Strategy Safari: A New Talent Acquisition Metric to Start Using 

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Oct 14, 2020
This article is part of a series called Strategy Safari.

Ask leaders of any organization where they have the biggest process pain points. Most will mention recruiting. And really, who can blame them? Even though it seems like a pretty straightforward process — find person, hire person — there are a number of variables that factor into the success or failure of talent acquisition.

To get a handle on all of them, most TA departments establish metrics to measure both the efficiency and effectiveness of practices. These metrics typically include everyone’s favorites: time to fill, to cost per hire, to candidate satisfaction, offer acceptance rate. 

That’s all well and good. It’s important to measure this stuff. It feels good to see numbers change in a positive way, and you can create reports with colors and arrows and everything else to “prove” you’re moving the needle. And then the next time someone like me asks leaders what the organization’s pain points are, they will respond: “Recruiting.”

What the hell? Why can’t your colleagues see all the work you’re doing to make improvements? It’s like they’re actively ignoring the data.

Well…yeah, they kind of are. 

It’s Time for TTA

Human beings are really good at ignoring facts and responding with their beliefs, and when it comes to recruiting, they believe that it takes too long. Perception overrides the fact that recruiting can show it has effectively cut time to fill to below industry average. Once a hiring manager has decided they need a new employee, the clock starts ticking for them. The problem is, most TA departments don’t start their clock until the approved requisition is sitting in their inbox. 

And we wonder why there are issues.

While you’re never going to fix the difference between facts and feelings, you can change the way you talk about facts to influence those feelings by measuring a part of the process you might not be measuring today — the approval process. 

Each company has its own version of requisition approval. Most basically boil down to new full-time employees (FTEs) needing more approval than replacement FTEs. That approval process, however, can have an awful lot of hoops for managers to jump through. I have worked at organizations that simply required one-level-up approval, and I’ve worked at companies where every single req had to be approved by the CEO, regardless of new or replacement. As you can imagine, that added some time. 

To tackle this challenge, you need data to tell the story of the impact of the approval process, and that means measuring the time it takes to go through the approval workflow — let’s call it “time to approval” (TTA). Even if  your TA department has no impact on that workflow, you need the visibility. Not only will it help you reframe the time-to-fill-metric perception for your customers; it will help you anticipate the workload for your recruiters.

Measuring TTA

So how do you go about recording TTA? Well, that depends on both your approval process and the systems you use. Here are some different scenarios you might consider:

  • Requisition approval is handled 100% in the ATS. This may seem ideal, because the hiring manager creates the requisition in the system and the workflow handles the approval. A simple report should be able to time-and-date stamp each action. However, don’t be fooled! Most of the approval process happens informally outside of the system. You’ll need to work with the business to find a way to measure this effectively or at least to gain some visibility into it — even if it’s just knowing what the annual FTE budget is and butting that up against the turnover report.
  • Requisition approval is a mix of external systems (e.g., Sharepoint) and ATS. This can require your TA team to pull together data from multiple sources. And from personal experience, this isn’t great. However, typically TA can work with other departments (including Finance) to build the approval workflow, which would provide visibility of status and approval dates. Because you’re working with multiple systems, it can require manual rework, so work with your IT team to identify an optimal process.
  • Requisition approval is entirely outside any system. This is probably the most difficult, and frankly, it may not be measurable. The best you can do is reverse-engineer the timeline based on reqs you receive. Then you can paint a picture around the challenges of tracking and reporting on the process to gain buy-in to change the approach.

Leveraging TTA

Regardless of how you measure TTA, the main thing is: What do you do with it?

I recommend you make it part of your regular reporting process. Send updates to each of the divisions that you support with overall metrics (be it weekly or monthly). No need to publicly shame any particular group, but it can be helpful to color-code the bottlenecks to highlight opportunities for improvement. And typically, the requisition approval process is one of those bottlenecks.

TTA is just one of the metrics that a TA leader needs to understand. It isn’t a panacea for all your issues. It is, however, a way to provide a much more complete picture of what’s happening in hiring. It allows you to present a more holistic approach to shortening the perceived time to hire. It also sheds light on steps in the process that hiring managers and other leaders might not have visibility into. In the end, it is a metric that encourages all departments to work together to change the process for the better.

Click here for more Strategy Safari columns.

This article is part of a series called Strategy Safari.
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