting

by
Kevin Wheeler
Oct 30, 2002

Leadership is hard to define. Most of us might say, “I know it when I see it, but I can’t tell you exactly what it is.” We have all probably worked for good leaders ó people who inspired us, excited us, or challenged us. And we have also all worked for good managers ó people who carefully directed us, followed the process, met the numbers, and always followed through. Both are good. Both are necessary. But rarely do they come combined in a single package. Recruiting is full of managers. These are the people who run their recruiting organizations efficiently and effectively. They implement processes, cautiously install technology, focus on customer satisfaction, and stay within their budgets. As long as the world doesn’t change too much, they thrive. But times are changing. As I have documented in many articles ó and as Roger Herman and John Sumser have carefully reported ó we are on the edge of a talent shortage of a size and depth that is hard to fathom. What makes all of this even more difficult to believe is that it is happening at the same time we seem to be glutted with candidates. As we emerge from this recession, we will need leaders to come forward with ideas, vision, and the willingness to take risks to build powerful talent machines. All of the traditional tools of recruiting will come under scrutiny. In fact, the entire function might be snatched out of the hands of recruiters and put into new hands ó hands perceived as capable of meeting the challenges that organizations will face. Here are three of the challenges that will be forced upon us. Are you a leader ready with creative ideas on how to tackle them? Challenge #1: Developing, and thereby retaining, selected current talent. You will be asked to help identify everyone within your organization who has the capability and motivation to acquire new skills. And it is very likely that you will also be asked to help them acquire those skills. Identifying competencies, finding ways to quickly give people the basic skills they need to be successful, finding those within who are closest to having the right skill sets and who have demonstrated a facility with learning: all of these will be major needs. Development will become, for the first time ever, a major part of the talent function. We will need leadership in developing technology to help make this happen, whether it is an assessment tool or an e-learning program. Best-in-the-world firms will already be playing around (yes, playing is the only way to be creative) with ideas and tools. As far as I am concerned, better interviewing and employee referral programs are very old and temporary solutions to a problem that will require great leadership and skill to solve. Challenge #2: Competing with a distinctive brand and selling a set of qualities that are substantially different from those of anyone else. It probably won’t be possible to only say you are better than others in your industry or better than your competitors. You will have to find ways to clearly be perceived as different or better than everyone else if you want to attract the best people. Cisco had a philosophy a few years ago of attracting only the top 10%. To execute on this, they established leadership in sourcing creativity and actually invented many of the practices that are more or less commonly used today. These include having an interactive website, a candidate profiler, and the use of technology and email. It will take continued and continuous experimentation and constant upgrading of technology to get the attention of the best. Yet few organizations that I am familiar with have even achieved recruiting parity ó much less excellence ó in their own industry. Most of the recruiting world is firmly embedded in 1970 or 1980 and is just beginning to realize the value of recruiting websites, online screening and assessment, recruiting image and brand development, and the need for integration of development and acquisition functions. Challenge #3: Working with your organization to do more with fewer people. Recruiting and talent development folks have rarely been asked to get involved in this area, which has been left to organizational development or organizational excellence people. But we all need to be clear that well-defined organizations that can flexibly change to meet customer needs will be the ones that survive. These organizations will be focused on talent; indeed, they will be paranoid about their people. The best-in-the-world firms will know that their core of highly talented, well-compensated employees will be able and willing to leverage technology, experiment with new approaches, and cast off what doesn’t produce results as a matter of course. Many of the surviving dotcoms are leading the way. They are developing people who can move internally easily as needed because they have broad skills and are free from org charts and titles. Many management theorists, such as Charles Handy and Peter Drucker, already see the decline of the hierarchical, relatively inflexible organizational forms of the 20th century. The integration of many fields ó OD, HR, recruiting, development, and psychology ó will be the core set of disciplines that will lead our profession forward. We are sorely in need of individuals who can be leaders, not managers ó people who can take risks, inspire their staff, and creatively move us into this century.

