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December  2004 RSS feed Archive for December, 2004

Best Practices for 2005

by
Dr. Charles Handler
Dec 23, 2004

In my humble opinion 2004, has been a great year for the online hiring industry. I believe this is due to the development of the following trends:

  1. The ATS industry has finally started to get it! The jig is up for companies that have promised to increase quality of hire but fail to offer infrastructure capable of fulfilling the promise. Market demand has required that ATS vendors of all sizes begin to evaluate how they can deliver this essential, but often missing, ingredient. To their credit, most vendors have reacted accordingly and are working hard on a new generation of products that provide the substance required to help their customers make quality hiring decisions.
  2. keep reading…

4 Ways to Improve Your Recruiting Leadership

by
Kevin Wheeler
Dec 22, 2004

Leaders are not created magically, but emerge over time from a continuous process of being challenged, meeting the challenge, reflecting on what was learned, and applying it to the next challenge. The past few years have been challenging for the recruiting profession, that’s for sure. And most of us have done a lot of reflecting on our circumstances and the future. Being fully prepared for the next wave of the talent wars is going to require even greater leadership skill and organizational expertise. As a recruiting leader, you will face situations that are new and that will stretch your skills. You will face situations where there are no simple answers. What can we learn from how the leaders of the past have reacted? What are “best practices” for a leader? It turns out that great leaders are not only good at getting work done, but also at the way they get that work done. When a leader is acknowledged as “good” or even “great,” there are always some things that distinguish them from the pack. 1. Great leaders take risks. Whether they know it or not, great leaders do things others haven’t done:

  • Jack Welch took an incredibly successful General Electric through one of the most complete transformations in American corporate history. He abolished formal strategic planning in favor of continuously adapting strategy to circumstances. He challenged the internal bureaucracy and invented new forms of management development. He took risks that could have put GE under, and would certainly have cost him his job if they had failed.
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Quality of Hire: The Next Quality Program

by
Yves Lermusi
Dec 21, 2004

Process improvement philosophies define quality as that which meets the customer’s requirements. Six Sigma, for instance, uses a concept of reducing defects as a way to detail the customer requirements. To measure the quality of a process is to measure the output of the process for conformity to the customer’s requirements. In the case of a staffing department, the primary customer is the hiring manager. The key to measuring quality of hire, therefore, is to define the hiring manager’s expectations at the point of identification of the need for a new hire. There is, however, no overarching or universal standard of employee quality. Quality Programs Interestingly, little or no focus has been given to quality of hire in the popular quality programs. Formalized quality programs began in the 1920s with the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, a systematic approach to improving work process. “Total quality control” practices in the 1940s were followed (primarily in Japan) by the introduction of “quality circles,” which included all employees, not just department managers. American companies began to embrace the teachings of quality gurus (e.g. Deming, Juran, and Feigenbaum) by the mid 1980s. During the ’80s, criteria for the first Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award was established; ISO 9001, Quality Systems-Model for Quality Assurance in Design, Development, Production, Installation, and Servicing was published; and Six Sigma was developed at Motorola. James S. Beard, president of Caterpillar Financial Services, recently made the following analogy in Quality Digest:

We’ve proven that Baldrige and Six Sigma complement each other well. The analogy we use is that of an orchestra: Six Sigma takes the trumpet player and makes her a world-class trumpet player, but in isolation that doesn’t necessarily make the orchestra sound better. Baldrige looks at how all the elements are working together to make beautiful music. Put another way, Baldrige helps identify where we need to go, and Six Sigma makes the improvements happen.

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The 17 Dumbest Things In Recruiting

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Dec 20, 2004

I am a provocateur! If you have ever heard me speak or read my articles or books, you know that I attempt to provoke change by bringing to light actions in the human resource profession that to me seem to be just plain dumb. Some have gone so far as to nickname me the “Simon” (of American Idol fame) of recruiting. Such a moniker doesn’t bother me much though, because to me, criticism is the engine of change, and the absence of criticism from within the recruiting profession essentially guarantees that you won’t improve and prosper. I concluded long ago that many recruiters are fixed in a “time warp” and are unwilling or unable to change. These professionals, like many of their colleagues in other HR roles, prefer the Pollyanna, “speak no evil” approach to corporate improvement. Without honest, and sometimes brutal, introspection, things do not improve. The 17 criticisms I offer here are not directed to any individual or company, but rather the approaches of many. They are based on my observations from more than thirty years in this profession as a practitioner, consultant, educator, and trusted advisor to senior management. If you utilize any of the approaches mentioned here, feel free to be defensive if you must, but at the very least tolerate my rants for a few minutes (if you have some of your own pet peeves, feel free to send them to johns@sfsu.edu):

  1. Lame corporate employment websites. Probably 99% of the corporate employment sites I visit are an embarrassment. From a marketing, branding, and sales perspective they accomplish nothing. It’s obvious that for most firms, corporate employment sites exist for no other reason than to funnel people into the applicant tracking system. They fail, however, to excite visitors about prospects for employment at the company, and even worse, they fail to answer the basic questions visitors come to your site to find answers for. One study discloses that roughly 55% of candidates use information obtained from corporate websites to determine where they would like to work. If candidates are coming to your site and you fail to sell them anything, shame on you! Corporate employment sites shouldn’t be about making a recruiter’s job easier; that isn’t customer-centric behavior. Corporate sites should be designed to excite and sell candidates. To find out how your website stacks up, consider having your sales and branding team take a look at it and evaluate it as if it were a sales tool. Don’t be surprised if they laugh.
  2. keep reading…

