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Recruitment: whose job is it anyway? Part Two

Saturday, November 17, 2007   

Who should own the hiring process, as in, who should have the final say on hiring practices, policies and individual strategies?

Part one highlighted some of the ludicrous decisions that are made within the confines of current hiring paradigms and concluded that there is a happy medium between a line-manager free-for-all and HR Dogma; between the CEO abdicating all responsibility for the only genuine resource an organisation has and thereby leaving HR high and dry, or he or she taking over recruitment themselves.  This, the second of a three-part feature on the subject, looks at the hiring ownership question a little more closely.

Time to change maps? 

The most important of these aforementioned paradigms, or 'mental maps', is the traditional view that hiring should be owned by the human resources department.  Why? because it's a people thing - and HR deals with anything to do with people.  Right?

May I venture that this might be far too simplistic a view and one that is outdated?  Hiring practice should first and foremost be about understanding organisational objectives and hiring circumstances, for it is against these that candidate skills, experience, motivations, beliefs and aspirations must be matched, if any hiring is to be successful for either the employer or the employee. 

In order to fully understand the operational objectives, experience tells me that you have to be responsible for them.  In recent years, however, hiring practice has been hijacked by the need to comply with mountains of employment regulations and legislation, together with a desire to apply one-size-fits-all processes in order to centralise control.  Generic job descriptions are extracted from the system and the all-important hiring circumstances (which largely dictate which SHP profile is required) gets ignored. 

Is it any wonder that  many employees are lacking any engagement with their work?

How is something so important to performance, so seemingly unimportant to leaders?

In Mike Johnson's book, Winning the People Wars, he ventures that hiring practice is #11 on a leader's list of priorities, and then it is limited to issuing the statement:

"What do you mean we keep losing our best people - go and buy some more!"  

In times when hiring people was little more than an administrative formality, and pressure on margins not so great, perhaps it didn't matter that leaders didn't get involved with 'personnel' issues? Today, however, with hiring and retaining the right people being the top organisational challenge, those leaders abdicating all responsibility for hiring practice are surely remiss in their behaviour, even if not technically negligent?

Can I also venture that pointing to the existence of an HR function is NOT evidence of taking hiring practice seriously.

One For The Want Of A Nail correspondent offered the suggestion that this 'abdication' of HR responsibility began when the aforementioned employment legislation became a legal minefield in the early 1990's.  It's not a view I would disagree with; CEOs were only too happy to give HR a free rein, rather than open up Pandora's HR legislation box for themselves. 

Understandable on one level, the unfortunate side effects of the 'abdication' were a). HR got detached from the bosses thinking, just at the point when the labour market was tightening and needed to become part of his or her priorities b). the rise of the power-crazy HR dogmatics c). hiring practice became compliance led and lost any genuine connection with the day to day needs of the organisation.

How very dare you!

A classic example of this is a conversation I had a few years back with the chairman of a company you will have all heard of, the production director of which had confided in me that hiring policy was preventing them from recruiting key engineers, which in turn saw production running c16% below target.  This equated to roughly £114million worth of 'product' - a serious amount of money by anyone's measure.  The 'product' was on a nine-month customer back order, so you might have thought that the chairman would have been keen to hear about a solution? 

Me: I understand that your production is being severely impaired by a shortage of engineers..

Chairman: Who told you that?!

Me: I can't say, but the point is that there is a very easy solution to the problem with a change in hiring policy.  I've spoken to your HR director but he's not interested in listening, hence talking to you.

Chairman: X is a very capable HR director, if there was a better way of recruiting he would know.  Are you suggesting he is incompetent?

Me:  Not at all, just that the market has changed and your hiring policy needs to change with it.  Current policy is costing your company over £100million in lost productivity; ultimately this has to be effecting sales as your customers turn to other products due to back-orders.

Chairman:  This has got nothing to do with you and I resent your interference!

With a brief exchange of non-too-pleasantries, the conversation ended there.

At the time I wondered what the shareholders would have made of this attitude?  By the time this campaign has achieved its aims, perhaps we will have found out!

Join the free mailing list now and make sure you (and others) don't miss the final part in this series where we look at answers to the hiring ownership question. 

© Copyright 2007  - please credit where shared or reproduced.


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Attracting and retaining the right people starts with a sense of purpose; not a bland job description!




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Massive increase in employment legislation saw CEOs only too happy to have HR deal with it!




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