You Can’t Get There From Here

There is an old story that goes something like this. A driver is very lost and has driven around for hours trying to find his way. (Yes, the driver is male. A female would have asked for help right away–but that would have ruined the story, wouldn’t it?). Anyway, the driver finally stops and asks a “local” for directions. The “local” thinks for a while and replies, “Yep. I know where it is. But you can’t get there from here.” So what’s my point? Just this — the goals of “recruiting” and “production” can be very different. And, the difference tends to encourage different kinds of behaviors that do not necessarily benefit the organization. But let’s go back in time to put things into perspective. Did you know that there was essentially no recruiting or HR department during the turn of the century? If you wanted a job, the foreman of the crew you wanted to join interviewed you. Because he was directly responsible to his superintendent for productivity, the foreman’s personal success depended on hiring good workers. If you were hired, you usually operated a single piece of equipment day in and day out. Your performance directly influenced the foreman’s career so it was in your best interest to be highly productive. You see, if the factory foreman was “boss,” the factory superintendent was blue-blooded royalty — and it was not a good idea to tick off royalty. If the foreman did not like your attitude or if your productivity dropped, he beat you up until you either quit or your productivity improved. Life was simple (and tough) in our grandparents’ time. Now we live in a different world. For one thing, jobs are incredibly complicated. Yesterday’s climate of “one job, one bolt, and one production model” has yielded to a climate of rotating jobs, many tasks and many models. This change requires workers who are smarter, better interpersonally skilled, and who care about quality. So, at a time when the demand for better workers is at a peak, organizations have all but removed the “foreman” from the selection process and delegated the task to a 3rd party recruiter. What’s wrong with this, you ask? Well, for one thing, even a very conscientious 3rd party intermediary has no obligation to live with the consequences of the hiring decision. In many organizations, things like number of open work orders and time to fill a position instead of individual productivity measure recruiter success. As any experienced manager will tell you, “You will get what you measure.” Separating responsibility is very unhealthy to long term organizational health and need to be reexamined. An overwhelming number of recruiters are looking for recruiting solutions that are unachievable – fast results, cheap process and good candidates. Well, the “fast, cheap and good” recruiting train left the station with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny aboard. Wanting to get fast results is normal in today’s world. It is all around us. Gratification comes quickly, personal entertainment is more important than personal contributions, and it is faster to buy a new VCR than to have the old one repaired. This doesn’t work for recruiting, however. There is no fast, cheap, and good selection practice nor has there ever been. With the supervisor removed from the picture, many recruiters naturally look for the fast and cheap route. Quality people are not selected using handwriting analysis or reading tea leaves. They are selected by first conducting a job analysis. This process establishes the skills “target” for each applicant to meet. Then, they set up a series of validated measurement tools such as weighted application blanks, structured behavioral interviews, exercises, pencil and paper tests, simulations, and case studies. These tools serve as “flight simulators” for the job. Applicants who successfully complete the “simulation” will be better employees than those who do not pass. So why don’t recruiter’s use the “flight simulator” approach? I suspect there are many reasons:

  • They don’t know it’s generally required by the EEOC
  • They don’t know how to set up a valid job simulation system
  • They know how, but it takes too much time
  • The company will not budget the money
  • Bad hires do not impact their department
  • The EEOC is not breathing down their neck
  • Hiring managers are not breathing down their neck
  • There is more pressure to fill the job with “any one” than with the “right one”
  • They have not been sued yet
  • They think they are a pretty good judge of people

This is only a partial list. You could probably fill in a few reasons of your own. Think of recruiting and selection this way. You are responsible for setting up the company softball team. You can:

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  • Pick the first nine people who show up for practice
  • Pick the first nine people who tell you they have played softball before
  • Pick the first nine people who show you they can run, throw, hit and catch

How do you pick the players for your team?