How to Recruit and Hire Passive Candidates

by
Lou Adler
Dec 17, 2004

Recruiting active candidates is easy: you post an ad, sort through the results, make a call or two, interview, select, and send out an offer. The problem arises when quality becomes important or when you have too many requisitions to fill. Recruiting less active candidates is a little harder, but not much. First, read this article on less active candidates. These are fully employed candidates who look infrequently, generally when their jobs become frustrating. Since this group is more discriminating, you need to write more compelling ads, make sure that job descriptions emphasize opportunities over requirements, have an instant application process, and have a robust back-end processing capability that allows you to identify and call these people within 24 hours. Recruiting passive candidates is much harder. In this case, you need to have a compelling job to offer, be able to obtain pre-qualified names, and then be a strong enough recruiter to call and convince these people of the merits of your job. To get started recruiting and hiring top passive candidates, it’s important to understand the theory of recruiting. The following has never before been revealed in print, so please tread carefully as you proceed through the balance of this article. The Theory of Recruiting: The more passive a candidate, the more active you must be to attract and hire that person. The bottom line is, it takes some level of energy and effort to hire any person. The total energy involved is the sum of the energy exerted by the candidate, the company and the recruiter. If the candidate is actively looking, it takes a lot less effort on the company’s or recruiter’s part. Alternatively, if the candidate is not looking, the recruiter must then put in a tremendous amount of effort to find the person, convince the person to pursue the opportunity, and then hold the person’s hand every step of the way. Good recruiters use a variety of techniques, tools and tactics to convert a passive candidate into an active one, to minimize the amount of effort involved. Doing this as early as possible in the process is the key to recruiting success. Most of us have experienced this energy effect first hand. On one extreme, you have those very active candidates who put too much energy into pursuing a new job. This effort comes across as desperation, over preparation, too many follow-up calls, and too many resumes sent out. On the other hand, a low-energy candidate (no resume, won’t call back) is assumed to lack interest. When confronted with this type of person, most recruiters and hiring managers don’t bother pursuing the candidate — using the common excuse, “We don’t want to hire anyone not interested in our job.” Giving up now is the worst thing you can do. Recruiting passive candidates requires extra work. If you give up too soon, you’ll never hire them. Persistence must then be combined with a variety of tactics to get them interested. If successful, you’ll reach a point when the candidate shifts from a reluctant buyer to an interested seller. This is called the recruiting inflection point. The Recruiting Inflection Point: The point when the candidate has enough information to realize the job is a good career move, and shifts from a passive buying mode into an active selling position. The primary reason a passive candidate isn’t interested in your job is usually lack of information. You should only give up your pursuit of a passive candidate when the person has enough information to objectively and accurately say yes or no to the opportunity. This is referred to as the Rule of Recruiting Persistence. Rule of Recruiting Persistence: Don’t ever give up on a strong candidates until the person has enough information about the opportunity to evaluate it objectively. To get candidates the information needed to evaluate the opportunity objectively, you have to use a series of different recruiting and information-sharing approaches. The goal is to move the candidate smoothly along a path of increasing knowledge and interest. Frequently, hiring managers and recruiters go overboard too soon when they meet a hot but somewhat passive candidate. This takes the form of overselling, over-promising, and under-listening. Just like overactive candidates, overactive companies appear desperate. This is the best way to cheapen the job and turn off a great person who just wants more information, not a sales pitch. Here are a few tactics you can use to move passive candidates along this information-gathering path.

  • Get them interested. Use the first contact to establish a dialogue. “Would you be open to exploring a situation that’s clearly superior to what you’re doing today?” is an effective opening. When they say yes, don’t tell them much about the job. Instead, have them tell you a little about themselves first. Don’t go too fast, even if the match seems perfect. Provide the person with a brief high-level overview of the job and schedule an exploratory call sometime later. Be a bit vague, and mention the importance of the job to the company’s strategic direction. This approach also gives you the option of networking with the candidate if the person turns out to be not suited for the job.
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Conversations With Staffing Leaders: Valerie Kennerson of Corning

by
Gerry Crispin
Dec 16, 2004

The first in a series of interviews presented by ERE in audio webcast format. You cannot truly lead or make a difference at your company without all the qualities ERE authors describe every day in their articles. But there’s one more thing you must also have: an absolute passion for what it is you are trying to do. It’s this passion that my colleague Mark Mehler and I wanted to capture as we discussed with ERE the concept of partnering on a series of web-based audio conversations with staffing leaders who make a real difference in how their companies find and recruit great employees. Click either audio format to listen to this webcast:

