HR is Dead! Yes? No? Maybe? (Hint: It’s up to you)

Oct 20, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Politicians claim they never let a good crisis go to waste. Reacting to crises is how people take advantage of opportunities that might otherwise be overlooked. But, have you ever thought about how that applies to HR? Or, maybe you have not kept up with the trend to eliminate internal recruiters.

Professional recruiters are citing an increasing number of independent studies claiming there is no difference in employee quality between internal and external recruiters; so, they argue, why should organizations hire full-time internal recruiters when external ones deliver the same results … cheaper? If I were an executive looking for ways to reduce costs, that argument would resonate with me. So, if you have anything to do with recruiting in your organization, how you react to this crisis could make a big difference to your career.

Same Old Same Old

Recruiters (both inside and outside) are like frogs swimming in a pot of cold water. Experiencing slowly rising temperatures, they are totally unaware they are about to be cooked. (Actually, I never boiled a frog, so I’m taking this story at face value). In fact, the last recruiting conference I attended was utterly packed with sourcing candidates and noticeably shy on evaluating them. When I buttonholed both recruiters and sourcers about the importance of qualifying candidates, their eyes would literally glaze over. They either knew it all … or cared less. I emphasize this story because I have not yet met a line manager who thinks recruiting is doing a good job qualifying candidates. And, guess who controls the money?

Aside from sourcing, the traditional method of hiring is to screen a pile of resumes, run applicants through interviews, and do background checks. We all know it’s easy to fake interviews, and results are mostly personal opinion. Furthermore, you don’t need research to know about half of new hires fail to meet expectations. Just look around. Is it any wonder HR outsourcing is a growing industry?

Nuts and Bolts

I did not invent best-practice hiring tools. They evolved from many years of research that, in my experience at least, most recruiters blow off as being too much work. Best practice starts with knowing critical skills associated with each job, then measuring them with hard-to-fake behavioral interviews, tests, simulations, and exercises. Does this process ensure 100% perfect hires? That would be nice, but no. There are simply too many factors that affect the future. Best practices significantly reduce the number of hiring mistakes. However, one fewer hiring mistake means one additional highly productive employee. Put another way, we know in a typical organization that 20% of the people produce 80% of the results. So, imagine what it would be like if that number was reversed to where 80% of the people were top-notch.

The reasons for poor performance are seldom the employee’s problem. He or she was coached to say anything to get a job; job competencies were unclear; and interviews were easy to fake. Imagine that!

Best practice hiring tools are different: they are considerably more accurate than traditional interviews, highly focused, and hard to fake. If you want management to consider recruiting or HR an invaluable department, I suggest ignoring job titles, organizing jobs into families (i.e., jobs with similar competencies), studying each family to identify job-critical competencies (i.e., ones that can be measured), developing reliable and trustworthy measurement tools, setting professional cut-points, and training your people how to use them.

Still need to use a professional recruiter from time to time? Professional recruiters usually have access to impressive networks or are able to screen high volumes of candidates. Let them know, however, that you will require each submitted candidate to successfully pass your best-practice screen. Don’t be surprised of instead of the usual 2-3 candidates, you have to test about seven to find the right-skilled person. Will the recruiters complain? Probably. But they don’t have to live with the consequences of a bad hiring decision.

Piece of Cake…Not!

You might not have the expertise in-house to set up a best-practice system. In that case, consider hiring a psychometric expert to get you started. I’m not referring to freelance salespeople who market out-of-the-box tests. They are probably well-intentioned, but limited in their range of tools, and totally unaware of limitations (e.g., if the only tool you know how to use is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail). Professionals can be identified by career and academic credentials, professional memberships, time spent interviewing people doing the job, use of different tools, professional validation processes, documentation, knowledge of the DOL Uniform Guidelines, and use of tests specifically developed for predicting job performance.

The entire investment of a best-practice hiring system is often recovered in 60-90 days. Isn’t it worth it to cut-through the sales-pitch and get the employee you actually thought you were getting?

Dead or Alive?

Is HR dead? That depends. Keep up the same-old practices, and the answer is probably, “Yes.” Move into the 21st century and master best practices, and I predict you will become managements’ new BFF.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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