Ergo Cartenga Delenda Est, Part 2: Becoming a Strategic Business Partner

by
Ken Gaffey
Oct 29, 2002

[Author's note: Last week, a reader informed me that my translation of "Carthage" into Latin in my article two week's ago was in error. I originally went to a knowledgeable friend to verify that my high-school-level Latin translation was correct. Next time I will get a smarter Jesuit. Take a hike, Father!] The issue in Part 1 of this article series was how the staffing/HR profession got to where it is today and why it is not such a nice place to be. This week, the issue is how to get out of here. The first and most important consideration is: Think small! That’s right, think small. In HR/staffing, whenever we hear the words “strategic” and “change” we start to salivate, as we dream about new budgets, training seminars, off-site meetings (with lunch included), milestones, access databases to track information, color-coded bar graphs, project planning, program managers, team T-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads, and all the other paraphernalia we need to make sure everyone knows what an important and meaningful task it is we are involved in. Success ends up being secondary to the illusion of being very busy and very, very important (well, self-important anyway). We tend to over-think and over-engineer issues. We like making a space shuttle where a mini-van would have sufficed. So in an issue involving change you first must consider the legacy (of our own making) that you are competing against in your efforts to be perceived as a valuable component of the business plan and not just a service provider. And the legacy of human resources is often not all that compelling to your prospective business partners. It makes it difficult for them to take you seriously as a contender for a peer position of mutual respect and responsibility. Truthfully, many HR/staffing organizations do not go out of their way to breed confidence. Many managers may have been trained and mentored by managers who grew up in the “good ole days” of “Personnel” and who have handed down their own career long doubts, prejudices, antidotes, and disappointments with HR/staffing as part of their ingraining and mentoring. Your organization may be better than most, but your management team might be populated with managers from other companies with different histories. In addition, there is the HR/staffing stereotype, which lingers over all of us, deserved or not. (Question: How many HR/staffing professionals does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: I’m sorry, do you have an appointment?) No matter how complex and all-inclusive the plan you develop is, if the intended audience is not listening to you then you have already failed on “day one” of your project plan. It becomes just another opportunity to promise the world and only manage to deliver Rhode Island (no offense to my friends in Providence, but small jokes are the legacy of that state). To succeed in building a strategic business partnership, you must build up to it. And in doing this, never forget the KISS rule ó Keep It Simple Stupid. In business school they taught the principle of simplicity in planning through the following story (which, if not true, certainly should be): Auto manufacturers would shut down for one or two months a year to re-tool the assembly line for the next year’s model car. Two weeks before re-opening they would run a “test line” to ensure the line worked properly. This particular year there were issues at one point in the line that had not been foreseen. Assembly took three times longer than planned and the whole process was disrupted. But the plant had to re-open in one week. In a panic, senior management offered the plant engineers a bonus of $5,000 to come up with a solution by the end of the day that would resolve the problem and could be implemented successfully in less than seven days. In the late 1930s, $5,000 was more than a year’s salary for a degreed engineer, so the enthusiasm and competition was intense. The five engineers went down to the plant floor and watched the assembly process, used stop watches, made notes on clip boards, used tape measures to determine distances, and studied blueprints of the building’s layout for possible demolitions, additions, or alterations. Four of the engineers worked diligently until the last minute developing schemes that included using hydraulic lifts and turning arms, bowing the assembly line at one point to increase the distance to be covered and consequently the time to complete this part of the assembly, adding areas to the plant, developing a two-tier assembly line, slowing down production line speed, and redesigning the automobile that the plant was already re-tooled to build. All the ideas were expensive and time consuming, and it was questionable as to whether or not they would completely, or even partially, resolve the problem. After returning from the factory floor, the fifth engineer went into his office for two minutes and then went to lunch. Before leaving, he handed in his solution, a one-page memo with one sentence: “Only use left-handed or ambidextrous assemblers at this point on the line.” He solved the problem. He won the money! The problem was complex, but that didn’t mean the solution had to be. It merely had to solve the problem. A minor point of semantics, perhaps, but an important one nevertheless. He observed the problem with the intent of fixing it, not with the intent of constructing a solution. The first steps to becoming a strategic business partner are, therefore, simple. They involve:

Eight Simple Rules for Becoming a Great Recruiter

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Oct 28, 2002

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to train thousands of recruiters over the years. Most turn out to be pretty good at what they do, but a select few strive to and eventually become great recruiters. Here are eight simple rules that lead to greatness in recruiting. When Learning

  1. Read everything. Scan everything you can get your hands on that relates to a) recruiting, b) your industry, c) business in general, and d) HR in general. It will make your conversations with prospects richer and your candidate assessment questions more productive. But most importantly, it will provide you with names of key leaders and up-and-comers that you can use to use for referral sources.
  2. keep reading…

Roadmap for the Perfect Recruiting Process

by
Jeff Dahltorp
Oct 25, 2002

If someone was to ask you to describe and diagram, in detail, your company’s recruitment process, could you do it? I don’t mean simply creating a job requisition, posting a job, reading resumes, interviewing and making offers. I’m talking about the entire process, including:

Are Foreign Nationals Still Viable Candidates?

by
Ron Rose
Oct 25, 2002

It is, in many respects, both the best of times and the worst of times for recruiting foreign nationals in the U.S. Most of the traditional sectors that employ foreign nationals have been severely hit by the economic downturn. Instead of hiring hardware or software engineers on H-1B visas, many high-tech companies are laying them off (the notable exception to this trend is the employment of foreign national registered nurses). New legislation, such as the USA Patriot Act, has mandated tighter controls and the tracking of foreign nationals entering the U.S. Recently, the INS has also announced special registration requirements for nationals of several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Pakistan. The INS itself is in the process of being restructured out of existence and having its functions assumed by a new Homeland Security Agency. Most professionals in the corporate immigration area believe that there will be increased immigration-relating reporting and compliance for American corporations in the future. So why would any recruiter in their right mind consider a foreign national candidate? To begin with, the quality and quantity of available foreign national candidates is at an all-time high. Unlike in the past, a significant percentage of available foreign national candidates now have several years of directly relevant U.S. industry experience under their belts. More importantly, a whole series of changes mandated by the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) have dramatically sped up the immigration processing times. In the past, foreign national candidates were almost automatically excluded from consideration where a position needed to be filled in a relatively short time frame. Due to the following changes, a foreign national candidate is now a viable option for a position that needs to be filled in a matter of a few weeks, or even days. If your company is facing talent shortages and considering the possibility of hiring foreign nationals, you may want to consider the following important points as you make your way through the decision process:

  • Express processing of H-1B visa petitions is now available through a special INS Premium processing unit. Most petitions are processed in a few days, with a guaranteed maximum processing time. This is available for foreign national candidates who are outside the U.S. and those who are inside the U.S. on a visa status other than H-1B, such as a student on an F-1 visa.
  • keep reading…

