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Unshrinking the Hiring Process

Sunday, September 2, 2007   

Hiring has long been a key productivity issue waiting to be uncovered, but it was only whilst taking in a BBC Newsnight feature on UK productivity deficits that I realised just how important For The Want of a Nail could be.

Considering a 1% increase in productivity puts £10 billion on the UK's GDP,  adopting practices that ensure the right people are in the right place at the right time to suit both parties, is surely going to make one hell of an impact? 

The programme in question centred on some of the failings of British management, initially asking whether David Brent (the Ricky Gervais character in the cult TV series, The Office) truly represented the norm?

Perhaps the brilliance of that character is in the fact that, although we may be reluctant to admit it, there's maybe a little bit of 'Brent' in all managers (can you just imagine someone telling him that he might not be going about hiring people in quite the right way!).

Whatever.  Humour aside, the programme hit on two issues that I found totally inspiring:-

1. If you want something done more effectively - go ask those who are closest to the issues

The example used was the company who tried a top-down management initiative to reduce the 52 weeks it took to service a Lynx Helicopter gearbox.  Management succeeded in reducing it to 35 weeks; not bad until you consider that, when some bright spark suggested that they asked the workers, those doing the job got it down to just 15 days!

2. People are NOT an organisation's most important asset

This came as something of a shock, as I'd been using the argument that they actually are for many years.  However, Philip Whiteley (co-author and HR visionary alongside the  brilliant Max McKeown of Unshrink The People), made me come to my senses when he pointed out that people, in reality, are an organisations ONLY real resource - with everything else being a by-product of what people do.

I have since adopted this mantra and only this week have interviewed a selection of leading organisational financial directors on the subject.  Even such hard-nosed fact-seekers as they (who all too often work on the basis of 'numbers first people second') agreed that, without ANY people the only numbers are zeros  - and without the RIGHT people, the numbers are more than likely going to be red ones!

So, to the main point of the post.....

Talk to the HR profession about managing people as valued individuals and you're as likely as not to be accused as preaching to the long converted.  Talk about unshrinking and releasing the natural brilliance of people to reap the rewards of increased, errrm, everything, then you'll be told that McKeown and Whiteley already wrote the book on it.  Literally.

So why, when it comes to hiring, do our HR luminaries in the workplace flock like moths to a light bulb to the concept of people e-procurement?

Software houses are about as far removed from understanding why people really leave and join companies as it's possible to be, but somehow they've managed to sell the dream of cheaper, more efficient recruitment, as if people are some kind of commodity that can be purchased with economies of scale :-

  • "Wouldn't it be great if all job applicants had to apply for jobs on-line!"
  • "Imagine a scenario where all these recruiters had to stop talking to managers and just post CVs onto a system that kept everything in an easily trackable process!"
  • "Imagine the money you will save by making them all work for x%!"

Great, all valid points when it comes to the mindset of the traditional organisation and the pressure that's being put on HR to cut costs.  However, trying to resource an organisation by shrinking people into a tick-box, non-human process is:-

 A). unlikely to appeal to the kind of people who are already doing a great job for one of your competitors

B).  At odds with modern HR thinking of engaging people with the culture of the organisation from day one.......

........unless the culture cap fits of course, in which case the organisation is probably sleep-walking its way to oblivion anyway!

With a 30% shortfall of people with the skills Britain needs, is it any wonder that 85% of CIPD members report hiring difficulties if they are trying to 'shrink' those people who ARE available into their nice little e-cruitment boxes, 'inspiring' them to jump ship with a job description, salary and a bit of company marketing information?

However much employers might want to channel everyone like sheep into a one-size-fits-all process, here's the reality in August '07:-

  1. Recruiter on e-cruitment: "there's no real skill in it but it makes us money.  If we're quiet, like now in August, or when we need to blood new staff, we get them to drag CV's off the system that fit the criteria, have a quick conversation with the person, send the CV's and wait to see what happens.  We're placing 1:40, which works out at around £180 per hour".
  2. 'Person' on e-cruitment: "Great when I was a grad, because you jump through whatever hoops they make you to get that first break.  Now I've some experience under my belt, I'd much rather speak to someone direct - whether that's a recruiter or someone from the firm I don't care.  In reality, I'd only do it online if I was desperate to get into that company for some reason".
  3. Software House on their e-cruitment system: "It gives companies exactly what they want, that's why they buy it.  Whether it's what they should be doing is another matter - we'd never attract anyone but graduates or wannabes if we tried to rely on such a system ourselves".
  4. HR manager on e-cruitment: "That's our system and if people want to work here that's what they have to do.  They have a choice to write to us, then someone here will put them on the system manually.  If doesn't work all the time but it saves us money".

The burning question, of course, is "does it save money"?  This company only measured the cost of recruiting, not the cost of getting it wrong, delaying a hire, or failing to hire at all. 

I have proven over many years, helping firms to hire thousands of key people, that successful hiring and then retention, begins with how we identify and communicate our employment needs.  Shrinking this into a convenient on-line system may shave a few pounds off one set of costs, but it potentially loses many times more in terms of mistakes, delays, lost productivity and missed opportunity.

The hiring process and particularly e-cruitment systems need to evolve.  Join in the debate, sign up today


© Copyright 2007 - please credit where shared or reproduced.


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 ricky gervais as david brent.jpg

Me, need to change the way I recruit?




unshrink the people.jpg

"Unshrink will help to change our perceptions and stretch our potential"





Mony Python Blue Peter Web.png

How Monty Python might have sold us e-cruitment - having previously shared "how to rid the world of all known diseases"










Donkey slide pic.png


Or.....hey, come and work for us - we've got jobs!!!!!












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