Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Industry Concerns-Attrition Part 2

This is in continuation to my last post on Industry Concerns. Today I will share my thoughts on the second area of focus to arrest attrition—recruitment.

RECRUITMENT: In any Service Industry focused on knowledge, recruitment of the right people and allocation to right roles is of utmost importance. I look around me, and the situation is despotic. Interviews are conducted over phone (face to face in some cases) for functional knowledge, masses are recruited from B-schools and engineering schools and people poached from other similar organization without discretion. BG checks are done in name only, and no thought is given to the persons aspirations when allocating roles. Pathetic!!! My hypothesis is that if we conduct a random sampling of people inside and outside the organization (in a busy mall, say) and rate them on a 5-point scale according to attitude, qualifications, previous experience etc., the proportions we get will be disturbingly similar. That usually means that the recruitment process is not discriminating enough, in fact not even required. We will probably achieve similar results if we open the office gates to everyone whenever recruitment is required, and closing them after the required number have walked in. Why spend so much of the shareholders’ money on something that just does not work???

In counterpoint to the above, there is high pressure on recruiters and the number of recuitees is very high in any timeframe. Hence, it is difficult to focus on quality and organizational fit, just meet the numbers. This in turn increases attrition and increases the recruitment numbers for the next time frame, forming a vicious cycle of never ending recruitment. Dante would have loved this scenario!!

As in any processes focus on the end goal is very important. Let us pause and think, maybe take example of an industry leader. Google, for instance, has a very rigorous recruitment cycle, almost like a 6-month long IQ test. Of course, they are an engineering company and it serves them well to have loads of braniacs cooking up innovative products all the time. This reflects in their attrition rate (Less than 1% for engineering employees). I am not suggesting that we go berserk over IQ of applicants, but we should have a criterion for people who will like it in this environment. An example might be “attitude” (psychometric testing is standard for evaluating attitudes). Recruitment must be geared towards sifting out everybody in the “poor” and “average” category, even if in the process we lose out on a few “above average” and “excellent” people.

Anyways, here are a few simple (:))) ways to improve recruitment:
  1. Make recruitment specific. Too often we recruit first and allocate later, when the requirement arises, in order to have ready numbers quickly. The first step should be to recruit for specific requirements if we are to find the best fit of people. It is difficult in this highly competitive industry to predict requirements accurately. The resolution should be to have the best people serve the customer, or to not take the business at all. If this means cutting down on ad-hoc orders, or staff augmentation opportunities, so be it.

  2. Involve performing practitioners. Second step is to reduce the workload of recruiters through the involvement of practitioners who have proven performance track record. Let them sift through the applications and pick out outstanding ones for further processing.

  3. Screening before interviews. All screening should be done before the interviews take place, to avoid resource wastage and fraudulent entries.

  4. Strengthen referrals. Employee referrals are very important if the right talent is to be attracted. While reward systems are already there, a high standard when referring and an informal procedure of reprimand in case an employee, once selected, turns out not to be what he was touted to be should be in place.

  5. Above all, set high standards. Do not recruit just to make up the numbers.

Recruitment, especially of the wrong variety, has widespread implications. Teaming, Morale, Attitude, Culture—everything is predicated on recruitment. And yet, this is treated as HR domain. Effective recruitment is the job of everyone in the organization, and not just HR. You, me, the cheerful lady in the next cubicle, the slick HR guy we meet for coffee—everyone has a stake, and hence everyone has the responsibility. The role of HR is restricted to primarily recruitment in IT Services organizations. I am no fan of HR in IT, but even I think this is unfair. Next time, I will deal with the role of HR in arresting attrition. Do let me know your thoughts on this in the meanwhile.

Update: Seth Godin, the author of Permission Marketing & Survival is not enough, talks about Recruiting here. A super read for anyone remotely interested in the woes of the business world.

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