Six Sigma in Recruiting, Part Two

In my previous article on Six Sigma, I gave a brief overview of the term, hoping to demystify it, and discussed its application to the staffing function. There continues to be more buzz in our industry about this process-improvement methodology, and senior recruiting management may be wondering if they should jump on the Six Sigma bandwagon or not. Or it might be something that is already prevalent at their organization and is knocking on their door. In a recent meeting with Microsoft Corporation, I spoke with them about the Six Sigma initiative they are embarking on for their staffing organization. They are in the process of aligning their recruiting efforts with the rest of their company’s implementation of Six Sigma. Microsoft has even created a Senior Manager of Quality Improvement position to oversee process improvement for their Technical Staffing Group. This is a trend that will most likely take hold in some fashion at many large organizations, as the prevalence of Six Sigma grows. In addition, many medium-sized and even smaller organizations will move to embrace it on some scale. But as companies prepare to apply Six Sigma to their staffing function, there are still some important questions to ask. Why Should You Implement Six Sigma? This is the most fundamental question that must be answered, and it may be the most pressing in the minds of many people in staffing. You keep hearing about Six Sigma. Should you be doing it? Has management in other departments/areas of your organization already embraced Six Sigma? Is your CEO going to be asking you why you haven’t started yet? The answer to the why question is simple: to improve how you run your business. While Six Sigma is looked at as a process-improvement methodology, it is much more than that. It is a management philosophy and a strategy. The strategy of Six Sigma is business process management ó or measuring and controlling your business processes. Metrics are something that most recruiting professionals are used to dealing with, but most organizations manipulate these standard measures of cost and time through budgeting ó or worse, at the expense of business objectives. Six Sigma will actually help you improve and control your metrics in a systematic way that will align your efforts with your organization’s business goals. And it doesn’t just mean reducing costs and speeding up hiring-cycle times; it means making the overall processes in recruiting more effective by also improving the quality of hires and the experience of all your customers. Once you are sold on the concept of Six Sigma, it is important to understand whether you can or should do it. This presents some harder questions, but they are questions you must answer. Are You Just Looking for a Short-Term Fix? Again, Six Sigma is a process-improvement methodology, but it is more importantly a management philosophy. You need to ask yourself if you are just seeking a short-term fix, or if you are prepared to commit yourself to excellence in how you do business. This would be akin to the difference between starting a crash diet along with going to the gym because your class reunion is next month, or committing yourself to a healthy lifestyle of good nutrition and regular exercise. Ultimately, you can probably get some initial results, but maintaining and controlling them in the long term is what is important ó and where the true ROI will come from in your efforts. Is Management Committed Enough? TQM (total quality management) often failed at companies, not because it was a bad process-improvement methodology, but because management merely signed off on the program and passed it to the front line to be carried out. Management was often not committed enough to the program. One of the reasons Six Sigma has proven to be successful is that it starts at the top. Senior management owns it first, makes sure it is aligned with the business goals, and then it trickles down to successive layers in the organization until all members own it. Besides selecting people to work on the project (Black Belts and Green Belts who run the project on a day-to-day basis), there must be a Champion. This may need to be the VP of HR or some other member of senior management who is the process owner and is in a position of high enough power to effectively clear away roadblocks to the project’s success and to make sure proper resources are committed and available. Do You Have the Resources? Six Sigma is something that will take up a great deal of time and energy, but the benefits can be profound. For example, in one year alone, General Electric added more than $2 billion to their bottom line through the use of Six Sigma. The necessary resources include both financial and manpower commitments, and will often entail an additional budget investment to reap the rewards in the future. This is a clear investment in changing the way you do business and not committing the necessary resources can doom the project. This is especially dangerous because the initial successes in Six Sigma are critical for cultural embracement by the organization. Is Now the Right Time? Though I believe now is always the right time to start making improvements to how you do business, this can be very situational to each company. I have heard it said that fixing a recruiting process is like repairing your car while driving a hundred miles an hour. The good news is that many recruiting departments are running a lot slower than they were a few years ago. Unfortunately, most are also operating now with significantly fewer resources and manpower. In addition, your tenured people, who understand your processes best, are the ones who will need to be involved first in Six Sigma. You cannot just hire consultants to do all the work or expect to throw new employees at the job. How quickly hiring will ramp up and what resources you will have available at that time are anybody’s guess. What I can say with certainty is that waiting until your hiring is ramped up again to start improving your recruiting processes is probably not the best time. Getting the budget and manpower to commence Six Sigma will take building a business case and some vision to get it started now rather than later.

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