Moneyball for Recruiting: Deep Dive on Hitting

Don’t Be “Stupified” by HR Tech Vendors – 5 Ways to Measure Their Impact

We are in the throes of conference season again, with the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas coming up, then ERE and SourceCon, and then the CandEs…and on and on. September and October are always a whirlwind. As we get into late October and November, others like HRTX, HireConf, and HRO Today take place.

1st Spoiler Alert – AI and Data Analytics will be a topic of discussion. #duh #nokidding #CaptainObvious

2nd Spoiler Alert – prepare for some major smoke inhalation. The amount of smoke, mirror play, and magic that will be pushed at you regarding intelligence and analytics is ridiculous. You won’t know the difference, because a 5 minute dialogue with a well prepared sales rep is just enough to convince you the magic is real, and not long enough to figure out how it is a trick.

So with that, I present the 5 Ways to Measure Impact of a new HR / Talent System.

This should arm you well as you consider new systems or processes, and get you asking questions that will need a little more than 5 minutes of sales pitch.

Number 1 – Productivity Lift

Question to Ask: How much productivity lift in dollars should we expect per use?

In any system there is a natural tendency to have automation or outsourcing of current processes that humans or current systems do. Let’s use onboarding as an example for this post. In onboarding, you would have a set of tasks that your current system or HR team does to help bring someone on board. Maybe forms are filled out by HR leaders to acquire technology, get business cards, register for benefits and so on. If your HR team or administrators are already doing that, there is an hourly rate associated with their work, and the work with those that need to ingest that information. If your new onboarding tool sidesteps any of that cost, you have LIFT in the other work that your HR team should be doing.

Get a hold of those costs related to tools, labor, and personnel, and equate them to $. Then make sure your team has something else they can do as they redeploy.

Number 2 – Volunteerism

Question to Ask: Will this system create more work that is beneficial for me, but won’t cost me anything?

Because you have executed the system, there may be people who are now doing work or engaging in that system who had not done so before, AND that work is now getting done AND it does not cost you anything more to have that work done.

In onboarding, this would be the newly hired candidate executing all kinds of inputs and forms prior to their first day of work. If you previously waited for them to do that when they started, you actually are PAYING them for doing that work. If they now do it BEFORE day one, they actually volunteered that information, much like they did for all the steps in the recruiting and hiring process.

Another example – if you were to engage an agency portal for your ATS that all your agencies and RPOs use, and they now have to enter information your team had to enter, the same volunteerism is made. They are now entering more information, and usually getting paid the same for their overall services.

It is on you to come up with a volunteerism $ value here. 

Number 3 – Monopoly Money

Question – How can I save or redeploy with your product? 

Some of you are not going to like this one, just because of its name. In HR, we tend to count savings for things we didn’t spend on. What a cluster that is. Of course, HR tech providers are quick to tell you all about the money you didn’t spend or plan to spend. LOL.

The classic example is “we sourced that candidate ourselves, and didn’t pay an agency $50,000”.

^^ OMG. That is the worst statement ever in recruiting analysis.

I hate it when sourcing says “we are saving the business so much $$”. No – you are not saving money. They never budgeted for it, so how are you saving them money? Since you now HAVE a sourcing team, those savings were already realized, and thereby you can’t count them again on a profit and loss statement. Ask ANY CFO and they will tell you the same.

Instead of counting it as real savings, I am submitting that you should count it as “Monopoly Money”. This is some number that uses a calculation that says “we already counted these savings because they were never budgeted, but I am reminding you that you do not NEED to budget for these things because we have X process or Y system.”

In our onboarding example, our Monopoly Money might be something like “we were able to get this person a training that used to cost $1,000 to administer, so we are saving $1,000 every time we use the tool”. Of course the last time you did that training was like 24 months ago, so its cost was removed from budgeting in the last fiscal…but its worthy of a reminder that if you stopped the process or system completely, you would have to allocate new budget of  $1000 per training.

Realize that Lift and Volunteerism eventually become Monopoly Money. That happens as soon as the business lowers or reallocates budget because of the Lift and/or Volunteerism.

Keep a running tally of Monopoly Money this system or process has per month. 