Windows Media | RealAudio Presented by ERE, this series of interviews will attempt to shed light on how staffing leaders, in many cases working behind the scenes, overcame the challenges in front of them and led their organizations to implement best practices in recruiting. All of the interviews in this series will be conducted by either myself or my colleague at CareerXRoads, Mark Mehler. Valerie Kennerson of Corning I recently sat down with Valerie Kennerson, the global HR communications manager at Corning Incorporated, to discuss a concept most of us talk about but few of us actually use: service level agreements. It turns out, as Valerie explained to me, that they’re an even more powerful tool than any of us realized, as the success of her own recent initiative reveals. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to read more about Valerie and to download a copy of the sample service level agreement discussed in this interview. I think you’ll learn a lot from my chat with Valerie. Have a listen. Click either audio format to listen to this webcast:

Windows Media | RealAudio [If you experience any technical difficulties in accessing this webcast, you may need to work with your IT department to resolve firewall issues. Send us an email at help@erexchange.com if you experience any other technical difficulties.] About Valerie Kennerson Valerie Kennerson is the global HR communications manager for Corning Incorporated, a global, high-technology company that has been changing the world through research and technological innovation for more than 150 years. She has been instrumental in the transformation of Corning’s staffing function into a center of excellence. Valerie previously served as Corning’s global marketing manager and college relations manager, and prior to joining Corning, was manager of strategic sourcing for Lucent Technologies. Valerie has a B.S. degree in Management and Public Relations from Ohio Northern University and an MBA from Kent State University. Link To Sample Service Level Agreement To download and view an example copy of the service level agreement discussed in this interview, click the link below. Sample Service Level Agreement

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Less Work, More Time? Try Differentiating Candidates and Applying Technology

by
Kevin Wheeler
Dec 15, 2004

Are all your open positions of the same value to your organization? Most of us don’t really stop and think about this, but we all know that certain positions contribute more to the success of our organization than others. To treat all positions as equally valuable is probably impossible to do effectively. Positions within organizations fall into one of four categories: administrative/maintenance, special services, professional/technical, or strategic/critical. Even though we intuitively know this, we tend to practice a policy that is called “FIFO” in the manufacturing arena. FIFO stands for “First In, First Out” ó and in a recruiter’s case, it means that you work on the first requisition you received first, the next one after that and so on sequentially. Obviously, there are times when this order changes, and sure, we always have a few “hot” requisitions that we are working on because they are for an important executive. But mostly we practice FIFO, or even at times LIFO: Last in, First Out. In other words, we usually don’t prioritize our workload by how critical a position is to the organization. But what if we prioritized our work differently? We could gain real benefits in time and volume. By taking some ideas from manufacturing environments, and also from the most advanced call centers and service organizations, you can increase the number of candidates that you place and also have more time to spend on the hard to find candidates. 1. Sort positions by the value they add. The secret of successful manufacturing is to use people only where they add real value. In all other cases, it’s recommended you either use technology or else simplify the process so that people involvement is eliminated or minimized. In factory after factory ó and increasingly in call centers and other service centers ó you can witness the use of technology to reduce the need for human involvement. Dell Computer has evolved a highly sophisticated AI-based system to guide computer users through troubleshooting their systems. Only the really complex or difficult problems ever get to a “real” person. But the first step to applying these techniques to recruiting involves sorting the positions in your organization by the value they add to the bottom line. Many of you are familiar with the 2×2 grid that I frequently use to explain how you might organize your thinking about candidate types: Looking at the diagram, the lower left quadrant shows the positions that are not particularly hard to fill and that are of minimum value to the company in terms of producing revenue or generating new products. These are often referred to as the administrative/maintenance positions. The upper left quadrant, where the positions are hard to fill but not really all that valuable to the firm, include all the positions that could be outsourced to a consultancy or done by people on an as-needed basis or on a retainer. These are often special services that the organization needs from time to time that don’t generate revenue or products. The lower right quadrant is for positions that are not too hard to fill but that are critical to the company’s success. These might include key salespeople or content providers, or college grads with high potential. In other words, this is the quadrant that includes your professional and technical staff, which does the bulk of the work and may move to the upper right hand box later in their career. The upper right quadrant is where the most difficult to find and the most valuable positions lie. These include the strategically critical people ó key technical providers, the key account relationship managers or the product inventor or developer. Even within a quadrant, positions can be further ranked as to their importance and urgency. For example, in the lower left hand box, secretaries may rank higher than receptionists or product engineers higher than accountants. The most important thing to accomplish in this initial step is the identification and prioritization of all the candidate types and positions for which you have requisitions. By doing this you can begin to determine which ones you should focus on first. 2. Determine how to fill the position. Once you have made a sort of this kind ó not necessarily an easy feat ó you need to decide how best to fill each type of position. The question that has to be asked is, which of these positions could be filled with a minimal amount of recruiter involvement? Most organizations today are operating with fewer recruiters and these recruiters have more requisitions to process and fewer qualified candidates to fill them with. I don’t think this situation will improve over the next 12 months or even over the next 24 months. All recruiters will be expected to be more productive, handle more requisitions, candidates and hiring managers than they have before. This is why technology is essential and where it can be put to good use. You could set up your processes so that all candidates of a particular type ó for example, those who are not critical to your organization’s success and are not too hard to find ó are sourced and screened entirely through your recruiting website and associated technology. Candidates can be screened, a background check run, and a tentative offer made without any human contact at all. I will grant you that this requires a huge shift in thinking for both recruiters and hiring managers, but it is both possible and legal. These pre-screened and pre-assessed candidates can be automatically scheduled for an interview with a hiring manager. This will free you up to focus on the higher priority candidates who need personal attention and perhaps face-to-face selling. As more and more candidates go through this screening process, refinements and enhancements can be added to it to continuously make it more accurate and reflective of your evolving needs. If this sounds like fantasy, image someone describing a modern manufacturing process to someone alive in 1950 or 1960. No one would believe that we could make so many products with so few people. This only happened because demand outpaced an affordable supply of people. 3. Let go of the past and embrace the future. Even for those positions which are critical, technology can assist in reducing your workload to more manageable levels. Today, the cursory screening tools offered by many applicant tracking systems do little to reduce your work. They may sort and rank candidates, but they still leave you to make decisions and perhaps even take the time to look over very marginal candidates. Letting go of past practices is very difficult to do, but it is essential to your success. Your goal should be to add enough quantity and quality of automated screens so that the number of candidates you take the time to review comes down to a manageable number. In a study we are conducting we have identified over 80 firms who provide such tools. The technology is available. There has been a time when experimentation in the recruiting arena has been as promising as it is today. Vendors are standing in the wings waiting to be asked to contribute to your success. What is lacking is willing recruiting organizations ready to try something that will measurably improve their productivity.

