By Dr. Kirk D. Fleming
Talent acquisition—finding and hiring the best people for your needs —can have a significant effect on your bottom line. But finding strong performers takes hard work. Gaining a competitive advantage starts with thinking differently than others. If you put more effort and commitment into the talent you already have, you are creating an environment that retains and attracts additional great talent. In a sense, it makes it a bit easier to get great talent, because they are already looking in your direction.
Another way to think differently is to focus less on trying to find the perfect hire and instead, focus more on creating an acceptable range of hire types anchored by a few key, non-negotiable characteristics. In essence, the most attractive work environments for great talent are ones that encourage a variety of different personality styles and problem-solving approaches – allowing people to deliver and develop their best. An added benefit is that those environments are also the most innovative.
What characterizes a failed hire?
A failed new hire typically costs a company at least one and a half times more than their starting salary. For many entry level roles, that total cost is approximately $93,000. Recent data shows that up to 82 percent of companies fail to find the best talent for the job (Gallup), and up to 80 percent of turnover can be linked to bad hiring decisions (Harvard Business Review).
To managers, a failed hire might be hard to quantify. But they can easily describe how a failed hire feels, using descriptors like:
Start with strong job descriptions
- Poor productivity - Poorer quality of work, missed deadlines, increased customer complaints).
- Low morale - Having a negative attitude, failing to show up on time, not working well with others and requiring others to pick up his/her slack for long periods of time. Eventually, other employees avoid working with this person.
Although the widespread use of technology now streamlines hiring processes, the basic fundamentals of sound talent acquisition have not changed. No technology can replace clear and meaningful job descriptions, nor can it replace carefully trained staff who drive insightful interviews.
Up to 30 percent of failed hires result from unclear expectations and objectives, so getting the job description right can filter out a significant number of poor matches. An effective job description inspires excitement by offering:
- A clear line of sight between daily work and impact on company results
- Specific and clearly observable objectives and critical competencies that define success for the job function, detailing what great results look and feel like.
- Work highlights that demonstrate how the work is meaningful and collaborative, as well as a clear scope of the level of autonomy and control the position offers (particularly important for today’s millennial staff).
Many companies will say they already have these kinds of job descriptions; but I would disagree. The companies that win the battle for talent do not recycle old job descriptions when they have a new opening. They also do not list the previous person’s capabilities and simply add it to the job description. Instead, they take the opportunity to evolve thinking on what the job could and should be by inviting employees who are already doing the job to share insight and detail about what is critical. They also allow for some flexibility in the description itself, so that they can engage the candidate in a conversation about what additional (and possibly unique) contributions she or he can offer to the role.
Institute better interviewing practices
Having a great job description is not enough. Companies also need to assemble a team of interviewers who have separate and clear responsibilities for capturing data about specific areas of that job. Limiting the scope of each interviewer allows them to dig deeper through open-ended discussions, with probing questions that require more than a yes or no answer. It also provides a clear connection and overlap between interviewers to see consistency and triangulation in candidate behaviors. Remember, interviews are intended to gather data about the past and the present that allow you to make the best guess as to who will perform the best in the future. In addition, make sure the interviewers show their own passion and excitement for the work and for the candidate themselves. This creates an energy the candidate can feel and allows a more candid discussion.
The best hiring decisions involve a collaborative discussion among interviewers. However, they also require a single hiring manager who is responsible for onboarding the new person and coaching them to success. In making the final decision, that hiring manager should examine the data from the interviewers for evidence of the 3 Cs of a great candidate:
(Note: These are the same characteristics you want to reinforce with the talent currently within your company.)
- Collaborative – Working with others to achieve shared goals, not just individual high performance. Ask for examples of how they have handled constructive feedback and their comfort in taking risks.
- Competent –Technical skills and the capability to make decisions (not just hypothetical examples). Ask for examples of how well they can prioritize and ask insightful questions.
- Committed – Showing initiative and resilience in the face of group pressure. Ask for examples of things they are most proud of achieving and what it took to earn them.
Hopefully you can see the connection to other elements of the PADE model discussed in the previous articles. Talent excellence doesn’t happen by chance or all at once; it is a result of deliberate planning and practice. Implementing a few of the tips in these articles will help you find the places in your company where you can move closer to overall talent excellence.