In Search of Silliness: The Perfect Competency List

by
Dr. Wendell Williams
Oct 24, 2002

Almost every week someone posts a request for competencies here on the ER Forum. It usually goes something like this: “I am a recruiter for XYZ organization and I am looking for a competency list for the PQR job. Does anyone have one I could use?” Sound reasonable? Well, before you jump to conclusions, you might want to think about these questions:

  • Is your organization identical to everyone else’s organization?
  • keep reading…

A Really Good Book: “Searching for A Corporate Savior,” by Rakesh Khurana

by
Kevin Wheeler
Oct 23, 2002

I rarely find a book about management or leadership very interesting. There are hundreds of volumes written about both topics, and almost all of them are trite, boring, or simply a variation on a theme that has been done a hundred times or more. But once in a while a gem appears, and Rakesh Khurana’s book, Searching For a Corporate Savior, is one of those. I am sure it will stimulate discussion and controversy over the next few months. And perhaps it will even begin to change the way we think about CEO succession. Rakesh Khurana, now an associate professor at Harvard, but a PhD student at MIT when he researched this book, has written a fascinating story about how CEOs are chosen. He comments, based on solid research, on why the charismatic CEOs we have come to expect today have emerged. Indeed, according to his research more CEOs are being placed from outside the organization than are being promoted from within ó a phenomenon that only began in the 1980s and has since steadily increased. How many CEOs from Fortune 1000 companies were featured on a Business Week cover in 1981? he asks. How many in 2000? The answers are 1 and 19 respectfully. What happened over a 20-year period to warrant this? Perhaps a fixation on the CEO as the sole creator of corporate wealth and growth ó and, consequently, as the primary factor in a corporation’s failure to meet financial goals and expectations? Perhaps the rise in the number of equity analysts, whose numbers increased from about 1,500 in 1980 to more than 4,000 in 1999? Perhaps an increase in the institutional ownership of equities, from less than 10% in 1950 to more than 60% by the late 1990? Whatever the cause, the CEO has emerged as the “corporate savior” and is viewed as the key to stock price increases and decreases. He carefully analyzes the role of the board of directors in the decisions to replace a CEO as well the role of the investment community. And he is particularly hard on human resources and its failure to provide leadership. “The mere fact that the human resources department of today is considered one of the lowest-prestige divisions in most major companies makes the priorities plain,” he notes. “The personnel function was (and continues to be) peripheral to the senior executive team…” He sees the use of outside search agencies as a way to keep the anonymity of players secure rather than as a way to introduce unknown candidates into the process. He says that most potential CEO picks come from the board of directors itself, and that all successful candidates were already known to the board before the decision was made. The search firm helps the organization appear to be more objective and acts as a “marriage counselor” between the parties. While this may be a legitimate function, it is hardly what the average person expects is happening. In fact, the “market” for CEOs is a closed community, limited to a few known personalities. New CEOs are often chosen for their media prominence and external persona more than they are for their understanding of the organization’s core business, needs, or strategy. The book is a wealth of information on the succession of CEOs, as well as the internal processes and why they have changed over the past twenty years. It is in many ways an indictment of HR and the board of directors for their inability to provide a meaningful, results-based process for selecting effective CEOs. Similar themes to the one in this book are also emerging from the work by Jim Collins, in his recent bestsellers From Good to Great as well as an article in Strategy + Business magazine called “Why CEOs Fall,” which offers a strong research-based analysis of trends in CEO succession that nicely supplements this work by Khurana. I urge you to get a copy and read it. Then pass it on to your boss and anyone else who has a role in leadership succession and senior leadership recruiting.

Recruiter Efficiency Metrics

by
Yves Lermusi
Oct 22, 2002

At iLogos we have been working with many large companies on metrics recently. Demanding economic conditions and increasing concern about the alignment of staffing with corporate goals are prompting companies to measure staffing departments’ activities more systematically. As many staffing departments consider cutbacks, a frequent question is, “How can I determine if my recruiting department is optimized for our workload?” Layoffs, although a standard method for reducing costs, are never good for long-term motivation and retention. Layoffs precipitate low morale and a problematic workload re-balancing. Faced with this pain ó and given the cyclical nature of demand for staffing ó some companies even consider outsourcing the staffing department function. Staffing, however, is highly strategic. It is very difficult to outsource staffing completely and maintain the systematic quality that produces the real strategic influence of staffing, along with the related metrics that translate into strong human capital valuations. But financial pressures may leave no alternative to departmental cutbacks. If you need to reduce your recruiting staff, how much do you have to cut? To ascertain the answer, we will introduce a simple metric to help you calculate the number of requisitions per recruiter at your company. Although that seems easy enough, it’s not as straightforward as it might first appear. Let’s examine how to go about calculating this metric.