Emerging Roles in Recruiting

by
Dave Lefkow
Dec 14, 2004

A common lament among recruiting professionals has been a lack of opportunities for growth and development. Yet with some of the new and exciting roles in recruiting, it will be tough to view our profession as merely a launch pad for a career in HR. Many of these roles are also indicative of a major shift in how organizations manage, think about, and grow their talent acquisition and management functions. On your worst days, you’ve probably had some of the following thoughts:

Improving Execution by Auditing Your Recruiting Strategy

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Dec 13, 2004

If the modern business world were static, it would be enough that you dedicated time and effort to craft a recruiting strategy. But the world is not static, and the recruiting strategy you just invested so much time and energy in will be virtually useless if you don’t put into place a process to revisit it, update it, measure its impact, etc. In short, without a method to audit your recruiting strategy you might as well not even craft a strategy to begin with. Recruiting is just like any other important business function. If it doesn’t start with a sound plan and strategy, it is destined to wallow in mediocrity. No matter how good your initial strategy is, it will over time need to flex. This need for flexibility is based on the fact that the assumptions about external business factors and data that help form your conclusions can and do change. That’s why it’s critical that you set periodic times to review or audit the implementation or execution of the strategy and the results it is producing. I recommend at least two midcourse reviews. It’s important to have this “feedback loop” to ensure that your strategy development process improves each year. Increasing Your Chances of Successful Execution In order to increase the chances that your strategy will be executed successfully, you must develop a process for making sure that the strategy directly influences other key recruiting processes, such as resource allocation, service priority, and internal rewards and recognition systems. You also must ensure that all of the necessary individuals have access to a usable copy of the strategy. (Making a strategy usable is a topic worthy of it own book, but for the purpose of this article, usable means that it is in a form that is easy for others to refer to periodically, be it in print, multimedia, or online format.) You must also set up at least one midpoint revision to revisit the strategy and its goals. This step is important because most strategies can be improved (and thus you can improve recruiting’s chances for reaching its goals) if the strategy is refined utilizing the knowledge and experience that are gained during the first months of its implementation. Auditing Your Recruitment Strategy Whether you have just developed a brand new recruiting strategy or are attempting to improve and refine a current one, it’s important to undertake a “strategy audit” to ensure that the strategy you painstakingly developed is being successfully executed. The great majority of the recruiting strategies that are developed are never fully implemented. In fact, most documented strategies are immediately relegated to someone’s top bookshelf and never used. Others fail to have the desired impact because the operational processes within HR and recruiting do not change to mesh with or support the strategy. In order to increase your success rate, you should audit your strategy every three to six months. Elements of a Strategy Execution Audit or Midcourse Assessment The following strategy audit checklist can be used as an assessment tool for any recruiting strategy, be it one recently redeveloped or one newly created. Part 1. ROI and Meeting Your Goals

  1. ROI. Compare the ROI on recruiting activities to date with the pro-rated ROI that was planned or targeted for the year.
  2. keep reading…

Technology Trends: Become a Better Customer

by
Lou Adler
Dec 10, 2004

Every month, I do an article on the state of technology. This month is no exception. While progress is occurring in using technology for improving hiring and recruiting processes, I’m disappointed that it’s not occurring more rapidly. From our investigations, this is more of a problem with the users of technology ó the customers ó than the vendors. For significant progress to be made on the IT front, recruiters and recruiting managers need to become better customers. They quickly need to be better users of technology. By demanding more robust systems, vendors will respond. They have the will and the capacity, but not enough direction. Unfortunately, too many customers demand features that are often unnecessary, counter-productive or poorly thought out. Collectively, this is why technology has not progressed as rapidly in the hiring/recruiting area as it might have. We’re going to change all of that. You’ll have an opportunity to accelerate this trend and become part of a new technology movement. Information on how to participate will be provided at the end of this article. Not all will qualify, but if you’d like to influence the technology product roadmap, it’s something you should consider. For now, let’s just set a new direction. In my opinion, the overall objective of technology is to maximize candidate quality while reducing time to fill and cost to hire. From this perspective, the investment in technology has not had a great ROI. To achieve this maximum quality/shorter time/lower cost objective, here are some of the big areas where technology needs to improve:

