What gets measured gets, well… measured

I do love me some metrics. Admittedly, I like some better than others. If the metric makes me feel good, I’m happy. Like the miles-per-gallon on my wife’s Hybrid. If the metric is less favorable, like the MPG on my SUV, I don’t tout that so much. Another example: that time I had three readers of this blog. What a great day that was last October! The rest of the time… not so much. But enough about me, let’s talk about HR.

One area in our blessed field that we love to metric up is recruiting. And why not? It’s easy! You can easily track things like: days open, number of applicants, and number of interviews. But the one that everyone really cares about is Time to Fill. This is, just as the name implies, the amount of time that it takes for a position to be filled. In many organizations, it is the main yardstick by which recruiters are graded. If a position has a long T2F, the manager starts getting antsy, which makes the recruiter antsy. All too often, when this happens the quantity of candidates goes up, but the quality goes down. Instead of sending along an average of 1 in 50 applicants, they start sending along 1 in 25. Instead of stepping back and looking at where we are sourcing, they double down because to stop and regroup would only add more days. The end result: the hiring manager ends up settling for a less than ideal candidate because they are sick of interviewing.

Now enter the HR Metrics. When you think of a purely HR metric, what is the first thing that comes to mind? How about turnover? Which is simply a gauge of how many people, as a percentage of your average workforce, is leaving your organization. If you lost ten people last year, and your average headcount is 100, you have 10 percent turnover. Hey, no one said you have to be good at math to work in HR. Higher turnover is generally seen as bad, and all too often we HR geeks tend to use it as a measure of a manager’s effectiveness. High turnover is a sign of poor morale, poor training, unfavorable work conditions, and… wait for it… poor hiring practices. If you are not hiring for fit, you are going to lose people – voluntarily (they leave) or involuntarily (they get asked to leave). Now, I will be the first to say that sometimes turnover is necessary. Maybe you inherited a team that is making an Olympic sport of surfing the internet, and it is time to make some adjustments. Or maybe your organization is going through some lean times and so you are having to trim back. These aren’t necessarily a sign of a bad manager (in the case of the former, I would argue the opposite to be true).

Here’s the deal. I think too often when it comes to people we operate in silos. Managers say they want the best people, then berate the recruiting team for a time-to-fill ratio that is high. Managers and HR Geeks need to make recruiting success a top priority. Maybe instead of Time to Fill, we measure Quality of Applicant. For instance, on a scale of 1-10, 1 being “That was 30 minutes of my life I will never get back,” to 10 being “<Profanity>! I need to hire them like… yesterday!” Rate all the applicants that you (HR Geek or Manager) interview and come up with an average score. The message you are sending to the recruiter is simple: you send me crap, you ain’t gonna look so good. This has to be a long metric, though. Even the best recruiter out there isn’t a mind reader, so the first few interviews are what I liken to sharpening a knife. What the recruiter thinks is ideal may not be – give them feedback so they know better what to (and not to) look for, so it isn’t fair to rate the entire experience off of the first couple of candidates. If the recruiter is getting this feedback and being measured by the right things – see if they don’t start slicing through bad candidates like hot butter.


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