It was a quiet afternoon in the office. I was answering email and deep in thought. Suddenly, a loud bang rang out of the server room. The bang was then followed by a fast rustling and a door slamming which gave me a clue that this scary noise was the work of man, not machine. As I sat there frozen, a myriad of scary thoughts ran through my head. Someone has been hurt. Is the perpetrator still here? As the CEO, I had to get up and investigate. No chance that I could lock myself in the office and hide. (This is one of the notable downsides of the title.) A couple deep breaths later, I was in the server room. No blood, thankfully. There was a large hole in the server room wall, however. Boot prints on the wall – roughly a size 13. One of my engineers had lost it. The fallout from the incident would rain down over the next 24 hours. We were officially in crisis mode.
What proceeded was a drama that I am not at full leisure to disclose. The after effects were significant. I was left with a jittery staff and a large looming question that has stayed with me since. How did I make such a dreadful hiring decision?
Two businesses and scores of hires later, I finally came to a conclusion. I, like so many others, rush the process. When it comes to hiring, hiring managers invariably wait too long before opening the job requisition and then pressure their recruiters to hurry, hurry, hurry! And in this current economic climate especially, this is a recipe for disaster.
When Time to Hire (TTH) is the metric that matters, it dominates all other considerations. Rushing a hire can dramatically impact the quality of the candidate pool, shortcut screening, and pay short shrift to background checks. The result is under-qualified, under-checked employees. In short, employees that may have a past that will come back to bite.
The compounding issue today is that otherwise smart businesses have taken some reactionary and shortsighted actions that will leave them hamstrung when the economy improves. In December 2008, Watson Wyatt conducted a survey to better understand the tactics businesses were using to cut costs in the downturn. These responses come from 117 companies across a variety of industries.
1. Hiring freeze
3. Downgrade/cancel holiday party (Bummer!)
4. Organization-wide restructuring
5. Eliminate/reduce training
6. Raise employee health premium contribution
7. HR function restructuring
8. Salary freeze
9. Reduce/eliminate other employee programs
10. Salary reductions
A year later, we are now reaping the “rewards” of these measures. Many businesses were able to cut enough costs to stay afloat… if only barely. Today, across industries we have a highly stressed workforce. The next question is: What will happen when things improve?
The good news is that we genuinely seem to be at the start of a recovery. As temp tends to be the “canary in the coal mine” (or as I like to say “canary in the minefield”), there have been several weeks of revenue stabilization for the leading firms. Recently, Manpower indicated U.S. revenues — mostly in commercial staffing — had a gradual narrowing in year over year declines. Similarly, Spherion’s commercial staffing experienced a narrowing in its revenue declines year over year. Although not as dramatic, Spherion’s revenues at its professional staffing unit appear to be stabilizing too.
Since it’s still early in the recovery, we have yet to see the surge churning that is likely to result from these shortsighted policies. Corporate cocooning (i.e., too scared to look) will continue until more jobs get posted and less fear is in the air. By Q2 2010, we are likely to see a surge in unforced turnover. Smart employers will start figuring out strategies now for engaging top talent and proactively addressing unwanted turnover.
If you think people are rushing the process now, just wait until a top sales performer leaves and creates a revenue vacuum! Once top talent starts moving, a bad situation suddenly gets worse.
So, what to do? My advice is dead simple, yet incredibly hard to swallow. Slow down. It’s counter-intuitive, but now is your time to catch your breath and figure out how to create the most efficient candidate sourcing and screening process while improving quality. Don’t let the neigh-sayers fool you, it is possible! However, it means that you are going to have to get out of your comfort zone of old school practices and start evaluating workflow improvements and technology upgrades. As Sean Biscalgia, CEO of TalentDrive, puts it, “This is not your father’s job market.” Biscalgia will be speaking on this very topic at OnRec: http://www.talentdrive.com/news/read/73