  1. Handling the needs of less active and passive candidates. For example, recruiters need to focus on job descriptions that are compelling, easy to find, and easy to apply for. The ability to build and manage pipelines of top people with CRM (customer relation management) capability is also important.
  2. keep reading…

Got a Performance Problem?

by
Dr. Wendell Williams
Dec 9, 2004

Recruiting occupations are generally devoted to finding potential employees. HR occupations are generally devoted to managing paperwork and administering benefits. Training occupations are generally devoted to conducting workshops. But as far as I know, industrial psychology is the only occupation devoted to measuring and predicting individual performance. Practitioners in industrial psychology specialize in identifying competencies, building and validating tests, and evaluating people for jobs. We like to call ourselves “human performance experts,” although the term “test geeks” is probably more apt. Unlike business school consultants, industrial psychologists usually care less about the “building” (i.e., the organization as a whole) and more about each “brick” (i.e., how each individual employee performs). That is, we know every organization depends entirely on the sum contributions of its individual contributors. We also know that a random mix of qualified and unqualified contributors leads to low productivity, expensive mistakes, interpersonal conflict, high turnover, and so forth (can Martha Stewart make a gourmet meal out of Spam, RC Cola, and Moon Pies?). Fast, Good and Cheap ó Not! There’s a common phrase, “Fast, good, or cheap: Pick any two.” What it means for our world is that there is no such thing as a fast, good, and cheap solution in the employee performance arena. “Fast” and “cheap” usually equates to interviews and off-the-shelf tests. In spite of the fact there are about 50 years of published research showing that interviews are poor indicators of future performance, the majority of companies bury their heads in the sand and persist in using them. We need to realize that the best that most interviews can do is screen out blatantly unqualified applicants. The reminder get hired primarily because no one can find anything wrong with them. What about tests? Unless 1) the test has been built to predict job performance and 2) there is hard proof it predicts performance, most tests are probably as worthwhile as that letter from Mr. Okembo, Secretary General of Nigeria, offering me $3,000,000 in exchange for my bank account number. This is not rocket science. Almost anyone can see only 50% of new hires become high performers. The third part of the equation ó “good” ó requires clearly understanding what the job requires and measuring each applicant’s competency using trustworthy tools. What you measure is what you get. Of course the catch is, you have to give up fast and cheap in the process. Screen Doors It helps to think of a hiring and promotion system as a screen door with variable-sized holes. One can progressively reduce the size of the holes, eliminating more and more outdoor pests until the holes become so small they screen out everything. That’s the way a good hiring and promotion system works. It screens out people who cannot demonstrate they have the competencies to do the job. The standards can be loose (i.e., structured interviews) or highly stringent (systems that use multiple tests, structured interviews, and multiple measurements). The challenge, though, is how to decide the hole size that minimizes major performance problems. Suppose, for example, that a company has a turnover problem. The best solution would depend on knowing exactly why and when turnover occurred:

  1. Early stage

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Defining Talent in 5 Steps

by
Kevin Wheeler
Dec 8, 2004

About once a year I get the feeling that we aren’t making any progress in improving our approaches to acquiring and retaining talent. Perhaps part of this discouragement arises because neither recruiters nor managers have put much rigor into defining the quality of our employees. We bandy about the term “talent,” and yet we have no real definition of it. For many recruiters, talent is frequently synonymous with “anyone who says yes.” What I mean by “talent” here are those employees whose contributions are vital to our ability to produce our product or deliver our service. If we were to compare our firms to sports teams, I think we could understand talent better. When a sports manager speaks of talent, he is talking about those individuals on any team who make the points, block the other team, or who the fans and players identify as essential for success. Almost all organizations quantify the contribution individuals engaged in sales make to the company. They know that above average performers generate more sales than average performers. McKinsey, in their Talent War 2000 study, has also documented this. Those surveyed by McKinsey were asked to assess how much more a high performer in a P&L position generates than a middle performer. They estimated the difference at 49%, and they said that the high performer should be paid 42% more. When you think about what 49% means, it is astounding. That means a high performer brings in almost twice as much business as an average performer or produces twice as much. If you as a recruiter could identify potential high performers, how much more respect would you get? How much better would your reputation be? If we are focused on improving the quality of the talent we hire, here are some of the things we could be doing as recruiters and as human resource professionals.

