Is your recruitment team the “weakest link” in your engagement strategy?

Back in 1981 I went to hear a speech by Peter Brokenshire – then Director of Management Practice at the Audit Commission. He spoke very elegantly about there being three dimensions of performance – economy, efficiency and effectiveness. What I think recruitment teams do too often is focus on economy and efficiency and side-step effectiveness. Let me explain…

The theme of Chiumento’s latest working lunch was employee engagement. It prompted some lively debates and re-ignited an issue that I first raised at a Recruitment Society event back in February 2010.

My premise back then was that recruitment functions are too often targeted on the wrong things – like hiring people quickly and cheaply. Often this reflects the mindset of hiring managers who so often just want a pair of hands to shift a pile of work. The literal “put a bum on a seat” solution.

The problem with this approach is that it all too often it results in hiring people who may have immediately usable capability but have poor long term behavioural and/or cultural fit. Of course that doesn’t matter to recruiters who just get measured on operational efficiency. They just tick a box and move on to the next vacancy.

The problem then falls in the lap of the poor HR Business Partner who has to sweep up the mess. A mess that may not become apparent for a year or more after the individual starts with the organisation. By which time their behaviours, motivation and performance have become a real headache. Research suggests only 27% of workers are fully engaged – and just as many fully disengaged. Why?

A key theme of our working lunch was the over-reliance many organisations place on state engagement – ie how people feel right here and now. Things like satisfaction and commitment. What we don’t ask often enough is “how much higher might engagement be had we hired the right people in the first place?”

Which leads us to the much less explored area of trait engagement. That’s about how people are psychologically pre-disposed to be engaged at work – or not. The argument is that some people are hard-wired to be engaged and others aren’t. And that’s where I think recruiters often fall down.

My belief remains that recruiters should be measured on their ability to increase the human capital in an organisation. So here’s some KPIs you might want to think about:-

  • Is the average performance rating of starters within the last two years higher than the background “average” of all employees. If not then what your recruitment team have done is dilute your talent base…
  • Is the average engagement score of your starters within the last two years higher than the background “average” of all employees. If not then your recruitment team have diluted the motivation in your business…
  • What proportion of management hires are made internally – if it isn’t increasing it says an awful lot about the balance of “oven ready” hiring versus long term talent pipelining.

Sadly few recruitment teams seem to be measured on these types of KPIs. Why? True, the data can be harder to get to and takes much longer to come through. However I worry the real reason is that too often recruiters see getting a job offer out the door and accepted as an end in itself. It isn’t of course. Its just the first step in the talent management process.

My fear? A growing disconnect between the transactional measures applied to recruitment and the value add measures applied to the rest of Talent. The solution? Better assessment, better recruitment metrics and, most importantly, recognising that you need to hire people who will be engaged and motivated by your employer proposition longer term. Not just a pair of hands to shift an immediate pile of work.

Mike Burgneay
Client Development Director