  1. Customer service. Identify the level of customer service your recruiters are providing to your hiring managers. Is it only resume collection, or is their role full pre-selection, validation, and background checking? Cutting the number of recruiting staff will affect successful delivery of the service your hiring managers have come to expect. Hiring managers will in essence be penalized, since they will have to assume more of the work that is currently in the staffing process. As the recruiting workload shifts more to the hiring manager, your organization as a whole will feel the impact negatively as well. The increased resource allotment of hiring managers’ time towards staffing will cause them to be less productive in their core roles.
  2. keep reading…

Measuring Your Employer Brand

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Oct 21, 2002

article by Dr. John Sullivan and Master Burnett Last week I wrote about rebuilding a damaged or tarnished employer-of-choice brand. Based on the articles people were searching for on my website and email questions that had come in over the past few weeks, I figured this was becoming an emerging issue. This week my colleague Master Burnett and I are going to build on last week’s article by providing some metrics you can use to measure your employer-of-choice brand. Measuring Your Brand Isn’t Difficult One question that frequently gets asked when the topic of branding comes up is, “How do I measure it?” For most in HR, the idea of measuring something that isn’t tangible is difficult to grasp. But measuring your brand isn’t as hard as it may seem. After all, advertising firms have been doing it for years, so the process is fairly well established. Some of the models the leaders in advertising such as Young & Rubicam, Inc., have developed are more complicated, and therefore more robust, than others, but for most firms a more simple approach is adequate. What Measuring Your Brand Really Means When we talk about measuring your brand, we are really talking about measuring three things:

  1. Awareness: The degree to which those individuals who you want to know you realize you exist!
  2. keep reading…

Make Believe They’re Coming to Your House

by
Howard Adamsky
Oct 17, 2002

There are many facets and procedures that need to be addressed correctly if recruiting is to be a cost-effective and successful endeavor. The list is long, but let’s look at one important issue that sets the tone for all to follow: It is the first impression candidates get when they come to interview and their overall experience of the interviewing process. The metaphor I use in explaining this to clients is to envision the candidate as a guest who is coming to your house for dinner on a Saturday night. You get ready a few days before, clean the house, plan the dinner, make the guest feel welcome, serve dessert and coffee, and see that the guest has a good time. (If you don’t do any of this, you probably eat alone quite often.) Having a candidate come in for an interview is a very similar experience. The candidate may come from across the country or across the street. (If they came from across the country, they probably flew in the night before. A candidate who gets up at 4:00 a.m. to interview will most likely arrive with all the energy and creative thought of plaster.) It doesn’t matter; the experience is still the same. The candidate should be made to feel welcome and comfortable, and have a positive interviewing experience. There is nothing worse than a candidate who had a bad interviewing experience. It will be remembered until the end of time. The candidate will have nothing good to say about your organization, and these bad feelings never amount to anything good for either party. Always remember the candidate should be treated like a valued customer. (In a sense they are “buying” your company to ply their skill sets as opposed to “buying” another company with whom you compete.) If you do not have this as a mindset, change your thinking and change it fast. With this in mind, consider the following incorporating some or all of the following ideas into your interviewing methodology. If you accept and utilize these ideas, you will have more offers accepted, more new employees impressed with how you do business, and an increase in the number of referrals to your employee referral program:

  • The candidate will be forming an impression from the very first point of contact with your company. Make that contact professional, pleasant, respectful, and upbeat.
  • keep reading…

Make Hiring a Process, Not an Event

by
Lou Adler
Oct 17, 2002

For most companies, sourcing is a .5 Sigma process. If you’re familiar with Six Sigma, you’ll quickly understand the difference. A Six Sigma process has one failure in one thousand. A .5 Sigma process has about seven hundred failures in one thousand. This is not good. Poorly written ads, weak interviewing skills, unfriendly websites and systems that inadvertently screen out the best all contribute to the dismal showing. Despite the stated goal that hiring is #1, at many companies the walk is far from the talk. It doesn’t need to be this bad. Hiring top people is too important to relegate to the bottom end of the most ineffective business processes. Just think about this: Accounting, even with the bad rap it has been getting lately for being “fudgeable,” is probably 90% or better in terms of accuracy. Order processing is probably 98% or better. Customer service is probably in the high 90% range, according to satisfaction surveys. If hiring is #1, it should be a formal business process, one that has at least the same attention and budget as every other less important business process. While Six Sigma is unrealistic for the recruiting and hiring process, I believe a realistic goal is Two Sigma. This means the process is about 80-90% effective in consistently delivering and hiring top candidates for every position. How much would this type of process be worth having? This is the business case that each recruiter, recruiting department head, and HR executive needs to make to justify the recruiting department’s role. Certainly having better people in place will improve sales, increase the introduction and launch of new products, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and increase the market value of the corporation. For small companies, the impact is in the range of millions to tens of millions of dollars, and in the multi-billion dollar range for large firms. This is so obvious that making a business case is almost unnecessary. Why is it then that HR and the recruiting department can’t get any budget, but manufacturing, distribution and the Six Sigma practitioners can? I suspect either that an effective business case hasn’t been made or that the powers-that-be don’t trust the HR or recruiting department to deliver the projected results. Let’s start making the case and delivering some quick results. Taking lessons from our Six Sigma black belts, here are some reasonable goals for our Two Sigma recruiting and hiring process.

  1. Highest possible quality candidates
  2. keep reading…

Thoughts on ER Expo

by
Kevin Wheeler
Oct 16, 2002

We are maturing as a profession. That was what I was impressed with last week at the first Eastern ER Expo in Atlanta. It was clear to me that we are more focused on quality, speed, and good process. The themes that emerged and that energized people were those centered around how our profession is changing. Most of the recruiters who attended ER Expo last week were real professionals and have survived and even thrived during these slow times. They have made it by being attuned to the new skills required of recruiters. While this was the message I gave in my presentation, it also echoed over the two days by others.