  1. We could work harder than we do now at identifying high performers. Together with managers, we could establish some indicators of success or of high performance for each position we recruit for. These could be the number of sales an employee has made in a month, the number of reports he or she has written that resulted in consulting assignments, the amount of revenue his or her group has generated, and so forth. This is hard work. There aren’t a lot of benchmarks to go by, but we all know more or less who contributes the most to our organizations. Our task is to quantify that.
  2. keep reading…

An Appeal to the Difference Makers: It’s Time to Make a Difference

by
Howard Adamsky
Dec 7, 2004

This is not a “how to” article. It won’t show you five ways to do this or ten ways to do that. You might learn very little about recruiting itself in this commentary ó but if you read on, you might learn something even more important. The choice is yours. Yesterday’s visit to a potential client had me shaking my head and wondering, who reads the articles we write here? The ER Daily has been published five days a week, every week, since 1998. That’s a lot of great articles from some very bright people hitting your inbox each weekday morning. These articles allow all of us to learn something new every day and hopefully become better at what we do than we were the day before. Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it? So riddle me this: Why are some companies I have encountered still living in the dark ages when it comes to the recruiting function? Do they not see value in the well-planned and intelligent acquisition of human capital? Are those words too fancy? How about this: Do they care about hiring the right people? What makes some companies the standard bearers in defining the importance of what we do, as they reinvent recruiting on an almost daily basis, while others are totally unable to follow and adopt even the most rudimentary standards of intelligent recruiting? I spent almost three hours with this potential client, who asked me to “stop in” to see why recruiting was “not working.” Not working? Not working would be a compliment. I was surprised that their recruiting has not simply exploded out of a side wall of the building by now. Keep in mind that this unnamed organization is not from Mars. They are Northeast based and have the same availability to all of the information that you and I have access to. They have not just an opportunity, but an obligation to become better at what they do. Mediocrity is not an option; the goal now should be growth and organizational greatness. Our companies must grow and prosper if for no other reason than to pay for the mortgages, car payments, and college educations of those in their employ. Organizationally speaking, to limp along year after year making a few bucks here and a few bucks there is a miserable existence and a terrible way to live. So I wonder, do companies like this read about recruiting? Do they attend seminars and conferences? Do they work at getting better? I suspect not, but they are not alone. I see this in many places. Let’s take a quick look at what was wrong with this client’s recruiting:

Steps In Developing A Recruiting Strategy, Part 4

by
Dr. John Sullivan
Dec 6, 2004

There are no shortcuts in developing a recruiting strategy. It takes a logical process and numerous interrelated steps. Steps 1 through 7 were covered in Part 3; the remaining 11 steps are outlined below. 8. Select your measurable recruiting goals. Now that you know where the organization wants to go, it’s important to set measurable goals that ensure that recruiting will make a major contribution toward the firm’s and the HR’s department’s priorities. If you already have a current set of recruiting goals, start with them. Then add to the list any “new” goals that the changing business environment requires. Finally, delete any goals which are no longer necessary. If you don’t have a current set of goals to start with, you can begin designating goals by:

  • Selecting a goal that corresponds directly with each major business goal.
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Forget Six Sigma! One Sigma Is the Real Goal for Hiring Top Talent

by
Lou Adler
Dec 3, 2004

Every company wants to make hiring top talent more predictable. Some even go as far as putting a Six Sigma task force together to begin the process. Yet they’re all unlikely to succeed. Six Sigma is about process improvement. Unfortunately, you can’t implement process improvement until you have a process to improve. Using Six Sigma approaches to improve the hiring process are doomed to failure ó unless you first get a One Sigma process implemented. This is far tougher than it seems, and yet it is the key step necessary to making hiring top talent a systematic business process. Unfortunately, too many companies ignore this vital first step. A One Sigma process has the following primary characteristic: everybody hires the same way. Even if it’s bad, everybody does the same thing. There are some rules behind it, and forms to fill in, and people get penalized for not following it. This is the type of basic process you need before you can have process improvement. For hiring, the rules need to involve how requisitions are approved, how candidates are interviewed, how they’re selected, and how offers are negotiated and put together. While simple and obvious, few companies have such a system that everyone uses. Worse yet, most companies think they do. How does your company measure up on this standard? Just having something in place that everybody uses is more important than having a process in place that works. While this sounds counterintuitive, I think this is why there have been few major improvements in the hiring process in the last 30 years. The hard part in any change implementation program is getting 100% user adoption. Consider your ATS as an example. A low user adoption rate is the biggest inherent problem with most applicant tracking systems. Great features combined with low utilization is a big time and money waster! Some examples are in order to prove the case for process adoption over effectiveness. From my experience, the hiring process at all companies is far less rigorous than the capital investment process; in most companies it is far simpler than getting reimbursed for travel expenses. Both of these basic business processes offer guidance on how and why a basic One Sigma hiring and selection process is all that’s needed to get hiring under control. In most companies, a $250,000 capital expenditure requires some type of rigorous cost benefit analysis coupled with an ROI calculation. At a minimum, this takes a few hours to complete and includes a description of the cost savings, an analysis of options, and some type of implementation plan. The cost of a bad or weak hire is at least $100,000 even for a $50,000 person, and this is every year whether the person stays or is replaced. So it seems pretty easy to justify the need for an equally rigorous hiring and selection process. In the case of a capital investment, the process adoption and effectiveness collectively lead to good business decisions. This is the benefit of having a good process in place that everyone uses. Consider travel expense reimbursement as an example at the other extreme. Getting paid for travel expenses requires detailed reporting, accurate tracking of expenses, and a written form to be submitted with itemized receipts. On top of this, there is an audit team in place, tracking accuracy and insuring compliance. I’m sure we all have examples of how this has been taken to extremes. Here’s mine. On one recent project with a major company, I had to spend at least an hour and a half trying to reconcile the difference between a $66 parking receipt and the $44 I charged to the company. One of the days was charged to another project, but the company accounting department wouldn’t pay any amount other than the one on the receipt, and my attempt to just forgo reimbursement rather than get a new receipt was met with three follow-up calls. If nothing else, high adoption rates coupled with a bureaucratic process at least prevent fraudulent charges. The underlying principle here is that, in order to implement change, there needs to be a standardized process with some type of policing mechanism to make sure that everyone follows the rules. This basic concept has somehow been overlooked when implementing hiring process changes. From my observations, at most companies each individual manager and each recruiter hires and selects candidates using different techniques. Job descriptions range from useless to “I’ll know the person when I see him,” so even though the req approval process is the most rigorous, it’s still based on an arbitrary measurement criteria. Adding competency models and behavioral interviewing helps a bit, but if few managers use the tools the same way, the process must be considered out of control. For comparative purposes, Six Sigma process control means fewer than one error in 100 thousand steps. For most companies, hiring is about 50/50 ó that’s about .2 Sigma! One Sigma process control would equate to 68% accuracy. So to me, that’s a pretty good target. Here is my idea for a practical hiring process that’s not too bureaucratic. If you could obtain 100% user adoption, hiring errors would be reduced dramatically. Steps Needed to Make Hiring Top Talent a One Sigma Process

