Embrace Measurement and Metrics (Part 4 of a 5-part Series on Upping the Ante on Talent Acquisition)

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This is the fourth article in a series (part 1part 2part 3) on how to redefine recruitment. The author, a veteran recruiting leader within several global consulting firms, contends that the recruitment function has become so specialized that recruiters have lost their all-important close connection to the business, which is hurting their ability to create relationships both with internal customers (including hiring managers and the C-suite) as well as with external candidates they seek to hire. Below, he elaborates how to redefine recruitment by embracing measurement and metrics.

Early in my career, I worked in operations for two large transportation companies, Roadway and UPS. At both, I quickly learned that the operations function thrives on metrics. Over time, I have concluded that all areas of a business lend themselves to measurement. Yet, for years, we in HR/Recruiting avoided metrics either because we thought we were too good for them, or because we believed that measurement doesn’t apply, since the (mistaken) perception was that HR, by definition, exists to advocate for employees. How do you measure the “warm and fuzzy”?

So, when the winds of business shifted a couple of decades ago and it was no longer acceptable to only be warm and fuzzy, some of us in HR/Recruiting quickly latched on to metrics that, at the time, seemed like reasonable things to measure. Within recruiting, many started collecting data such as “cost-per-hire,” “time-to-fill,” and “source-per-hire.”

As we advanced our view of what to measure, others started to track the recruiting department’s workload, hiring manager satisfaction, the effectiveness of outreach/brand awareness, applications-per-hire, and even the percentage of hires that are proactively sourced (which seems to imply that it only requires an individual recruiter’s ingenuity to find the hired candidate!). Metrics such as “value-of-hire” and “quality-of-hire,” focusing on the value that a particular hire brings to the business, were talked about but rarely instituted.

Recruiters still struggle to measure what matters. In a 2014 TalentRISE Recruiting Innovations and Best Practices Survey of leading companies, we asked respondents to name their top three priorities related to recruitment processes. Not surprisingly, the most popular responses were measuring quality of hire, client/candidate satisfaction, performance metrics, and ROI.

The good news is that today, there is widespread recognition that the most valuable metric — and the one that really matters — is quality of hire. Others may help you evaluate the efficiency of your recruitment function, but that’s about it. They won’t reveal much more than whether recruiters are working as effectively as you’d like. What you really need to know is whether the work recruiters do is materially raising the bar on the quality of people joining your organization.

The problem, of course, is actually measuring hire quality. There is no “one-size-fits-all” algorithm. It will mean different things for each business and possibly even for each individual contributor within each business unit. Measurement is perhaps best done by vertical. For instance, the measurement of an individual in a finance position requires different tools than someone in a sales position. However, at the vertical level, it’s difficult to determine who you benchmark against. Is it all the finance people within your company, within your industry, or all the finance people with a particular title/level? Hire quality is also pretty subjective. Do you base it on a performance evaluation system? When do you measure it? At six months into the job? Twelve months?

Questions abound, but there are no easy answers since the metrics and measurement process must be tailored to your organization. However, several overarching principles can be helpful in establishing quality of hire and other related metrics for your business. David Earle of Staffing.org in his white paper for Jobvite called Recruiting Analytics: 5 Ways to Benchmark Success is right on target when he recommends asking the following questions:

  • Will everyone who sees them understand what they mean?
  • Have they been compiled cooperatively, based on dialogue between recruiting and internal stakeholders?
  • Does everyone agree that they are important?
  • Do they speak directly to recruiters’, hiring managers,’ and executive management’s objectives?
  • Can they be easily accessed and compiled consistently and accurately?

When seeking input from within your organization, don’t neglect to look beyond your usual internal clients for expertise. The absolute best source of information is the individual ultimately responsible for the organization’s financial performance and metrics: the CFO. In my experience, even the most well-intentioned (or perhaps ignorant) recruiters overlook the value of soliciting input from the person whose job it is to constantly measure overall business results and who, by the way, certainly appreciates the magnitude of employee costs.

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Once you’ve established the metrics, ensure that the process of tracking and analysis isn’t overly complicated or unwieldy. Recruiting tools and technology have made this much easier. The same technologies can also support and enable decision-making for strategic workforce planning and can be used to gather critical talent-related business intelligence. In fact, in recent years, this has evolved into a profession right in front of our eyes.

Back in my days at UPS we would repeat this age old quote: “Plan your work and work your plan. Because if you fail to plan, your plan will fail.” In thinking about recruitment metrics, we ought to substitute the word “measure” for “plan” and use that expression as a guide when improving our recruiting processes. We can also tap into wisdom from Lord Kelvin, an Irish physicist and engineer obsessed with measurement, who wrote: “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it. When you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science.”

Even more succinctly, Kelvin also said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” Which leads me to offer one last piece of advice: always follow through on what you learn from your metrics — whether it’s good, bad, or ugly — to improve your processes.

About the Author

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For more than 25 years, Jim O'Malley has developed talent acquisition solutions to ensure that leadership talent aligns with changing business needs. At TalentRISE, he focuses on clients’ executive leadership challenges by leveraging his passions for executive search, on-demand recruiting, workforce planning and analytics, and executive coaching. 

Before TalentRISE, he was senior vice president in the human resource function of Fifth Third Bancorp. He also served for five years as managing director and leader of the talent acquisition function for Huron Consulting Group, a global professional services firm, was the vice president of human resources with Edward Don and Company, the nation’s largest foodservice supply and equipment distributor, and held various leadership roles with Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, and Internet consultancy Lante.

He serves on the board of directors for Sheila Greco & Associates, Staffing Management Association of Chicago, and Mount Assisi Academy. He is also an active member of the Society of Human Resources Professionals, Human Resource Management Association of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Club of Chicago.