Who’s Responsible for Quality of Hire?

Oct 16, 2009

Over the past few months I’ve been describing a new approach for determining quality of hire, and using changes in this to justify any new expenditures on an ROI basis. While the methodology is pretty slick, the pushback is coming not from the process, but from the idea that HR/recruiting is responsible for quality of hire at all.

If not HR/recruiting, then who?

Most HR/recruiting execs would suggest hiring managers themselves as the likely assignee. Others would contend that HR/recruiting is responsible for the quality of the candidates, but managers are responsible for the quality of hire. Others would suggest there are too many variables to assign it to anyone.

Further confusing the issue is determining when quality of hire should be measured. If you do it before the person starts, you’re measuring the sourcing and selection process. After the hire, you’re measuring the hiring manager’s management and leadership abilities as much as you are the candidate’s ability to perform the job needs. Compounding the time variable is the measurement standard. If you use a different measurement technique for before and after, then you’re left with a comparison between oranges and cell phones, or more likely, experience and qualifications vs. performance.

It’s because of these complex issues that I believe that HR/recruiting must take responsibility for quality of hire. If not HR/recruiting, then who?

Here’s my rationale behind the nomination.

  1. Maximizing quality of hire is the most important strategic role HR/recruiting can play. Other than maximizing on-the-job performance and retention, there is no more important role for the HR/recruiting department. Not wanting responsibility for this seems odd to an old recruiter like me. All the executives I’ve placed thrive on this type of challenge. Why would HR/recruiting be reluctant to take on — even demand — this responsibility?
  2. The CFO is responsible for the capital acquisition process, so why shouldn’t HR/recruiting be responsible for the talent acquisition process? While the financial department doesn’t select, install, and run the capital equipment it approves, it still manages the approval process and strongly influences the ultimate decision. This parallels the role HR/recruiting should play in the talent acquisition process.
  3. Having responsibility means the process is adhered to, not the decision itself. Developing and monitoring the hiring/selection process is the role of HR/recruiting. This means developing and implementing processes that ensure that the best candidates are seen and hired. There should be an audit process as part of this to ensure that the best decision has been made, and that if it has not been, the process is modified.
  4. There is a huge tactical and strategic cost to making mistakes. HR/recruiting needs to deal with all the mistakes, including finding replacements and dealing with the legal and employee relations issues. The opportunity costs of bad hires alone provides the rationale for some type of vigorous and auditable selection process. Who else could possibly lead this type of cross-functional effort?
  5. If not HR/recruiting, then who? Hiring managers should police themselves on quality of hire. Some do it, most don’t, and even those that do, don’t do it well. Regardless, there should be one standardized process that works and is used company-wide. This is the primary reason why hiring managers can only be held responsible for the successful performance of the person hired, not the process used. If some managers want to use their own process, they need to be held 100% responsible for mistakes, including the costs associated with this. This is one way to convince them they should use the approved process.

Of course, if HR/recruiting is given the responsibility for maximizing and measuring quality of hire, there comes some programs that need to be implemented to pull it off. Here are some quick recommendations:

  1. Stop using job descriptions to source and select candidates. If you describe the work that needs to be done and assess candidates on this, before and after the hire, you’ll solve the dual measurement problem and reduce turnover dramatically. The primary reasons new hires underperform and/or leave is lack of understanding of real job needs and a poor fit with their hiring manager.
  2. Develop sourcing programs that target high-quality candidates, rather than eliminating the worst to see who’s left. This is not insignificant. It means you must stop asking knockout questions and stop posting boring ads. The only reason companies ask knockout questions is to eliminate weak candidates who apply. If you change the sourcing paradigm to target great candidates, rather than hoping great candidates fall through the cracks, you eliminate the “eliminate the weak candidates” problem at the strategic level.
  3. Use a performance-based talent scorecard and evidence-based assessment system to measure pre-hire quality. Competency models and behavioral interviews are too generic and do not measure a candidate’s ability and motivation to perform the actual tasks required for success. Instead, candidates should be evaluated across all real jobs, including their ability to work effectively with the hiring manager. Quantifiable evidence of consistent and comparable past performance needs to be the basis of the yes/no decision.

With this type of process in place, HR/recruiting’s role then becomes one of ensuring that the process for maximizing quality of hire is being followed — not making the hiring decision. This is comparable to the authority given, or taken, by the CFO, in ensuring that capital expenditures are justified in some reasonable fashion. Maximizing the quality of every single hiring decision is the primary strategic role of the HR/recruiting department. If HR/recruiting wants a seat at the strategic table it should demand this responsibility.

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