keep reading…

Why Can’t My ATS Do What I Want It To Do? A Recruiter’s Perspective

by
Heather Hartmann
Oct 15, 2002

While visiting with numerous applicant tracking system vendors at the recent HR Technology Expo in Chicago, a common theme began to emerge that left me very uncomfortable. It seemed that none of the ATS representatives could explain what they actually deliver. They apparently knew a great deal more about what they were “soon” to implement (in version 6.0.3.1) than what they already had, and insisted on describing these visionary features and benefits in great detail. Maybe I completely missed the point, but last time I checked, I thought recruiters were the potential clients in this relationship. I always thought that when a prospective client asks, “Can you do X?” the vendor should simply reply, “Yes” or “No.” Instead, what I heard was, “You’re the only one that has ever asked for X,” or “That feature is in version 6.0.3.1,” or lately, the dreaded: “Don’t you remember the 80/20 rule?” The 80/20 Rule Revisited The first time I remember applying the 80/20 rule was when I was baking a cake (really). I was young, learning to cook, short of several ingredients and, most importantly, in a hurry. I interpreted the rule to mean that 80% of the ingredients were sufficient to bake the cake. So which ones do you think I left out? Flour? Water? Sugar? Eggs? Milk? Nah, all of these ingredients make up the backbone of a good cake. I couldn’t leave any one out, because they are all equally important. I ended up using 80% of each ingredient ó and then burned the cake because I failed to understand how the ingredients would interact in the oven. Assuming that an employer knows which processes (ingredients) are essential for hiring, then what functionality do you leave out of your ATS? What can you do without? Maybe it depends on what you and your organization need from your ATS. Are you trying to gain efficiencies or streamline processes? What reporting functionality do you need? Do you require EEO/AAP reporting, or recruiting metrics such as Total Compensation Recruited or Sourcing Efficiency? If I followed the 80/20 rule, I might not be able to get all of the reporting tools that I need and be forced to use other sources for reporting. Just about all of the ATS systems I’ve seen can dump data into an Excel spreadsheet, but why should I have to go out to another software package for reporting? Why can’t my ATS provide me the meaningful reports that I need? And, more importantly, why should I have to pay for functionality that I, and my organization, don’t need or use? To me, that’s like paying for a car with a Global Positioning System (GPS), Roadside Assistance, All Wheel Drive and more ó when all I plan to do is commute across town. Why Recruiters Don’t Use All of the Functionality Available How many of us use all of the capabilities of our cell phones? I heard one presenter at this most recent conference state that “recruiters only use 30% of the functionality of an ATS”. Okay, so now I’m settling for 80% of the functionality I want, and then I only use 30% of what I get? Why? A unique experience I had at a former employer, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, offers one answer. The recruiting team (then just Ernst & Young) had decided to move away from a process in which each regional office did its own thing in terms of applicant tracking to a more standardized, client/server-based system that was organization wide. It sounded like a good thing to do. The company included recruiters from several different practice areas to become part of the Ernst & Young Recruiting Information System (EYRIS) team. This team was responsible for determining the requirements of the system and passing those on to the IS project team. They then assisted with the training of the remaining 100+ recruiters on the new EYRIS system. What they didn’t do ó and I think this was the fatal flaw in the system ó was help the recruiters understand why this type of a system was important to the organization. They were good at mandating that recruiters update every milestone in the system, but I don’t recall them ever explaining why these milestones and pieces of data were important. So what happened? Recruiters only updated the milestones when required. They updated contact information and made notes about the candidate in the system, since that was useful to them. But getting them to update a candidate from Interview 1 to Interview 2 to Office Interview to Offer Extended to Hired was like pulling teeth! Why? Because to do this took the recruiters away from what was important to them: sourcing, screening, interviewing candidates, and getting “butts in seats.” As a result, when I would run “management reports” from EYRIS, the data looked like this: Phone Interview 2/01/2000, INT1 2/01/2000, INT2 2/01/2000, Offer Ext. 2/01/2000…you get the picture. The date field self-populated; the recruiters couldn’t change it. Whenever you updated the milestone, the date was captured automatically. Going back to the cell phone analogy, most of us don’t understand all of the inherent functionality or how to use it because we haven’t been trained properly AND motivated. Have you read your owner’s manual cover to cover? So, once again, we’re paying for 80% of what we really want/need, and using 30%. Everything You Need? “Don’t recruiters realize that this is an awesome system and can do everything they need?” This seems to be the standard question that most ATS vendors ask themselves. Naturally, each vendor thinks theirs is the best product. They are also quick to tell you about all of the functionality. What very few of them do, however, is find out what is important to you and your organization. In fairness, some do attempt to do this. They send out a very complicated questionnaire in advance of the demo to ensure that they are on the right track and are not wasting the recruiter’s time. Unfortunately, the questionnaire is so complex that, in my own experience, I immediately tossed it in the trash and promptly called to cancel the demo. I’m happy to tell a vendor what I need from a system, but a five-minute conversation should be able to highlight my hot buttons ó versus a questionnaire that takes an hour and three other people from my IS group to complete. As for the system being able to do everything recruiters need, few do it all. This brings me to the question of modularity. Why aren’t more vendors configuring their systems in such a way that you can pick and choose pieces that you like, and put them all together into one system? For example, I’ve been looking at various vendors who include a skills database as part of their system. I really don’t want to purchase a new ATS; I like the one I have. Instead, I want to be able to add on a module that allows for my internal employees to update their skills, create an internal resume, and indicate to our organization what kind of positions they would be interested in applying for in the future. I want this to run on our intranet, but allow our employees to click a button from the intranet and apply through my current ATS to any open positions. This must be too much to ask. I’ve only found two vendors that allow for this kind of functionality: Monster and Kenexa. Yes, I did say Monster. Not normally known as an ATS vendor, Monster does have this functionality embedded in its Office HQ product. And it’s a modular system. I don’t need to purchase all of Office HQ to get this feature. Another item of interest to me is metrics. I want my ATS to incorporate the four core metrics advocated by Staffing.org. (For those of you not familiar with Staffing.org, they are a non-profit organization providing human capital performance metrics, benchmarks and resources.) However, I’ve only found one vendor so far, NuView, that has the capability to incorporate Staffing.org’s metrics into their system. This vendor even goes so far as to be able to compare your internal recruiting metrics with the benchmarks from Staffing.org’s annual benchmark report. The result is immediate results, right there, on your desktop. No need to download anything to Excel, and then plug in the numbers from Staffing.org ó it does it for you. Talk about efficiency! So, ATS vendors, hopefully you’ve paid attention ó and when I visit next year’s HR Technology Expo in Philadelphia, I’ll be blown away by the following:

  • Systems will be modular, which will then encourage me to use 100% of the system rather than settling for 80% functionality.
  • keep reading…

Ergo Cartenga Delenda Est

by
Ken Gaffey
Oct 15, 2002

In the early history of the Roman Empire (B.C. ó Before Russell Crowe) there was an outspoken member of the Roman Senate named Cato the Elder. While his peers discussed and debated public works projects, sports arenas, highways and the other infrastructure improvements, Cato had but one overriding concern, about a threat so severe he was convinced it placed the entire future of Rome at risk, amphitheaters and all. That threat was Carthage. Carthage was a rival empire, located on the southern shores of the Mediterranean with colonies extending up into modern day Spain and Sicily. As the two empires expanded and grew, their competition for trade and land became more intense. Like two bullies living on the same block, it was obvious to everyone that one day they would have to duke it out. Cato felt the sooner the better ó otherwise all the efforts of Rome to improve itself might well be ultimately destroyed by its conquerors. Thus, no matter what the debate or issue before the senate, you could count on Cato the Elder to end his speech with, “Ergo Cartenga delenda est!” (therefore, Carthage must be destroyed!). When the war finally came, it lasted for ten years. Hannibal, a Carthaginian general, crossed the Alps with war elephants (this time it was Victor Mature, not Russell Crowe) and it was a near thing for Rome. But they ultimately prevailed and the danger of annihilation was removed. That is, until Sparticus came along (i.e., Kirk Douglas). When I first read of this noble Roman and his unlimited energy and single-mindedness in pursuing a course of action that, although unpopular, was the right thing to do, I found myself hoping that if ever equally challenged I too would be able to arise to the occasion. So here is my personal ergo Cartenga delenda est: Human resources/staffing must learn to make itself a respected peer in the business community in which it coexists ó or it will cease to exist. The current economic downturn (alright, recession) has once again caused corporate America to reflect on which components are critical to its survival, and which are the business equivalent of tonsils (something you don’t mind having around, but at the first sign of trouble, out they go). It’s easy to point out the shortsightedness of the “boardroom” or “chicken little” executives who cut costs at the slightest reversal of fortune. The most common argument we bring to the table is, “When the good times come back, you’ll be sorry we are gone.” But you have to ask: Is it their failure to see the value we add, or is it our failure to make them aware of that value in terms they will understand? The time has come for human resources/staffing professionals to stop meekly asking for their place at the table and start insisting on it. But we first have to prove we should be seated there ó and prove that we have something of value to contribute. A Short History of Staffing Since we started with history in the beginning of this piece, let’s go back and look at the history of human resources/staffing and its relationship to the other elements of business. Back in the days of “personnel,” short-sleeve white shirts with loose ties and unbuttoned collars were the uniform of the day. Throw in a cigar or cigarette and the picture is complete. With a workforce that still believed in 20-year commitment and technology that remained stable for decades at a time (in the 1950s, the biggest technological upgrade was “electric” typewriters), recruiting was not a major component or critical need. Employees had few issues with their employers, and few of the existing rules and regulations that govern the lives of modern day human resources/staffing professionals yet existed. Personnel, as the guardians of employee records and other “hush hush” pieces of information, tended to have a “cave mentality.” They located themselves in a far-off corner of the office and came out only at night to retreat, unobserved, to the parking lot, in the fervent hope that nobody would actually stop them and ask a question. But the fortress mentality worked both ways. Nobody actually wanted to see them either. Going in to see personnel was a lot like visiting a dentist. You only did it when the pain of not going was worse than the pain of going. Personnel spoke a strange language and actually seemed to make an effort to keep it that way. The only thing more mundane than the appearance of the work they did was how mundane it actually was. Few guidance counselors at leading universities recommended a career in personnel for the class valedictorian. As a matter of fact, personnel was often the place you hired people into who did not seem to have “important skills” or real “growth potential.” In an age where the glass ceiling was only a few feet above the floor, personnel management was one of the few management positions the good old (white) boys held open to female employees who had achieved the height of clerical, administrative, or secretarial positions available. But there was always a management slot in personnel to be promoted into (and forgotten) that did not threaten the power structure. If your department is perceived as a dumping ground, it’s difficult to get respect or to speak out. Then came the next step in the evolution of our profession: the much acclaimed “vendor/client” concept. As the American workplace changed, the challenge arose for personnel to adapt to meet it. New industries and companies began to capitalize on the rise of technology and automation, and new careers emerged with greater and more difficult skills to locate. Recruiting began to take on a more urgent tempo. Union and 20-year employees were replaced with individuals who were not afraid to risk being called “ungrateful” because of their desire to move to greener pastures. Company benefits made personnel more involved in their employees’ lives, and the rising cost of non-compliance gave a call for better educated and more responsive personnel professionals. That is right; the word “professional” was finally attached to the personnel skill profile. Change is inevitable, as is the outcome of failing to change (after all, the last step in evolution is oblivion). We were given a new name ó human resources (or staffing) ó and the unwanted employee ceased to be the candidate of choice for our profession. Then again, Harvard still did not list human resources/staffing as its #1 career choice for the truly “best and brightest.” We still had a long way to go. That is when somebody thought up “vendor/client relationships” ó for its time not a terribly bad idea, but not necessarily a great one either. The idea had a simple goal: to transform the “personnel cave dwellers” into more responsive and successful supporters of the business plan. They were expected to operate with the knowledge that they did not exist for themselves, but rather to support their clients. In the vendor/client relationship, distant personnel managers were made aware that they were there to serve, not merely process. They were cautioned that the “client” had choices if their services failed. After all, isn’t the threat of competition the cornerstone of a free economy? But does it build a team, a partnership? The concept had some positive impact. Then again, even the Yugo has some fine qualities ó but I never bought one of them either. The Problem With the “Vendor/Client Relationship” So what is so bad about being a vendor to your business-partner client?

