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Guest Blogger

by David Millner

Organisations quite rightly spend significant time collating and reviewing their business performance data and results so that they can understand where they are in relation to their business plan, to their stakeholder and market expectations and also to understand if there are any regulatory or compliance-based implications that need to be considered.  This inevitably leads to a series of communications that are promoting successes and outlining ‘implied issues or challenges’ that need to be addressed by the end of the next quarter and as you know the pandemic has created more challenges of this nature than ever before!

To my way of thinking though, there are really only two ways to improve an organisations performance; nurture and grow the talent that you already have within it or hire in new talent that will take your performance to another level.  Sounds so simple really but as we all know, making the statement is the easy bit – doing something about it is the real challenge!

All too often recruitment is about filling a vacancy; no more no less.  But for me, as the economy hopefully starts to become clearer in this pandemic related world, organisations must not just fill vacancies but they should focus wholeheartedly on hiring quality talent!  If you don’t have that mindset and focus on ‘just filling the vacancy’ you’ll end up with someone else’s problems, commonly known as the ‘problem child’!

It’s a really important attitude shift that will need to take place to ensure that an employer has this ‘mindset’ and doesn’t get immersed in the inevitable short term operational challenges of ‘filling a vacancy’.  Many organistions seem to focus even now on filling vacancies quickly and cheaply, despite the fact that at the current time there could well be more choice available of people for a job than ever before.

I do sympathise with the dilemma and know only too well the business drivers that make this an imperative.  HR hasn’t helped though by promoting the ‘Time to Hire’ target as a real way of measuring their success.  My view is who cares how long it takes to hire someone – the ‘Quality of the Hire’ is far more meaningful and will always drive longer term more successful organisations with sustainably higher levels of performance.

I’ve worked with many organisations over the past 30 years or so but it seems that only a few have really addressed the quality vs. time to hire dilemma out.  In these organisations, everyone you come into contact with from the receptionist and the impression that they create, all have had a real passion and pride in what they are doing and what their organisation stands for.  The interesting thing is that whoever you meet in these organisations this impression hits you every time.

The question I ask myself is that it must be possible for organisations to make a start in this direction by at least identifying and then separating those roles where they should be thinking solely in terms of hiring talent for a business critical role, as opposed to simply filling a vacancy.   It’s a part of the succession planning debate and whilst most organisations are relatively weak in implementing this critical process across their businesses, surely it’s a debate that isn’t difficult to have.  It doesn’t mean that those lower level less complex roles aren’t important, it merely allows you to ensure that you know where the jobs are that are critical to your business success and need some serious thought about the type of talent needed to fill them.

Once an organisation can start to think in terms of hiring talent rather than simply filling vacancies, two key things should realistically happen.  Firstly, hiring of people should become a business-critical process where the key capabilities and experiences necessary to make a lasting, rather than just an immediate short-term contribution, should be given higher priority.   I’ve lost count at how many times I have seen organisations creating a job advertisement at the last minute with a list of key skills needed for a job because they haven’t got a one page performance profile (please no more four page job descriptions) that shows what is expected from the job in the first place?  Hiring managers must recognise more clearly the overall value to the business of getting it right and (just as importantly) the cost of getting it wrong.  From external research the cost of a bad hiring decision can be between one and a half and two and a half times the job holder’s salary!  That’s serious money.

Secondly how and where an organisation attracts talent and the recruitment methods they adopt also have a direct effect upon the calibre of person ultimately hired. Does an organisation do it itself, or outsource it to expert organisations to do it for them? The quality of the recruitment process in terms of time, methods adopted and the impression given to candidates throughout every stage of the process are critical to getting the best talent that you can.  Automation is now here to help quicken that process and enable a structured key capabilities approach to recruitment that is focused on developing a positive candidate experience.

Whatever method is adopted the creation of more scientific, robust assessment processes is vital to ensure that the right person with the right capabilities and the right organisational fit is recruited using the data and evidence that the process provides.  Whereas previously ‘filling vacancies’ often meant simply recruiting in the cheapest way possible, ‘hiring talent’ should encourage proper consideration of the whole process.  Once it becomes widely accepted that sourcing talent is absolutely key to an organisation’s success it will lead to quality taking precedent over simply doing it in the cheapest and quickest way possible.

In the wake of the pandemic, HR have been forced to re-examine their whole talent acquisition strategies, resources and technology. Many of these changes have raised the bar for the recruitment process and candidate experience as well as consider whether recruitment is actually the answer to the problem or whether upskilling of existing employees could be a more effective approach to filling that vacancy.

So, deciding beforehand the right balance between quality (of the hiring process) and value for money (cost) is absolutely crucial. It’s a simple fact that organisations aren’t successful; it’s the collective people within them that are.

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