  1. Develop some type of formal structured hiring system. At a minimum, this consists of a few basic requirements:

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Business Intelligence: The Future of Hiring Metrics

by
Dr. Charles Handler
Dec 2, 2004

Note: Dr. Wendell Williams was incorrectly listed as the author of this article in an earlier email edition. The correct author is Dr. Charles Handler, as it appears here. [In my last article, I told you about our third annual Rocket-Hire/ERE screening and assessment survey. We still want to know whether your business currently using or considering using screening and assessment tools. If you haven't already, please visit www.rocket-hire.com/eresurvey2004/index.html to take the survey. Look for the results to be published in an upcoming article on ERE this spring.] Technology has changed almost everything about the way we do business. It’s hard to argue with the fact that advances in both hardware and software have created fundamental changes in the way businesses are run. Technology now plays an indispensable role in helping businesses to accomplish their strategic objectives, and thus generate revenue. One of the most interesting ways that businesses have been able to leverage technology to increase profitability is in the application of a set of tools and techniques known broadly as “business intelligence” (BI for short). While business intelligence has been in use for a long time in some industries, increases in software sophistication and the success stories of those who have benefited from it have led an increasing number of organizations to begin applying business intelligence to help them increase their profitability. So what exactly is business intelligence? Whatis.com offers the following definition:

Business intelligence (BI) is a broad category of applications and technologies for gathering, storing, analyzing, and providing access to data to help enterprise users make better business decisions. BI applications include the activities of decision support systems, query and reporting, online analytical processing (OLAP), statistical analysis, forecasting, and data mining.”

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The Cult of Personality: Rethinking the Use of Personality Tests for Hiring