  • Clients know that vendors are selling to them for their own benefit. Nothing wrong with that; vendors have bills to pay as well. But it is understood that the vendor has a mission that may not always reflect the client’s.
  • keep reading…

Rebuilding a Damaged Employer Brand

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Oct 14, 2002

I have helped numerous companies improve their employer-of-choice brand image over the years. But recently I was asked about an interesting related issue: How do you rebuild a “tarnished” employment brand after a negative PR event? The question is a new one, in part because in the past it was relatively rare for a firm with a great reputation to lose it almost overnight. Unfortunately, since the dot-com demise, the stock market crash, and recent ethical challenges, long-term employer-of-choice brands can disappear faster than at anytime in recent history. A number of firms that formerly had a great employer of choice image have since suffered a tarnished reputation, including:

In Sales, Attitude is Everything, Right?

by
Dr. Wendell Williams
Oct 10, 2002

The sales manager booms: “Get me someone with a winning attitude!”

“Sell me this pen (ashtray, placemat, or anything else handy)!”

“I need a team player!”

keep reading…

Keeping Your Employees: Four Ways to Improve Retention

by
Kevin Wheeler
Oct 9, 2002

I was speaking recently with an engineer who was in the midst of thinking through whether to accept an offer from a another local firm or stay with his current employer, a well-respected large company. He was generally very happy with his employer but was increasingly worried over the organization’s performance. There were rumors of layoffs and fear was running high. He knew that by going to this other firm he was, in a way, just jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. But, he reasoned, as a new hire he was less likely to be the target of any imminent layoffs, and he didn’t feel as confident at his current employer. As I listened to him, I filtered out four things his company could do to keep him ó if only they understood! None of these ideas costs much, and none are really very hard to do. But to put them into practice does require a change of mindset and a willingness to break (or at least stretch) the rules. Good HR and good recruiting is all about treating people fairly ó but not necessarily the same. Here are the four things I think could be done to keep this engineer, and probably most other employees. 1. Have a performance management system that works. Let employees know where they stand and how they are performing. Offer employees the opportunity to move within the company to jobs that may better fit their skills and interests. And keep the bureaucracy to a minimum and remove time constrictions. His major reason for even listening to the other recruiter was his insecurity over how his performance was being evaluated by his boss and his boss’s boss. Although he had been working in one area for two years, he wasn’t really sure of his status. Granted, he could have been more proactive and asked. That still doesn’t change the need for a better system. He was also required to notify his boss if he wanted a change positions. Of course, if he didn’t get the job, his boss would know that he wasn’t happy. Not a situation he wanted to be in. He had looked at other job opportunities within the organization via the company’s Intranet, but there weren’t many to choose from, and the ones that seemed exciting required skills or experience he did not have. The other recruiter promised him the chance to work on an exciting project with a guru who would act as a mentor and coach. The real plus was that he didn’t have to tell his boss he was interviewing. Why can’t organizations put in place a simple process that requires no notification until the offer is made and that allows the internal candidate to compete equally with external candidates? Even better: guarantee internal candidates a new job every two years if they want one. The idea is to keep up the excitement and the freshness that comes with a start-up, combined with the stability of the larger organization. 2. Keep employees informed. Silence is the greatest enemy of retention. When management does not update the employees on the financial state of the company and when rumors can be counted by the minute, turnover goes up as well. While some people (usually the “B” and “C” players) hunker down and hide, the best ones start looking. I can’t tell you how many excellent employees who are highly valued have left their employers because of uncertainty. I am not sure if this engineer is a “highly-valued employee,” but I suspect that he is. No one expects assurances or guarantees. What they hope for is some sense of direction ó are things better, the same, or worse? Are customers leaving? How is sales volume? I know that much of this information is guarded to protect the stock price. While I think that employees ultimately have the most significant effect, I understand the need to be careful. There are still many ways that an internal employee communications function can inform. 3. Educate employees all the time. In bad times, employees have time to soak up new information. If courses are available online through e-learning, administrative costs, delivery costs, and overhead costs are all reduced. No matter how much educating your employees costs your company, it is less than you will pay in agency fees, sign-on bonuses, severance pay, and lost time and productivity. Will you loose a few people to the competition? Probably. But once again, think about the net cost versus the fees usually paid to recruit someone. Education and development are the cheapest retention tools in your arsenal. We are in a talent war (even though right now it’s hard to see), and everything has to be tried. Locking people into degree or certificate programs is almost a guarantee that they will remain with your firm until they complete the program. Most will be loyal and thankful. And all of them will be better-educated, and hopefully more productive, employees. This is a BIG plus for the large organizations and you should be capitalizing on this right now. 4. Help every employee build a social network. The employee I talked about above was clearly devoted to his fellow employees and felt a strong attachment to them. This was one thing that was keeping him from instantly accepting the other offer. We all know how powerful networks are, and companies that actively promote employee interaction and teamwork have less discontent and less turnover than those that keep employees apart or at odds. I recommend starting clubs and social groups within the company where employees can work and play together. Some companies form college clubs for new college grads that help them become oriented to the firm and meet other new hires. This tends to raise the level of commitment they have to the organization and reduces turnover. Internal networks are powerful binding devices. Extending the network to include employees in many different local firms can alleviate fears and demonstrate to people that the water is not necessarily cleaner at another company. Knowledge is a powerful retention tool and naivety and ignorance can best be combated by sharing of ideas and experiences between people from many different firms. Nothing new here ó it’s 90% common sense.

