Does HR Work? Pt One "Recruitment"

This year, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) have been trumpeting the organisations 100 year anniversary. 100 years is quite a landmark and it prompted me to reflect on the HR profession and my experience of it.
Therefore in this brand new series of blogs I’m going to explore some of the main areas of the profession and cast a critical eye over them.
First up is Recruitment...
I read a statistic recently which reckoned that companies underestimate recruitment costs by up to 95%! This is because they fail to see the associated costs of recruitment such as management time. This is quite staggering but it didn’t massively surprise me. Recruitment is certainly an expensive pursuit but it’s also important for other reasons which were best explained by a colleague of mine and experienced Financial Director, Jon Brigain.

Jon used to work for a leading soft drinks company with a reputation foged in adrenaline sports and I recently asked him how they maintained their culture in such a vibrant and fast moving company. His answer was simple and to the point - “Recruitment”. Jon said their policy was to only recruit people who bought into their values and would thrive in their culture. One of the key ways they achieved this was through a transparent recruitment process – essentially it was important that the candidate knew exactly what he or she was getting themselves into. I found this fascinating but there is a science behind this too which is to do with motivation. Human Behavioural Psychology tells us the most powerful type of motivation is intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic motivation. That means you ideally want people who want to work for you more so than because they have to i.e. it’s a job and they want to be paid (which is extrinsic motivation).
Recruitment is also an opportunity to get things off on the right foot with your new employee and also leave those who aren’t successful with a favourable impression. In HR circles we refer to this as the candidate journey i.e. the process from attraction to hire (or rejection) which I often liken to treating the candidate like a customer. This is an area where many companies fall short. Remember the old marketing adage about people being more likely to share a bad experience? We live in a connected world where thanks to social media every Tom, Dick or Harry can easily tell the world about their bad experiences. If you treat your candidates badly don’t be surprised if it hurts your business reputation.  It is therefore very important to think about how you get your candidates in the first place...
So I now come onto the relationship between HR and the Recruitment industry. Many laymen and women think HR and Recruiters are the same (I commonly hear recruiters being described as HR) but this is a mistake because they’re quite different. Recruitment is about placing people in companies and is really quite a lucrative business because it’s essentially sales. Now I want to make it clear that I’m not here to trash the whole recruitment industry because I realise there are good recruiters out there and I recognise there is a need for good recruiters too.

Professional recruiters can be particularly important in markets which require very specific hard to get skills or experiences, such as in senior level appointments or specialist roles. However I do have an issue with the practices of many high street recruitment companies.  If you haven’t had one yourself, speak with a friend or a colleague and I guarantee you it won’t take long to find someone who has had a bad experience with a recruitment agency. I also have an issue with the way many HR professionals are so blasé about their use of agencies.
So if we think about intrinsic motivation and transparency, as I had mentioned earlier, what do recruitment agencies do to help you achieve this? A typical recruitment agency advert on any given day on any jobs board, will read something like this: ‘We have a need for a marketing assistant in a leading company within an exciting industry’...such an advert contains no real information whatsoever about the company or the sector (this is to prevent the candidate going straight to the client company and thus the recruiter loses their fee). By what definition is this providing transparent information to the candidate? What bothers me is the HR communities collectively limp response. Yes I get that sifting CV’s is time consuming and agencies do this, but you know what – get over it! If your HR department’s response to a vacancy is to quickly pass it over to an agency, I’d be asking them some hard questions.
However I did say that sometimes you do need to use recruitment agencies so there might be some good answers to those hard questions. But there is a right way and a wrong way of using a recruitment agency. To do it the right way, it should be about partnering with a company which really understands your values and whose candidate experience will match your own expectations. There is a lot to be said for outsourcing things your less good at but it might be that a Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) company is a better bet than a high street agency if you’re recruitment requirements are regular and more standard. Your HR people should really know the difference between the two...
Inside companies themselves, recruitment systems, procedures and processes are often sub-standard. Poor use of recruitment agencies invariably starts because of poor internal practice. I have witnessed processes which are inept to the point that they result in increased cost and a poor candidate experience.  Remember we're talking about a fundamental company task here! A typical hallmark of such a process is that it is 'reactive' and in such senarios application of technology is often hap hazard at best.

You may also want to look at recruiting yourself. I do appreciate the internet and social media has become something of a double edged sword - giving easy access to candidates yet at the same time making it easy for the wrong candidates to apply.

However clever application of technology can be incredibly effective. We have had so many advances in technology that commercially available candidate management systems really do allow you to streamline processes and rather than see the Internet as a source of angst see it as an opportunity! For instance the capacity now exists to advertise multiple adverts at the touch of a button. Couple these technological solutions with candidate focused process mapping (when looking at processes you can't forget the candidate is the customer!) and tools such as psychometric profiling and we have a whole suite of methods available to help HR reduce the 'risk of recruitment', be cost effective, improve candidate experience and get that all important candidate fit. It’s also a place to be inventive with the interview itself – Jon told me he used to take people on a night out and to the climbing wall! Why not?!

I’ve been critical here and I also realise there are plenty examples of good recruitment practices but my feeling is that HR to date is way behind the curve on where it should be with this most fundamental of people tasks. So in this respect at least I’m going to have to say the profession isn’t cutting it. What do you think?

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