Number 4 – Investment Expense

Question to Ask: In order to use this tool appropriately, how much time and effort will my team be spending in this tool that they have NOT been spending in previous tools?

So you have this new system that has your teams doing stuff they never did before. That does happen by the way. You never entered certain data, certain tasks were not getting done and ARE getting done now. Well, what are those tasks, and how much is that costing your team to do? There are no new savings here, just new work. It is possible that your team might be spending MORE time in the system that it used to, so you need to quantify that in hours and expense.

In our onboarding example, maybe your team never really filled out forms that were required, and your new talent did it on the fly. So you had a $200,000 executive on payroll filling out a form for a computer and mobile device. Well, in the new system, your HR team is doing that, so the new hire does not have to. You need to reflect that investment, even though we all know its actually going to be a net savings to the business.

Sidebar – in practice, this Investment Expense should be a lot less than your Lift. Your new system should be moving tasking to the lowest earning person or highest automation possible, even if that means someone new is investing time in this. 

Number 5 – Causation Valuation

Question to Ask: What will happen in my business because I buy this system?

This is the hardest one, and you will need to first simulate these models, and then explore your data to affirm your hunches and potential insights. We all make claims that “if we install this system, we will (insert some wild claim on speed, cost, quality, or business outcome here).”

^^ Totally true that we do this, and in many cases, it is total bullshit. Correlation is not causation. Just because you onboard people faster or more cleanly does not mean that they all “stay with your business longer” or whatever other claim is said. With enough variables, such as wages, engagement, exposed learning, and email traffic I could run a regression that would easily show that “onboarding” would be insignificant on the enterprise versus those other variables. People don’t leave your business because your onboarding is bad if your wages and engagement are also poor. However, if your wages and engagement is good early on, but your onboarding is poor, you may experience higher amounts of early stage turnover…but you need to really prove that out.

What is more likely is that onboarding enables people to achieve a level of productivity earlier and with less investment in learning and management – so you need to measure THOSE variables. You are looking for proof that says “because we are using this onboarding program, our teams are achieving a productivity goal 2 to 3 weeks faster than previously” and with all my data savviness, I can tell you that is going to be hard to prove without some really good data from operations. Sorry all – it is unlikely you will find this in HR data.

Example – What if I was evaluating a new onboarding system with drivers at UPS or Fedex. Drivers do the onboarding, and they get through training and onto driving routes a week faster than normal. I would track the mean, median, and mode for daily deliveries of those new drivers during their first 4 weeks versus the first 4 weeks for new hires made a year ago. Maybe I would see a 8 to 10% lift operationally, as well as a reduction in overtime expenses since people are getting more deliveries done per hour.

^^ This is real workforce analysis, and takes a steady hand. Listen for case studies at the conferences that use operational data as the foundation, not HR data. Results should come in dollars and operational measures, not really HR measures. Those case studies have legs to stand on.

This is not easy stuff by any stretch, and takes some analysis and work (why you call folks like us) – but hopefully when you hit the conference circuit you start asking the hard questions listed above, and not get wooed into a demo because someone waved a magic wand at you 🙂

Journalism Is Not Dead – It is Alive in Recruiting with Job Ads

Let’s have a candid chat about job ads and postings…
A poor job description is pretty easy to spot when you see it – it does not talk about the employer, what is in it for the applicant, etc – typically if it looks like an after thought, it probably was.
Some call job ads boring. However, I am not sure we have boring job descriptions…but wow do we have mediocre ones. LOTS of mediocre ones. And actually that has become the real problem. What is exciting about a job description? The typical one is a quick self pat on the back on how awesome you are and how awesome your people are, a list of tasks that are clearly not as descriptive as they could be, a bunch of bullet points, how much you need to be able to lift, a bunch of legal statements, and if you are lucky a glimpse of how much it pays.
This mediocrity is enabled by our tech, and what I would characterize as a large scale usage of this phrase by a large share of CHROs and heads of recruiting globally – “I know our job descriptions aren’t great, but we can’t focus on that right now – we will do it next year.”
^^ That reminds of those signs you see at a funky cafe that say “Free Coffee…Tomorrow”
Talk Data to Me – and bring the Heat Map 😉
How we process text as media has been radically changing. The optimal length of media for reading, and its engagement has shifted. Job descriptions may stand alone as one of the few one to two page content pieces that does not include video, imagery, or editorial as a standard.
Take a pause on that. Name something ELSE you read on your phone on a daily basis that fills up an entire screen of text, that you usually scroll through, that has no images, hyperlinks, or engagement…hmmm…here are my daily go to’s, and none of them are text only:
  • FB and LinkedIn threads have video embedded, I can see likes and how many comments. Typically if I do click an article there is video, images, and more engagement on the other end.
  • When I get my news from the BBC via app, almost every single article is a video summary, and less than two screens of text, with supporting content around it.
  • When I review the Phillies each day on, there are at least 2 images and 4 videos buried in the article, telling me what has happened the previous day. Not to mention dozens of other content I can get to quickly.

