The Big Picture - Honing in on New-Hire Quality

By Michael Palmer

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I recently met with a recruiting leader who was struggling with the pressure her company was exerting to hire faster and in greater numbers through her existing team structure. She was increasingly frustrated with her organization’s inability to retain the employees that her team was working so hard to hire.

Her frustration stemmed from the fact that her team was on track with their metrics, achieving the time-to-hire, cost-per-hire and hire-per-recruiter (volume) numbers, but her team was viewed by the business leadership to be ineffective. The voluntary turnover of employees within their first year of employment had increased from 20% to 40% in the preceding two years and this was resulting in her team needing to fill an additional 40+ roles annually with her small team of recruiters. Her view was that by all measures and metrics, she was succeeding. Her Hiring Manager community disagreed.

The situation described above is all too common in organizations. It might surprise you (perhaps it won’t) that a majority of Recruiting/HR leaders that I meet have what I like to call a clouded perspective of their effectiveness. There is a tendency to point to their hiring metrics results to defend their position. Of all the human capital challenges that face organizations today, hiring and retention (aka engagement) often tops the list.

So where’s the disconnect? In this case it quickly became abundantly clear that there was a disconnect on what success looked like. Hiring Managers probably hadn't thought all that much about it and the Recruiting team thought they had a clear picture. Further, recruiting had identified and tracked metrics that did not address what was important to the business. “Quality” was tracked and reported though the “metric” in use was nothing more than an optional satisfaction survey collected from hiring managers once the candidate’s offer was accepted. Though some good feedback was gained about the recruiter’s role, communication and execution of process, the quality metric missed the Big Picture – did they hire a candidate that fit their role (competencies, skills and motivation)? Were they set up to measure the contributions, engagement, performance and retention of this new hire?

Let’s face it, a great hire that performs poorly, leaves in the first few months or doesn’t find alignment with the culture is not a great hire. As recruiters, aren’t we shirking accountability if we don’t own the new hire’s performance, engagement and retention for at least the first 6 months?


If we’re serious about improving the impact that our Recruiting organization is having on the business, let’s look a couple straightforward ideas to help you get there:

Define success before you start recruiting – I’m a big proponent of conducting a thorough intake meeting before ANY recruiting is done for any position. Before the job description/posting is finalized, before candidates are contacted, even before the position is approved. In a post I wrote last spring, I discussed the intake meeting as the first step to successful recruiting. If your hiring managers are not speaking the same language; competencies, skills, culture, coach them, explore hiring/interviewing and selection training, and leverage your expertise. We, as recruiters need to lead the hiring process. That is what organizations pay us for! And at the heart of it all…. “I’ll know it when I see it” just doesn’t work – ever.
Start tracking metrics that measure what you’re trying to achieve. Improving your hiring function, or any function for that matter, requires intelligence and hard work. As recruiters, we tend to focus only on the metrics that we feel are within our control or reflect the speed or cost, however the impact that our work has on the business is seldom reflected by time-to-fill or cost. Are these metrics important? Sure, in some cases, but they’re entirely irrelevant if the candidates that are being hired perform poorly, leave quickly or disrupt your culture. Whether you perceive your hiring function is performing well or not, consider tracking these metrics:

Individual Performance Metrics – How are your new hires performing? What is their “time-to-productivity”? How does their performance compare to expectations at 30-60-90 days or beyond? If not on par, what’s amiss? Yes, these metrics are squarely in Human Resources sights, but as recruiters, understanding what’s working and what’s not post-hire helps us hone in on the competencies and skills that are required.

Retention and Engagement – Many organizations track retention or turnover but how many of them look all the way back to the recruiting process to identify the connection between the two? Though retention in itself is a helpful metric, aligning it with employee engagement will give you a far better picture. Sometimes referred to as “good turnover”, when a disengaged, unproductive or poorly performing employee leaves of their own volition, would it not be better avoid hiring this employee in the first place, but spend a little more time or money to do it right the first time?

Every once in a while, it’s a great practice to take a step back and objectively review your hiring function. Whether you do it yourself or have a consultant complete a recruitment audit, getting a new, objective perspective can truly help you see the path to improvement. We’ve all heard Einstein’s famous definition, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. The real challenges emerge when we’re doing the same things over and over again and don’t think to actually expect different results.

Michael helps organizations align and optimize their talent acquisition processes with their overarching business objectives. This includes conducting recruitment audits, implementing processes, systems, tools and teams in order to attract, screen, recruit, select, and onboard engaged employees. Follow him on twitter @hireinsite


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