Rules of the Other Road

The other road?  What other road?  The skinny 2-wheeled road of course.  Here is the idea:  for a cyclist to be safe when you are cruising down the road at 30 miles per hour, a guy 2 inches to your left, right, back and front, there are a couple basic things to keep in mind.

  1. Don’t hit the brakes.  At 30 miles per hour and a guy 2 inches behind you (true tailgating), hitting the brakes means that you’re going to have a very sore butt and back from impact.  When you do hit the brakes, usually it’s accompanied by some rather foul language that reverberates all the way back through the pack.
  2. Ride in a straight line (a.k.a. follow your line).  Don’t swerve, don’t move right or left unexpectedly.  I usually even check under my arm to make sure nobody is within striking distance before I “change my line.”
  3. Ride efficiently.  You can always see the guys to avoid riding close to.  They are the ones that are pedaling with their legs, arms, torso, and everything else.  Perfect efficiency is a relaxed and still upper body while your lower body does all the work.

I tell you all of this for one reason only.  HR is a finely orchestrated bicycle dance.  We can work together and radically increase our speed by drafting.  Or we can bring all of us down together as well (this latter option is often quite painful).  We often don’t realize the integration we have with each other – that we are only a small cog in the HR process.  If we look at things end to end, it’s quite a bit more complex.

A quick snapshot reveals that how compensation constructs jobs can make life really easy or hard for recruiting.  The quality of the recruiters’ work makes life easy/hard for HRSS (shared services) when the person is hired.  HRSS makes life easy/hard for payroll and benefits based on the accuracy of the data entry.

The thing is that we understand who is downstream from our piece of the puzzle, but I’m not sure we always care enough.  When the recruiter is told to slam someone into the hire process, HRSS is often left to pick up the pieces.  We sometimes don’t even know what all the ramifications are for months.  The problem is that we (in this example recruiting) did something unexpected, and forced an action on someone else.  At the end of the day, we probably caused more problems by deviating from our expected course than we solved by rushing someone into the organization.

I’m not saying it’s always bad to deviate.  Sometimes it’s necessary.  When I hit the brakes at speed, it usually comes with a simultaneous shout, “SLOWING!”  When I change the line I’m riding, I usually check under my arm (think of this as checking your bicycle blind spot) and quickly flick a wrist so everyone knows I’m moving over.  The point is, unexpected deviations are bad.  Planned and coordinated deviations when really necessary can prevent a log of angst.


Real Time Activity Analysis

Not only am I a geek, I’m a workout geek.  The latest geeky gadget I’m lusting over is a Withings E-Scale.  For just $165, I can get up in the morning, weigh myself, stand on the scale for a few seconds, have the scale measure my body fat, lean body mass, hydration level, and a few other things, and then have all of this uploaded through the home wi-fi to the internet.  I can then go online and see the trend of all of these factors over the time that I’ve been using the scale.  ((I actually weigh myself 4 times a day when I’m home.  It’s a California thing.))  Heck, I already have all of my bike ride data online for the last 4 years – I mean, I can compare how fast I pedal the crank arms on my bike today versus 2 summers ago in August.  Adding some health statistics seems reasonable to me.  Since it supports 8 users, my wife can get the same data on herself, although I’m pretty sure she would not want to, and I would be the focus of much derision for months.  Overall, while my bike stats tell me where I’m getting fitter, the scale would tell me the nuances of my body that contribute to fitness.

If I can get all of this personally for $165, I’m trying to figure out why it feels like I don’t have access to this type of data as an HR professional.

  • Case management tools are readily available:  Call centers do it.  If I go to my HR call center, they are probably tracking the number of cases each rep takes, how long it takes them to clear a call, etc.
  • Transaction data is usually available, but takes some effort:  I suppose I could audit my database tables to see how many employee name change processes there are and exactly how long they are taking.  But it’s not like I’m going to make my data entry staff use an extra minute to create a case for a 2 minute transaction.  Adding 50% effort to a small transaction is rather silly.
  • Data would be pretty impossible to get in an automated way: I mean, how much time does my staff spend in department meetings?  Not project meetings or something useful, I mean department get togethers, communications for what’s going on in the organization.  I’m not saying that this is not important stuff, but I had to run an activity analysis once just to prove to an organization that some of their people were spending 5% of their time in department meetings.

All I’m saying is that I feel like I should have a much better handle on my organization.  If I want to measure effectiveness, we seem to have dashboards for that.  Similar to my example where my bike stats can measure fitness, our dashboards can measure performance, talent acquisition, turnover, etc.  But similar to how a scale would then measure the miniscule core details of why I’m getting fitter (or not), I don’t feel like I have a dashboard for that.   For another example, we track training really well, but I think most of us would acknowledge that learning happens outside of training, and we don’t track real learning activities that well at all.

We’ve come a long way in the last [number] of years.  I’m hoping that in 3 more years, we can look back at 2011 and think, “god I’m glad we have this stuff in (in 2014).”  But no matter how far we go in the next [number] years, there will still be critical gaps.

