With U.S. unemployment at around 6%, the war for talent continues to heat up. At Gallup, we recognize the challenges of finding and retaining talented employees. But we also know that an evidence-based approach that aligns recruiters with the company's business strategy helps an organization consistently find, bring in and develop top performers for all roles. More importantly, as job-hopping becomes increasingly prevalent, this method helps companies retain workers for the long term.
One client provides a perfect example of how to do this. The organization had an increasing need for a more aggressive sales force, a strong team that could win business in a newly level playing field.
To meet this need, the client's human resources team asked Gallup to help it revamp its hiring process. We created an interview to identify talent for a competitive, aggressive sales role. Our science helped the client rethink its entire hiring strategy, from strategically building sales teams to defining the right sales incentive structure. This first phase, defining the criteria for success in sales, was the easy part.
For this client, the greatest challenge turned out to be aligning recruiters with the new hiring criteria.
Inconsistency among recruiters -- and subjective processes based on "gut feelings" -- can leave hiring strategies vulnerable to personal biases. To select great talent, organizations need more than a great interview process. It is essential that recruiters are in tune with the business' long-term strategy.
The client effectively adjusted its business strategy -- and corresponding hiring criteria -- to respond to changing market conditions, but initially failed to bring its recruiting force along. This meant that even their best recruiters, many of whom were still strictly following the old protocol, were no longer aligned in their approach to find the right candidates. And after sending a large number of candidates through the revamped interview process, not a single person was recommended for hire.
Fortunately, this client's pain was short-lived. Gallup worked with the organization to get recruiters up to speed with the new qualification standards by helping them understand the characteristics of truly desirable candidates and introducing them to new, more effective sourcing strategies. With recruiters on the same page, the client quickly started finding individuals with the characteristics that are proven to enable salespeople to thrive in a competitive landscape.
Within a couple of months, the client's interview-to-hire ratio improved drastically, from a 0% success rate of recommends (among the first wave of candidates after the new hiring process was established) to roughly a 33% pass rate after aligning its recruiters. Considering how high the hiring bar is set, this is a seriously respectable figure -- one that only the very best recruiting organizations can achieve.
When an organization sets the performance bar high and establishes an objective, analytical process to support demanding hiring standards, it often experiences growing pains in the beginning. But if leaders invest time and effort during the transition period, they can build a rigorous, scientific process that has a far-reaching and long-lasting business impact.
For leaders who are revitalizing their hiring strategies, here are some steps for getting recruiters on board with the plan:
- Help recruiters understand the broader business objectives, and encourage them to take ownership for helping the organization accomplish its goals. This does more than align recruiters: By encouraging recruiters to keep the lines of communication open, leaders can learn about potential problems in the recruiting process and/or hear ideas for streamlining the process -- straight from front-line employees.
- Connect recruiting activities -- including the process of defining what a great candidate looks like -- to the outcomes that the organization cares about. To hire great people, recruiters need to know the characteristics that enable a candidate to succeed in a specific role. Otherwise, recruiters will only be able to provide an educated guess. And it's up to leadership to ensure that recruiters know why they are doing what they are doing and how to do it.
- Track, track, track. Gallup's experience suggests that people cannot consistently make good decisions based on their intuition alone -- and that organizations cannot systematically improve their processes, procedures or any other business aspects -- without a data-driven approach. Recruiting is a numbers game. For a better recruiting strategy, track as much as possible without interfering with the recruiting process.
As this client discovered, a winning hiring strategy is one that all employees understand and support. By proactively managing the change to a new hiring approach, leaders can ease the transition and steer the ship in the right direction -- toward a hiring process that drives profitability, productivity and sales.