You need to understand how content is processed. Just because the majority of the planet reads top to bottom and left to right does NOT mean you publish content just that way. HACK THE PROBLEM >> OUR EYES MOVE AROUND THE POST. As we research visual heat maps and click thru patterns of text, articles, and media, we know that users have certain preferences for UI, accessibility, and what makes them scroll and stay engaged. Be aware of where your users are seeing your descriptions and what may or may not be distracting them. Check out these two articles on how to improve how your users read content to expand your mindset on how to build job descriptions AND what to wrap around them.

I would say that the vast majority of ATS providers have a text / html editing entry point for their client’s postings, and the job board providers certainly are not accepting complex WordPress layouts with embedded media into their workflows. Our collective authoring and publishing technologies already places the author (Pat Q. Recruiter) at a disadvantage. And yes, all recruiters are authors. So we need to be really smart about….get ready for it….TELLING THE STORY.
Become a Recruiting Journalist
Every job description is really a story. A DATA STORY. You have to set the context, discuss the problems the business is facing, talk about what has happened in the past, what is trending, what is happening now, and what can happen collectively if we work together on the business problems. You present evidence, facts, and consensus on the business and how new team members can help and have helped. Now you can start talking about what it in it for the candidate.
You know there is a story behind every job. You are recruiting someone to spend likely 2000+ hours a year engaging with your team and/or your customers…that deserves more than a few hundred templated words and some bullet points. It certainly deserves more than a quick cut copy paste from the last job.
So here is a checklist you can go through…
  1. Tell the hiring manager that you know much more about recruiting then they do, so when they don’t like the amount of content you produce for the job, they accept it.
  2. Tell your HR leader that a JOB POSTING is not a legal document, and that a JOB DESCRIPTION is a legal document. How you position in the market to attract people does not need to match up with the internal document. So stop copy pasting the legal version.
  3. Investigate this job – not the position. A position is a spot on a roster, certain duties and responsibilities that are well defined. However, every position has a JOB to do. Learn the difference. Let’s just assume that we all hire individuals with skills and experiences that are unique to them, and as such each job can only be performed in an unique way, every time (oh wait, that is exactly how things work). Find out what is going on with the business and how this job can make an impact. How is morale? How is the team? What is being worked on? Same stuff? Are you changing?
  4. Create and publish openly the rewards package for this job. If you got past the first 3, which are already pretty bold, you might as well go in for the most important set of evidence and facts – compensation and rewards. You need to list the targeted salary, any bonus payouts, unique features about your benefits programs, and talk about advancement and merit increases. If you don’t list the salary, Google already dings you. In a bunch of states you can’t ask about current pay anyway. Try something like this “We offer a very competitive compensation program for this job. Our benefits program includes health, dental, 401k with match and other standards, but we also pay for parking, transit, and a much more. We are looking to offer $85,000 per year in salary for this job, as it will keep parity with how we pay for other like jobs, and avoid any wage gap between men and women. Candidates can expect an offer at that level regardless of their current compensation.” I know…but make it fly anyway. Do the right thing.  

All the videos, images, and cool landing pages in the world are not going to change your STORY. Only you can do that. Make the leap into journalism by telling the manager you are the author, make that separation from the internal job description, find the unique story and tell it, and be transparent about compensation and rewards.

If anything, you won’t be mediocre.