Yes… no…. depends? It is a question I most often ask of every manager or leader I meet for the first time, whether a prospective client, an existing client, or a new colleague. One simple answer speaks volumes about mindset and puts a stake in the ground indicating where the conversation, if there is to be one, needs to start and where it needs to lead. We are obviously required to assume that this applies only to people who hire people and it applies only in a professional context. Yes is the answer to the question – the one you’re looking for. If you’re thinkingno, we probably couldn’t work together unless you were open to change. That’s not meant to be snarky or snobby. It simply makes sense to me that hiring is, and should be, the most important management responsibility, regardless of whether that manager is currently hiring, or not. Certainly we could alter the question to something like “Is Hiring the Most Important Thing You Do, When You’re Doing It?” But, that dilutes the spirit and gravity of the question. It’s akin to asking “is oxygen the most important thing you breathe, while you’re breathing.” It Doesn’t Depend The exceedingly unscientific poll results, from my having asked this question hundreds of times, lead me to my own conclusions. Managers who answer yes, undeniably, are generally more successful, more respected, are better managers, and consistently make better hires. They tend to partner with recruiters, are open to expert advisement on the process and best practices of hiring, and they engage throughout the entire process in the form of ownership, sense of urgency, relevant assessment, meaningful feedback and decision making. Those who answer “it depends” tend to act accordingly. In that case, other priorities often usurp hiring and, well… there you go. If the significance of hiring depends on what else is currently on a manager’s plate, that’s the same as a no answer in my view. So, in fact, the “it depends” response is not valid. It either is or it isn’t. Oddly, It Is Part of the Culture Thing We so often talk and write about corporate culture. I’ve railed against what most companies now relate as culture and cultural fit – mostly what it isn’t. It’s become the practice of cultivating individuals who fit neatly into a “they-look-like-us” container – frightening, actually. Moreover, it’s become a universal mechanism for censure of candidates someone thinks might not fit in. However, hiring being the top priority is one of those big ideas that does belong in the corporate culture discussion. Not only should managers treat hiring as the top priority, but it should permeate the organization and be a highly-touted component of the guiding principles for any company worth its salt. And, that should not only be reflected in the behavior of leadership but should be a metric against which all managers are measured. I’ve implored companies to move away from the normal bucket of quantitative recruiting metrics like time-to-hire, offer-as-compared-to-midpoint, requisition aging, and other measurements that have no significant bearing, nor shed any light, on the performance of acquiring top talent. I have seen a trend where organizations are warming to measurement of things more closely related to quality-of-hire, but these are often aimed at the recruiting or talent organization (aka HR in most companies) and not the business (managers). Why? Put a Ruler on It If hiring is the most important thing (and remember, it should be), then shouldn’t the people doing the hiring be measured? What I do see, in the rare case of a manager being graded on hiring, is where managers are measured on the quantitative aspect of putting a butt in an open seat. When annual performance rolls around, a small line item on the review form titled something generic, likehiring, is often rendered as “met requirements” – that is, if the manager had three open heads and managed to make three hires. If they only hired two out of the three and can throw talent acquisition far enough under the bus, they may still get the “at requirements” grade. And, we all know what rolls downhill. The fact that it took 120 days, on average, to make those hires ends up in the lap of some unknowing recruiter who pulled hair and teeth in an attempt to get the manager to engage in the process, but didn’t have the gravitas to stand up. And, we’re still talking about those idiotic and meaningless quantitative metrics. I know it seems we’ve steered off track – stay with me. Be Careful of That For Which You Ask To assume that hiring is the most important thing, most managers would say we have to project that assumption forward into circumstance well outside of their own sphere of influence. The list is infinitely long – things like production outages, client issues, executive priorities, birthday parties, etc – and yet, I see this as a simple unwillingness to own a process so critical that it is literally make/break for the organization long-term. Why is this such a hard concept to appreciate? I believe it comes down to a single common denominator – because most companies haven’t elevated hiring to a top priority and because managers are not assessed or measured on it. Until hiring carries a sense of urgency asthe top priority – not a burdensome task we just want to complete so it goes away – companies will continue to do what they do. And, the ripple effect is enormous, including things like:
- Negative impact to employer brand through candidate experience.
- HR/TA fatigue due to frustration in dealing with manager leading to lower morale, lost productivity and increased attrition/turnover.
- Business/organizational fatigue due to lack of needed resource leading to lower morale, lost productivity and increased attrition/turnover.
- Overall lower quality of hire due to lack of engagement by manager in hiring process often driven by settling or making no hire at all.
- Increased cost to company – intangibles are impossible to measure but tangibles include lost opportunity, cost of bad hires or no hires, morale degradation, overutilization of HR/TA resource, candidate sourcing costs.