The Part of Recruiting No One Wants to Own

Talent acquisition professionals love to share their stats with people — especially time to fill. If it’s too long, they use it as proof they’re under attack by difficult market conditions, they have uncooperative hiring managers, and they really need a raise. If it’s short, they use it as evidence that their process is efficient and amazing and they definitely need a raise. 

As skeptical as I can be about a stat like time to fill, it can be a useful way to monitor the efficiency of your recruiting process — but only if you measure the entire process. Too many recruiting teams are stopping the clock too soon, measuring only the time between when the recruiter receives the approved requisition to when the candidate signs the offer letter.  

But that’s only half the story. A requisition isn’t really filled until that candidate is christened a new employee, active in the system, and ready to do work. Until Day One, that candidate is really just a potential employee — and there is an awful lot of work that needs to be done before then. At any point before the start date, there is a chance you will demoralize a potential employee to the point where they join the team stripped of their enthusiasm, or, worse, they decide not to join the team at all. 

What’s the Problem?

Onboarding (for purposes of this article, defined as the activity that takes place between the signed offer letter and Day One) is grossly underserved by many organizations. Think about the last time you started a new job. Did you enjoy the process? How about that background check? Did you have to re-enter all your information into a separate system? Are you a remote employee? What was that I-9 process like? Were you confused about what you needed to do next?

Let’s assume you got through any background check and paperwork without completely giving up and you made it to your start date. Did you have your laptop? Were you able to get into the system? Did you even know who was on your team? 

For a lot of new hires, the answer to these questions are skewed to the negative. A survey by Gallup revealed that a mere 12% of new hires felt their onboarding experience was positive. That’s a disappointing way to start a new job. 

What’s driving the poor reviews?

Perhaps it’s because 58% of organizations say they focus too much on paperwork. Or the process isn’t formalized, leading to an inconsistent, non-scalable approach that drives downstream business partners (IT, security, benefits, payroll) crazy. 

Or it could be that candidates don’t even know who their point of contact is once the offer letter is signed and the recruiter disappears. Whatever the reason, it’s a mess, and it’s hurting your organization.

What’s the Plan?

All is not lost. It just means that recruiting leaders need to think about things a little differently and partner across the business to set everyone up for success:

Change how you define time to fill. Hiring managers don’t care that an offer letter has been signed. They care that a person has started the job. A 30-day fill rate doesn’t matter if the onboarding activity takes three months. When I ran talent acquisition, we defined time to fill from the time we got the requisition to the time the person actually joined the company. It skewed our numbers a bit when compared to industry benchmarks, but it was a much more honest approach and led to far better data for planning purposes.

Article Continues Below

Monitor the end-to-end process. Maybe the requisition doesn’t “count” until it’s approved, but that approval process still impacts your ability to address your hiring managers’ needs. Work with your business-intelligence group to develop reporting that will give you visibility into the status of each step in the process so you can share it with your customers.

Identify a process owner. One of the biggest problems I see at organizations struggling with the onboarding process is that no one wants to own it — not talent acquisition, not HR, not IT. Part of the problem is that people assume process owner means process doer. But that’s not the case. Recruiting has a vested interest in ensuring the entire process is smooth, so they’re a logical owner, who then partners with shared services or HR operations to execute that process.

Automate, standardize, and streamline as much as possible. The average new hire onboarding experience includes 54 steps. Fifty-four! I’m exhausted just typing that. Whether it’s re-entering data multiple times or completing tasks irrelevant to their role, new employees have little patience for busywork. Use position-management attributes to drive automated onboarding workflows. Ensure all your systems have bidirectional integrations built to eliminate manual re-work. It will solve all sorts of problems.

Solve for Day One. A TalentTech onboarding study found that 43% of employees wait up to a week before they have the tools to do their job. Include provisioning and system access in your onboarding workflow early enough to ensure the employee is ready to go on their first day. Most systems allow for future effective dating and using a POI (person of interest) number to prepare everything before the employee is officially hired. Nothing says “Welcome” like a login and equipment. 

Establish a single point of contact. No matter how well-planned your onboarding process is, new hires are going to have questions. Whether it’s the recruiter, a recruiting coordinator, or a dedicated resource from shared services, ensure that the new hire knows who to go to with questions.

It might feel like a lot of work, but supporting a new hire through the onboarding process will ensure that the excitement after signing an offer letter continues as long as possible. 

Mary is a principal with IA, a boutique consulting firm focused on HR transformation. She is also a talent strategist and business leader with almost 15 years experience in helping organizations achieve their goals. After working on the operations side of start-ups and small companies, Mary landed in HR by way of learning and development, with extensive experience in leadership and organizational development, coaching, key talent planning, talent acquisition, performance management, business partnering, HRIS, process and policy creation, and instructional design.

In addition to her work within companies, Mary authors a leadership development blog called Surviving Leadership to continue the dialogue around the challenges of leadership – both being a leader and being led. 

Topics