How to Really Do More With Less: Making Recruiter Training Really Work (Part Three)

Part 3 of a series related to optimizing recruiting team results

In Part One and Part Two of this series, I discussed the importance of taking a systems approach to developing a recruiting team through training initiatives in order to avoid suboptimal training results. I reviewed the five key areas that staffing leaders should evaluate and consider before implementing training initiatives:

  • Evaluating Recruiting Department Capacity
  • Implementing Effective Incentives
  • Understanding Motivational Factors
  • Optimizing Feedback and Communication Systems
  • Evaluating Environmental Factors

These factors underpin the theory most commonly associated with Human Performance Technology; taking a systems approach to organizational performance is always required if the business outputs are likely to be materially changed. Yet very few recruiting organizations approach training this way … most often training is delivered as a “we have to do something to develop the team” without a lot of thought or true understanding of how to engage the system that is the recruiting supply chain to create improved outputs such as faster cycle time, lower cost, or improved quality. Every recruiting leader should read Lean Thinking by Womack to challenge what is widespread conventional wisdom on batch processing and workflows as further evidence supporting the need for a systems-based solution.

So, assuming that the five factors described above are duly evaluated and are optimized at least to a modest degree, here are some considerations related to delivering training and developing a recruiting team to improve results.

Define and Measure the Behaviors That Need to Change

Effective training changes behaviors, and most recruiting results, can be traced back to a set of behaviors performed by human beings working in the recruiting department. Arguably, training can affect two things:  knowledge or behaviors. For the most part, that is all training can accomplish. Indeed, most training is knowledge-based. It’s a transfer of knowledge and doesn’t build much skill. And if training does build skill, skill is just a demonstration of key behaviors. This sounds simplistic, but most staffing leaders haven’t deciphered the behaviors they are trying to change. The typical error is considering results, not behaviors: “I want the recruiters to hire more people faster,” or “I want them to stop posting jobs and filtering results and develop passive candidate pools,” or “I want them to drive results with hiring managers.” None of these are behaviors.

The true litmus test of whether you’ve defined the behaviors is this: Can you observe it by watching someone do the job? If you can observe it, and describe what you’ve observed, you’ve distilled the objective into a behavior. And then you can train on how best to perform that behavior.

Examples of this might teaching recruiters how to more effectively make decisions about how to manage email, which would increase productivity. Another example would be teaching recruiters how to develop sourcing strategies that lead to the shortest path to a slate of candidates with the leanest burden of administration required; weighing through the pros and cons of posting a job versus soliciting referrals or networking.

Event Driven Training Is Highly Inefficient at Changing Behaviors

If the solution for training is a one-time event, and doesn’t include ongoing reinforcement, feedback, and or job aids, it might not be worth doing. Unfortunately, most training is delivered in this way. Typical trainings are one-time only, instructor-led training events with little opportunity to revisit, practice, and receive feedback on the behaviors that are expected to change, with little (if any) support (such as follow on reminders or proficiency tests or related job aids) on an ongoing basis post training.

A better solution is to invent a way to train people over time, in little bites, to build on skills and behaviors, as opposed to a one-time event. Now would be a great time to read back through the five factors discussed in Parts One and Part Two of this series, and to really consider how they relate to delivering a training event.

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Optimize the Delivery Method
This is one of the most (if not The Most) common training errors I observe, and it typically involves delivering knowledge-based learning (the things you need to know to improve performance in role) through instructor-led training. We all have sat through a training like this and wondered why we couldn’t just have read the material instead of listening to the instructor tell us it was important.

If it’s knowledge that needs to be imparted to improve performance, there’s no need for instructor led training … align the incentives, provide for the capacity and environmental factors, and give your recruiters the ability to assimilate the content in a way that is self-paced and asynchronous.

Similarly, if you are trying to build skill, recognize that sitting in a classroom is a bad way to build skill. One of my hobbies is riding (fast) motorcycles, and as a hobby I used to teach people how to ride motorcycles as a certified instructor for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. If you were to take my class you could sit in the classroom, and I would demonstrate how to operate a motorcycle, I would talk about the theory of cornering, and the physics of threshold braking, and demonstrate both with pictures and videos and real-world examples to demonstrate the point. But none were effective at teaching students the skills of riding motorcycles; for that, we spent time on actual motorcycles, building skills operating the controls, navigating a corner, and effectively stopping the bike. And recruiting is no less complex than riding a motorcycle.

Invest In the Value of Coaching
If there was ever a time to coach your team, it’s when you are trying to change behaviors. Effective staffing leaders create “Coaching Events” in order to observe behaviors and give feedback. Coaching is effective because most of us are ineffective at self-diagnosing our own behaviors — many times we aren’t even conscious of our own behaviors. If this weren’t true, everyone would be a rock star.

Observe your team performing the behaviors you are attempting to change and give them feedback in the moment. Even Michael Jordan, one of the all-time greatest basketball players, benefited from the feedback provided by his coach, because without feedback, it’s nearly impossible for us to become our own best selves.

Training is and will continue to be imminently valuable to develop recruiting staff and ultimately improve results. With careful planning, a thoughtful approach, and the right strategy, staffing leaders will reap the benefits of effective leadership and truly move forward in their mandate to do more with less.

Jason Warner left corporate America to focus on entrepreneurship with a clear mission: to help organizations recruit better. In early 2011, he founded RecruitingDash, a recruitment software company that delivers world-class SaaS-based reports, metrics, dashboards, and analytics from existing applicant tracking software. As with other trends in Big Data, RecruitingDash turns the wealth of data in the recruiting "supply chain" into valuable information and insights to improve recruitment efficiency and effectiveness for companies of all sizes. A former corporate recruiting and talent management leader at Google and Starbucks, he has successfully built, scaled, and led large global recruitment and talent management functions during critical growth periods for some of the world's most recognized fast-growing companies, including Google and Starbucks. At Google, he led the largest learning, training, and people development group at Google -- for the Sales and Operations group across Latin America, Asia Pacific, and North America. During the peak of Google's growth, he also led recruitment for the Global Online Sales and Operations Group. He was previously the director of North America recruiting for Starbucks Coffee Company.

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2 Comments on “How to Really Do More With Less: Making Recruiter Training Really Work (Part Three)

  1. Lest we neglect to mention the potential dissonance between effective recruiter training and overall recruiting strategy. You can train carpenters to be master carpenters over time but even master carpenters are at the mercy of the raw materials.

    In a vacuum that doesn’t include the training of hiring managers and the indoctrination of higher ups into the recruiting strategy, well trained recruiters can quickly become highly compensated expendable assets.

    Recruiting “systems” need to be much larger than most realize.

    Nice series, JW.

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