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HR Knows How to Hire. Really?

April 25, 2014

In many companies, hiring is a subjective, poorly executed process. In most HR organizations, hiring is being done the same way I did it in the 1980’s.

The reality for many hiring managers and HR professionals is that they have contradicting beliefs – first, that there is no real tangible way to predict how someone is actually going to perform in “our environment” in “the position” we put them in (so why use assessment tools) — and – second, they truly believe they know how the chosen hire will perform and believe the person will be successful. The first belief keeps HR and hiring managers from looking at the successes being claimed by the few firms (The Nielson Group is one of these) offering a powerfully accurate and predictive hiring tool. The second belief is supported by the lack of data to contradict their belief and/or a possible narcissistic personality disorder.

For these hiring managers, the belief that “I’m really good at hiring” is supported even if the new hire fails because it is so easy to blame the failing employee and not our own ability to identify and select the right talent for our organizations.

Seth Godin offers two quotes regarding expertise. The first:

It’s easy to pretend expertise when there is no data to contradict you.

That’s true for any HR/Talent Acquisition professional and hiring managers who claim they are “great” at hiring yet have no concrete evidence to back up this assertion. Actually, many talent acquisition professionals (TAs) do have one simple metric and are usually rewarded off that one metric – time-to-hire – that tells them they are successful. Hiring managers are the ones rewarding this performance metric – in very strong ways. That means the TA won’t be rewarded for “the long-term success” of the new hire. Many TAs see predictive hiring tools (aka Assessments) as either bogus (they can’t wrap their head around the idea that assessment science has surpassed their own ability to identify talent – or – they see assessment tools as being detrimental to their one success metric – time to hire.

A few TAs and hiring managers consider the assessments as some kind of threat, as if they will lose control of the hiring decision. I’ve seen more than one executive stop using assessments because it interfered with their desire to hire who they wanted. They didn’t want any evidence that it was their fault if the person failed. I won’t speak for other assessments on the market, but with the TriMetrix talent assessment (for college recruiting, exempt level professional, sales and managerial and executive hiring), if the assessment results suggest pretty clearly the person is not a good match, the odds are really good they will fail – no matter how good the manager is at developing and coaching employees. The same accuracy can be found in the Opinion Survey for hourly and skilled trades hiring.

So, what kind of executive disregards data and causes significant negative financial and performance impact to the organization?

Many like to ignore what the data is suggesting if it doesn’t fit the story they’ve created in their minds. Even HR and senior management are guilty of these rationalizations: “Well, Ted is one of our best managers; he’s been here a long time. Sure, his 90-day-turnover is twice as high as the next hiring manager, but that’s not Ted’s fault — he has high turnover positions.” That false focus on the hiring manager allows HR to keep the spot light off of the true failure – HR’s hiring strategies. I’ve had more than one client, early in our relationship working together, call me 3, 4 or 6 months after hiring someone that clearly did not match up to the talent requirements and say “You were right, I was wrong, I should have given the data and your evaluation more respect. I ignored it thinking I had this one. It wasn’t just that you were right. Your report described this person exactly. If it hadn’t happened under my watch, I wouldn’t have believed the accuracy of your prediction was possible. Consider me converted to a believer.

Ignorance and motivation is a bad combination

Here’s the other Seth Godin quote:

Relying on the ignorance of a motivated audience isn’t a long term strategy.

When it comes to hiring, this one and the one above go together nicely.

Many times, we allow hiring decisions to be made by very motivated people (hiring managers desperate to fill the seat) who need talent and are being pressured to get things done. When you combine the thinking together, you have disaster, not necessarily in the short-term but definitely in the long-term.

Have you ever seen the resume of the HR Pro who tends to last three to four years at an organization, then moves on, and on, and on? Every three years or so?

Few people know how to hire

This is what happens with many HR/TA folks: Ignore data. Rely on the ignorance of a motivated audience. Eventually it all catches up to you, and you end up performing your black HR magic somewhere else! This isn’t fiction. I’ve seen it happen too many times.

Everyone knows how to hire. Very few people know how to hire well. HR is expected to be the owner and leader in this domain.

The best TAs are the ones who learn how to use data to help them advice their internal clients, listen to their data and don’t allow those incapable of hiring to hire. Having the best time-to-hire average per opening may get you short term accolades. It may even keep you in the job. But it certainly won’t get you a promotion. My advice to TAs – find early adopters willing to work with you, use TriMetrix assessments for hiring and become certified as a Professional TriMetrix Analyst (if you are a TA).

This isn’t easy. This takes courage.

You may think the battles you’d have to fight within your organization to make this happen are too difficult. Creating change takes courage, but more importantly, it takes a process. I see two strategies for creating change that consistently work. The first involves leveraging willing early adopters. You know the type. A hiring manager who is open and willing to take measured risks. They also are in positions where the budget isn’t a concern. By the way, it doesn’t take long for decision makers in HR and across the organization to stop seeing the cost of assessments and start seeing the value with the use of TriMetrix assessments. This is one battle you won’t be fighting. Once the early adopters are seeing the results, go to the second strategy.

The second strategy for creating change involves an intentional eight steps developed by John Kotter and described in several of his books including The Heart of Change. The first step is Creating a Sense of Urgency. You might think all this requires is a spreadsheet showing the cost of turnover and how much can be saved by changing the hiring process. That won’t work. Yes, the significant cost savings are very real. The tools and process are really as good as I’m suggesting – they get results. But you have too many executives who still can’t “feel” the issue and what business problem you’re solving. You have to connect – to articulate the real business problem – “we can not grow at the rate needed to achieve the business goals with the hiring, performance and turnover metrics of our past.” Employee performance and turnover are directly connected to hiring. The future is predictable based on how you do things today.

If you’d like to discuss how to administer TriMetrix assessments (or the Opinion Survey for hourly and skilled trades hiring) in your organization let us know by completing the information request form below.

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