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Hiring System Changes: 5 Points to Maximize Impact and Minimize Stress

By Ren Nygren, Ph.D.

Ren Nygren, Ph.D.Have you ever heard these complaints?

“I liked the way we used to hire people—why does HR always change the things that are working well?” OR “We must spend a ton of money and time getting all this data about job applicants—are we sure this investment is paying off?” OR “HR has some new hiring process. Who cares! I’ll just do the interviews with my own questions and play along like I’ve used their fancy forms.”

Hiring System Changes: 5 Points to Maximize Impact and Minimize StressIn my 20 years helping organizations improve their hiring processes, I’ve heard comments like these and many more in the days and months following the installation of well-planned and developed hiring tools and systems. Unfortunately, many well-designed selection systems fail to achieve the impact and business results for which they were deployed for the simple reason that key aspects of change management have been overlooked.

Avoid change resistance and maximize returns on your organization’s talent acquisition investments by considering and managing risk around this 5-point checklist.

Change Management Checklist

  1. Communication: This is a pretty obvious step yet it is frequently “checked off” once the carefully reviewed, six sentence memo from your SVP of HR has been dutifully delivered to every hiring manager’s email in-box. Considering the amount of communication which flows through most modern organizations, it’s no wonder that one or two memos leave the majority of your audience insufficiently informed about your new hiring process. The very best communication plans include multiple channels for communicating to various audiences such as:
    • Brief email/memo introducing the change, business opportunity being addressed, expected compliance and links to additional detailed documentation if readers need/want it.
    • Follow-up voice-mail message(s) reinforcing the key messages and providing support if needed.
    • Company newsletter updates on usage rates for new tools and impact/results being realized.
    • In-person briefings to intact management teams—for example, spending 20 minutes overviewing the issues being corrected from the previous hiring approach, reviewing the new tools/processes, setting expectations for leaders’ roles in introducing and supporting the change, and plans to measure/report back results and improvements.
  2. Accountability: In my experience, this is perhaps the most overlooked and/or elusive change management consideration. Leaders will voice support (sometimes) yet choose to behave differently when back on the job. In many instances, it’s tough to fault them for this because they haven’t been adequately informed about the what’s and why’s of the change, nor are they going to held accountable for behaving in any new way. When I was a member of the team at Delta Air Lines, we mitigated this risk by using what we called “leader led” change—what we meant at the simplest level was that communicating, coaching, and reinforcing change was an important element of each leader’s work statement. As an example, for selection system changes it may be very helpful to equip senior leaders with talking points and sample hiring materials so that they can discuss the new process and tools during their 1:1 discussions with their leadership teams. Another important concept in accountability is that everyone involved in the hiring process is responsible for their part in making it successful. Some sample accountabilities across common constituent groups include:
    • Senior Leaders: provide needed resources; communicate their support for the change; confront resistance; coach and reinforce compliance.
    • Hiring Managers: attend training or otherwise attain proficiency to deliver new tools/processes; use tools and processes per guidelines; provide feedback to HR (constructive and positive). 
    • Human Resources Generalists/Recruiters: support line users when questions arise; coach users for improvement; gather and pass along feedback from line managers and candidates as available.
    • Hiring System Designers: monitor change for proper functioning (days to fill, candidate quality, etc.); measure system impact on key results (turnover, productivity, etc.).
  3. Skills: Training to properly use new hiring tools/processes is critically important. Assumptions are often made that hiring managers possess the skills required to make good selection decisions; however, study after study confirm that most hiring managers struggle to raise their hiring decision quality to even 50/50. Unfortunately, the hiring decisions made in many organizations don’t even attain this “coin-flip” percentage. The good news in this is that with well-developed tools (e.g., accurate job descriptions, proper screening criteria, validated test(s), behavioral interviews and proper user training with skill practice), the percentage of successful hiring decisions can increase dramatically above 50%.
  4. Alignment: This change management factor involves appropriately linking the constructs (competencies, attributes, experiences, knowledge areas, etc.) measured by the selection tools/ processes to other related upstream and downstream activities. For example, job postings or passive candidate searches should be closely tied to the requirements of the target job. Similarly, onboarding and new associate training should be tailored to the specific assessment results generated for each new hire, or at least tied to the same profile which guided the recruiting and selection activities. This integration work is often accomplished via competency models or Success ProfilesSM and can represent a parallel work stream to the selection system update.
  5. Measurement: Similar to accountability, this last change management factor is often overlooked in the rush to launch a new selection system or correct some pressing tool or process-related problem. The best way to turn this risk into an asset is to be very clear about what problems/opportunities are present (and how they are measured) at the very beginning of any selection system enhancement. For example, a client once came to DDI asking for “better hiring” for drivers in their fleet of service vehicles. This is of course a very valid need/concern, so further questions and up-front planning discussions generated a variety of important business metrics (see list below) which indicate either good or poor driver hiring decisions:
    • Successful completion of new driver training
    • 90-, 180-, and 360-day tenure
    • Safe vehicle operation (no accidents)
    • Safe on-the-job performance (no OSHA reportable injuries)
    • Attendance
    • Job performance (acceptable performance ratings, no disciplinary actions)
    As mentioned earlier, measurement is a critical success factor for almost any change effort, especially those requiring the investment level often associated with large-scale, hiring-system changes. Fortunately, even small improvements in business outcomes such as individual productivity, safety improvements, reduced turnover, etc., can return multi-million dollar savings to large organizations. Senior stakeholders and hiring managers have enormous appetites for well-conducted impact studies and providing this level of follow-up builds internal credibility in ways that are almost unimaginable. As a final professional note, I am carefully watching the developments in the area of “Big Data” as many organizations are exploring the causal relationships between hiring, job performance and business outcome data in ways that will certainly reinforce the value of high-quality selection decisions.

So, leverage this change management checklist as you plan and implement your selection system changes and improvements. Considering these factors and building an approach that takes them into account will maximize returns on your organization’s talent acquisition investments.

Ren Nygren, Ph.D. is the director of Global Testing Solutions at DDI.

Posted: 13 Nov, 2013,
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