by
Dr. Michael Harris
Dec 1, 2004

I’ve just finished reading a recently published book called The Cult of Personality, by Annie Murphy Paul, which presents a scathing criticism of the use of personality testing in a variety of settings, including the workplace. The book provides some interesting information, particularly regarding the lives of the authors of some of these tests. According to The Cult of Personality, for example, Isabel Myers, the author of the famous Myers-Briggs test, had no formal training in psychology or test construction. The man who developed the Rorschach Inkblot Test, Hermann Rorschach, may have died of heartbreak from the failure of his test to gain wide acceptance. You will also learn that Starke Hathaway, the creator of the MMPI, sometimes wore shoes that didn’t match and frequently came to classes with grease stains on his clothing. Beyond such trivia, The Cult of Personality raises a number of important questions regarding the use of such tests in a wide variety of settings, including the workplace. In the remainder of this column, I will address several of the author’s critical assumptions about personality tests. Some of these criticisms are implicit and some are explicit. Because I am trained in Industrial Psychology, I will review the book only in terms of the use of personality tests for hiring and selecting employees. I leave the use of personality tests in other venues (e.g., clinical therapy, academic settings, and teambuilding efforts) to others. Specifically, I will address four critical assumptions made in this book. Assumption #1: Personality tests do not predict job performance. To determine whether a test is useful, industrial psychologists rely heavily on “criterion-related validity” studies. To conduct such a study, industrial psychologists typically administer the test to a large number of current employees and then correlate their test scores with some measure of job performance (e.g., a supervisor’s ratings). A correlation coefficient is then calculated between the test scores and job performance. A correlation coefficient ranges between zero and one: a zero indicates there is no relationship between the test and job performance, while a one indicates that there is a perfect relationship between the test and job performance. Because human beings are rather unpredictable, it is nearly impossible to find a correlation that is much higher than .50. Generally speaking, a useful test correlates somewhere between .30 to .50 with job performance. For many years, academic researchers were skeptical of the predictive validity of personality tests in the workplace. This skepticism is generally traced to a critical review article that appeared in the 1960s, which severely criticized the use of personality tests for selecting employees. In the 1990s, however, two developments led to a major reconsideration of the use of personality tests. First, using a technique called meta-analysis to review and summarize hundreds of previous studies, researchers concluded that personality tests did have some, albeit limited, predictive validity in the workplace. Sorting the research based on the “big five” theory of personality, which assumes that personality consists of five dimensions (i.e., openness to new experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, emotional stability, and agreeableness), researchers found that scores on conscientiousness modestly correlated with job performance. A second development, beginning around the 1980s, was the construction of specialized personality tests. The most well-known example, which received a mention in The Cult of Personality, was the paper-and-pencil honesty or integrity test. Studies of these tests were also eventually subjected to a meta-analysis, which concluded that integrity tests correlated with a broad array of workplace behaviors, including counterproductive activities and general job performance. Hence, there is solid scientific evidence that some personality dimensions do in fact predict job performance to some extent. Nonetheless, combining invalid scales with valid scales (e.g., conscientiousness) to predict job performance may actually reduce the predictive power of the valid tests. The bottom line here is, as with many things in life, personality testing brings value in selection if used appropriately, responsibly, and in an informed manner. Assumption #2: There are better ways to select people for jobs than to use personality tests. While The Cult of Personality does little to address alternative procedures, we ourselves need to consider the alternative to these kinds of tests. One potential alternative is other kinds of tests. Cognitive ability tests, for example, might be used, but they too have weaknesses. One limitation of cognitive ability tests is that they too tend to be far from perfect predictors of job performance, with predictive validities falling somewhere between .30 to .50. A second weakness is that they tend to produce disparate impact, which makes companies that use them susceptible to discrimination charges. Other tests, such as assessment centers, are expensive to develop and use, and also are far from being perfect predictors of future job performance. A second potential alternative is to rely more heavily on interviews. But interviews are far from perfect predictors and they may be fraught with biases and subjectivity. Even a well-designed, scientifically based interview is not a perfect predictor of job performance. Interviews have one more limitation: while a relatively inexpensive test might be administered to large numbers of applicants, few companies are willing to interview hundreds of candidates to weed out the poor ones. Thus for positions where there are many applicants, a personality test might be an effective first step to reducing the pool to a more manageable number. Assumption #3: A large number of honest people fail integrity tests. Another major criticism mentioned in The Cult of Personality is that some tests, such as integrity tests, have an extremely high false positive rate (i.e., a large number of presumably honest people fail integrity tests). In a careful scientific review of these tests published in 1989, two scientists observed that, overall, 40% to 70% of people passed these tests. While research does suggest that there is a high false positive rate, the criterion (theft on the job) is difficult to track and detect. Thus, the high false positive rate may have less to do with a poor test than with a poor criterion (i.e., theft on the job). Such tests do also show a modest degree of predictive validity, using criteria such as performance ratings and even theft on the job. The more contemporary “integrity tests” of today measure a broader scope of behaviors. These are often referred to as “tests of conscientiousness.” While they indirectly predict dishonesty, these tests evaluate “work values” such as showing up to work on time, following rules, taking responsibility for getting work completed, and risk-taking on the job. Finally, in predicting theft on the job, employers have few good alternatives, and even those alternatives (e.g., criminal record checks; references) have serious shortcomings. Despite some weaknesses, then, honesty tests, and in particular tests of conscientiousness, may be useful in industries where there are many more applicants than companies can possibly hire. Indeed, very few companies can hire every candidate that applies and there has to be some basis for rejecting applicants. Assumption #4: Job applicants have few legal rights when it comes to personality tests. In terms of legal rights, I believe it all depends on your perspective. There are three major potential protections for job applicants, and the author mentions all three of them. First, job applicants are provided protection under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1991 from racial, gender, and other related types of discrimination. Such lawsuits may rely on the disparate impact theory of discrimination, in which the differential impact of such tests can be used as evidence of discrimination. Second, some states have privacy laws that may pertain, and lawsuits have been successfully filed under these statutes. Finally, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may provide some protection for job applicants from the use of certain tests such as the MMPI. In a recent lawsuit (Karraker v. Rent-A-Center, 2004) filed against a company using the MMPI for selection, however, the court ruled that its use did not constitute a medical test and therefore the company did not violate the ADA. From an applicant perspective, these and other laws may be seen as insufficient protection from the arbitrary use of personality tests. From a company’s perspective, on the other hand, such laws may be seen as a potential deterrent in using personality tests. Conclusion and Suggestions The uncritical use of personality tests in the workplace is foolish at best, and at worst, may be costly to companies. If you are either currently using personality tests, or considering the use of these tests for hiring and selection decisions, here are some suggestions:

  1. Make sure the personality test is properly validated.
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