Decision effectiveness

A few years ago, i had a custom set of wheels made for my bike. I had the rims specifically weighed and picked out of a set of about 10 rims. I had the spokes weighed and balanced to make sure they were the lightest ones. The spoke nipples (the threaded parts that are basically nut that the spokes attach to the rims through) were color matched to the paint on my bike. all said, the wheels weighed about 1435 grams. Not crazy light, but pretty darn light. And they were fairly aerodynamic having decently deep rims and bladed spokes to cut through wind. Being aerodynamic, they cut through wind pretty well, and being light, they accelerated and climbed well. But custom rims cannot be laced as tight as some of the manufactured wheels out there. The one thing I lacked was the stability that comes from an incredibly tightly laced wheel.

I decided to give up my beloved wheel set and get a mass produced one (ok, so I have not yet seen another set of my wheels on the road, but still, they are not custom wheels). They happen to be just as light, almost as aerodynamic, and insanely sturdy. There is so little flex in my wheels that on hard corners going downhill at 45 mph, I have absolute confidence in them and I know exactly what they are going to do. Nonetheless, it was a hard decision to make, to replace my perfectly good older wheels.

I’ll admit. Even I talk too much about governance and the structure and network it takes to have a good governance model. But regardless of the model, it is not about your governance model, its about the effectiveness of your decisions. Do you make the right decisions? How fast do you make a decision? How often do you execute your decisions as planned?

You can have a great governance model. You can be totally well informed about what goes on in the organization based on working groups that inform you about the state of HR. You can be well networked and statused. And with all of that, you can still make the wrong decisions or avoid making decisions.

I have seen organizations where the governance model was to include so many people in the decision that at the end of the day, nobody wanted to be accountable for the final decision. The group would reach a point of consensus so that if anything went wrong, nobody had to take accountability, and they were all both blameless and at fault. It was also an environment where when the group was close to consensus, if someone saw something was clearly wrong, nobody would stand up for fear of being the one having to be accountable for a different decision.  It was a governance model. It was inclusive, well networked, but it turned out it was a bad model. Either nothing got done, or often, the wrong things got done. When it comes right down to it, you need to be inclusive and networked in the governance model, but you also need to be able to react quickly and authoritatively when the circumstances call for it. You need to have accountability for the decision that is separate from accountability for the execution and implementation of that decision. And you need to have the ability and the willingness to switch gears in the middle when you realize that something is either wrong, or jut that something could be better.

I had. Perfectly good bike, with perfectly good wheels. I’m continuously amazed at the quality of my new ride. It feels smoother when i ride over bumps, more solid when I ride down a hill, but jut as light and aerodynamic. I was the right decision to make, even though it pained me to make it.

Recruiting Effectiveness Measurement

Last post I wrote about recruiting efficiency measures.  From the effectiveness side, we’re all used to things like first year turnover rates and performance rates.  Once again, we’ve been using these metrics forever, but they don’t necessarily measure actual effectiveness.  You’d like to think that quality of hire metrics tells us about effectiveness, but I’m not sure it really does.

When we look at the standard quality of hire metrics, they usually have something to do with the turnover rate and performance scores after 90 days or 1 year.  Especially when those two metrics are combined, you wind up with a decent view of short term effectiveness.  The more people that are left, and the higher the average performance score, the better the effectiveness., right?

Not so quick.  While low turnover rates are absolutely desirable, they should also be assumed.  High turnover rates don’t indicate a lack of effectiveness.  High turnover rates instead indicate a completely dysfunctional recruiting operation.  Second of all, the utilization of performance scores doesn’t seem to indicate anything for me.

Organizations that are using 90 or 180 day performance scores have so much new hire recency bias that they are completely irrelevant.  It’s pretty rare that you have a manager review a new hire poorly after just 3 or 6 months.  For most organizations, you expect people to observe and soak in the new company culture before really doing much of anything.  This process usually takes at least 3 months.  And while the average performance score in the organization might be “3” your 90 and 180 day performance scores are often going to be marginally higher than “3” even though those new hires have not actually done anything yet.  However, you’ll have a performance score that is advantageous to the overall organizational score making you think that your recruiters are heroes.  Instead, all you have is a bunch of bias working on your metrics.

I’m not sure I have any short term metrics for recruiter effectiveness though.  Since we don’t get a grasp of almost any new hire within the first year, short term effectiveness is really pretty hard to measure.  I’m certainly not saying that turnover and performance are the wrong measures.  I’m just saying that you can’t measure effectiveness in the short term.

First of all, we need to correlate the degree of recruiting impact that we have on turnover versus things like manager influence.  If we’re looking at effectiveness over 3 years, we need to be able to localize what impact recruiting actually has in selecting applicants that will stick around in your organizational culture.  Second, we need to pick the right performance scores.  Are we looking at the actual performance score? goal attainment, competency growth, or career movement in # years?  Picking the right metrics is pretty critical, and it’s easy to pick the wrong ones just because it’s what everyone else is using.  However, depending on your talent strategy, you might be less interested in performance and more interested in competency growth.  You might want to look at performance for lower level positions while the number of career moves in 5 years is the metric for senior roles.  A one size fits all does not work for recruiting effectiveness because the recruiting strategy changes from organization to organization and even between business units within the same organization.

Overall, recruiter effectiveness is not as simple as it seems, and unfortunately there isn’t a good way to predict effectiveness in the short term.  In fact, short term effectiveness may be one of those oxymorons.