Recruiting is a wasteful process – filled with inefficiencies and administrivia. In lean manufacturing, waste is defined as any non-value added process. Value-add means it actually improves or moves a process to the next step with maximum speed and quality.
In recruiting, most processes are labor-intensive, time-consuming, and lead to more labor-intensive processes that add questionable value rather than moving a candidate along in the process.
At the core of process improvement are three steps:
1. The hunt for waste and its elimination.
For recruitment, this would be finding all the process steps that interfere with or slow the process of qualifying a candidate, helping the candidate get to know and understand the job, and hindering making a yes or no hiring decision.
2. An effort to understand and eliminate variability in the recruiting process.
One of the core requirements for a lean process is consistency. To provide a consistent and seamless experience, the recruiter needs to know what causes variations and provide ways to reduce the variability or channel it to productive ends.
3. The ability to use technology to add efficiencies and consistency.
Let’s look at each of these in greater detail.
Waste Elimination As we have just pointed out, recruiting is a wasteful process. There are non-value-added activities, including everything that has to do with handling data, all scheduling and report writing, and the candidate and the hiring manager interface. Take a normal recruiting day. A recruiter may start her day by looking at email and at the (probably) hundreds of resumes that have accumulated overnight.
A half-day or more may be taken up simply scanning and screening emails and resumes, with no decisions being made and with no candidate contact. The rest of the day may be taken up with phone screens for the few good candidates, many who will turn out to be not so good, or in chats with hiring managers updating them on progress or querying them about the skills background of a particular candidate.
There may be interviews somewhere in this mix or even the need to meet a new hiring manager and determine the requirements for a new position. Out of all of these activities, only a small percentage are value-added.
Determining what adds value is one of the most challenging aspects of lean process improvement. Value in recruiting would be talking directly with a candidate to either determine their skills or to convince them to join your organization. It is also whenever you are directly in conversation with a hiring manager about a candidate or a position. Value-added is when you are networking with potential candidates, communicating with candidates, or working on the front-end of the recruiting process.
Waste occurs when you are doing data entry, filing, database searching, resume review, scheduling, and even interviewing where you are not a decision-maker. Waste also occurs when there are duplicate steps in your process. For example, when 2-3 people interview a candidate or when there are numerous screening steps. If these activities do not lead to a decision or move the candidate quickly to a further step, they are not valuable.
Lean processes are efficient, which means they use the smallest amount of time and resources possible. Recruiting processes are filled with steps that do not necessarily lead to better or faster decisions. Law or corporate policy requires some steps, but many can be eliminated or shortened. The focus should be on determining the best theoretical cycle time - the minimum amount of time it would take for the perfect candidate to be identified and hired. If, for example, it were possible to identify and hire a person for a particular position in two days given that everything went smoothly, all interviews took place efficiently, and so on, then that would be the cycle time you should aim to achieve regularly. You can then work backward and eliminate or reduce all the things that get in the way of achieving that.
Understanding Variability Recruiting is often cyclical. There are times when demand for candidates is so high that every recruiter is frustrated and when not much is going on. This is true of many functions, and one of the key lessons of lean process improvement is understanding and leveling out these cycles or adapting to them.
One method is to use historical patterns to predict variability. It is common for organizations to have seasons when recruiting is very slow and others when things tend to pick up. The retail world can safely predict a hiring “binge” every October and November as holiday sales increase. Using technology well, using resources in multiple ways, and by being able to reallocate resources quickly, it is possible to smooth out this variability and maintain low recruiter headcounts while still handling a high volume of candidates. Most recruiters could handle significant increases in candidate loads if they used technology better and eliminated waste as we have defined it.
Remain Adaptable by Improving Processes and Applying Technology
Adapting to ever-changing customer demands and expectations - both those of candidates and hiring managers - is a skill we will all need in increasing amounts as we emerge from the pandemic. Technology can help at every step. For example, social media can brand your organization, persuade and sell the organization to candidates, A.I. and chatbots can screen candidates to a level where an investment of the recruiter’s time makes sense.
Technology can automate scheduling and backend processes that are so wasteful in recruiting. Every recruiting function can find steps in their processes that should be eliminated and procedures that could be streamlined or automated by technology. There is a lot of low-hanging fruit. I believe an average recruiting function could improve its capacity by twofold and its candidate quality, with a very tiny amount of technology and process improvement.
Applying these basic principles to your recruiting function. can make you much more effective and can improve candidate and hiring manager satisfaction.
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