A Word of Thanks

by
Ken Gaffey
Oct 8, 2002

This week a group of HR/staffing professionals ó consisting of in-house staff, consultants and contractors; third-party recruiters; and vendors of recruiting products ó will meet for three days in Atlanta for ERE’s recruiting conference, ER Expo 2002 East. This was not an unusual occurrence two years ago. You could find sold-out conferences on the use of crystals and herbal-biodegradable recruiting back then. Everyone seemed to have money to spend and there were more than enough organizations looking to help the community to spend that money, for good purposes or not. I will admit, it was a time of exuberance and excess. Lost in the mix were gatherings and conferences of weight and merit. These were the professional gatherings with the intent of exchanging information regarding tools, techniques, new policies, and leading-edge procedures. It was not a difficult decision to make, whether or not to attend; everybody was attending. Not being seen was the risk. These were also occasions for great networking. Business cards were exchanged with greater frequency than the correct time or vendor-provided, logo-embossed gizmos. But that was then, and this is now. The folks at ERE have decided to hold their conference at a time when the faint of heart would have hesitated or deferred until better times. I think we all owe them a word of gratitude for “keeping it going” despite the realities of the current economic situation. The survival of the HR/staffing profession requires that we don’t go looking for a rock under which to hide while we hope for the “better days” to return. For those who seek to play it safe during difficult times will not find safety ó but only the reinforcement of impotence and redundancy. There are, unfortunately, economic realities that preclude many from attending. But to opt not to participate merely because it would be a “hard sell” is not necessarily a good reason. The value of such gatherings goes not diminish with the times. Agreed, as bad as this recession has been on the economy in general, it has been especially devastating to the community in which we all dwell and seek to make our livelihood. The news of yet another corporate reduction of total headcount by 3%, 5%, or 10% by any company makes the headlines and rocks an already rocky stock market. But we in the business all know of recruiting organizations that have sustained losses of 50%, 75%, or greater. Organizations that occupied whole buildings now find themselves with ample room on a single floor, and groups that were once crammed on a single floor two years ago can be found in the corner, behind the copier room down the hall from the exit ó just in case. We have fallen from grace from those heady days of the mid and late 1990s. We have begun to feel that there are only two kinds of HR/staffing professionals: those who have been laid off and those who fear they are next. Not a good time to be out there alone. Conferences will not change our economic reality. But they do reinforce for us that what we do has a purpose, as well as merit and importance. They also give us the opportunity to spend a few days sharing views and opinions with others of our ilk who see staffing as something more than a corporate hobby. It is in the knowledge shared and the courage garnered by such gatherings that the ability for the industry to recover lies. We need to discover our “voice” in order to speak out in much the same way the medical, legal, and other professionals do. All too often we seem to use our vehicles to merely talk amongst ourselves. To discuss, repeat, and revisit, once again, the same topics that we have been discussing since we first entered the industry ó and that we speak of, yet again, at our retirement parties. I am looking forward to spending three days with peers from all aspects of the business who have “planted their flags” and intend to stay and see this bleak and dismal period through to the end ó to be present, involved, and informed on the newest ideas and just plain fun ways of doing business. So to David Master, Jim Dalton, and the ERE organization, I say thank you. Not just for giving me an excuse to go to Atlanta (fun city) for a few days, but for providing me with the opportunity to spend a few days surrounded by HR/staffing professionals, and not those who preach their “new ideas” on how to do business without a relevant and engaged HR/staffing community within their organization. The shame of it is not that they think this way; the shame of it is we have allowed them to think they are right. I hope to learn new ideas. But more importantly I hope to reinforce and reestablish my commitment to the belief that there are far too many good people in this community for it not to finally discover its voice and establish its purpose and viability in a cynical and short-sighted business community. If nothing else, there should be enough veterans from the previous “recruiting recessions” to remind us that this downtime, too, shall pass ó when and how will in part be the result of the work we do now. Tomorrow will not get better all by itself. We have to work together to make it happen. Accept the short-changed budgets and limitations of the times. But whenever possible, get out and go to these kinds of gatherings. Plot, plan, and connive with your peers. Also, have fun every now and then. Have a great day recruiting! Hope to see you at the conference.