How to Really Do More With Less: Why Recruiter Training Doesn’t Work (Part Two)

Part 2 in a series related to optimizing recruiting team results

Given the demands to do more with less that are prevalent in HR and recruiting departments, in Part 1 I discuss how imperative it is to take a systems approach when implementing changes to improve recruiting team yields or other key performance indicators, and discussed two recommendations related to investing recruiter training initiatives: Evaluating both capacity and also incentives, before pulling the trigger on a training initiative.

A common problem is that many organizations make the decision to train their recruiters (and other staff) without evaluating other components that correlate to optimized outcomes. This is a common training error: “we aren’t getting the results we need … therefore let’s train the staff … (and fast).”

There are three more areas that should be considered before implementing recruiter training initiatives:Understanding Motivational Factors, Optimizing Feedback and Communication Systems, and Evaluating Environmental Factors.

Understanding Motivational Factors

This is strongly related to incentives, but different. The primary difference is that although you can adjust incentives, which certainly have the potential to impact motivation, you can’t motivate your staff … they can only motivate themselves! Think about that for a moment. You can provide a reward or other negative incentives, but it won’t necessarily motivate your staff. The classic example is that some people simply aren’t motivated by money or (insert potential motivator here). Indeed, it has been proven that although money is often a motivator, more money doesn’t often improve performance or work output.

The overarching point is that delivering training to an unmotivated staff is a bad strategy. A better solution is to understand individual motivational factors, make an assessment, and address motivation gaps or opportunities before delivering training. There are some key steps to doing so:

  1. Understand that motivations are individualized: Not everyone is motivated by the same things. It’s worth understanding motivations for each member of the team as an individual. This will take some time and investment. Make a list of four or five things that motivate each of your employees. Review the list before each of your 1:1 meetings. On a weekly basis, provide reinforcement related to each employee’s motivating factors.
  2. Motivating a team is a process, not an event: Organizational dynamics are constantly changing, and with that, so are employee motivations. Ongoing recognition is important, but so is ongoing acknowledgment of the portfolio of motivating factors for each employee on your team. Make motivating your team part of the way of doing business.
  3. Support recruiter motivation by using systems (for example, policies and procedures); don’t count on good intentions. You may be surprised to reveal the gaps between intent and actual performance once you implement systems that create transparency around expectations.

Optimizing Feedback and Communication Systems

Most employees say that they don’t get enough feedback on their performance. This is nearly always the case in recruiting teams I observe …people just don’t “know how they are doing.” The reasons for this typically fall into two distinct buckets: One, there are not clear objectives and expectations set for members of their recruiting staff for each step in the staffing process. Therefore, recruiters perform the role to the best of their understanding of what the role should be, with no way to self-assess whether they are doing the job correctly. This is one of the most common errors I find when evaluating recruiting departments: all the recruiters are performing the role differently than their peers, because there are no clear expectations attached to how each step in the process should be performed. Indeed, I have observed recruiters in the same department doing completely different jobs in terms of tasks, behaviors, and results. By default, performance standards and levels are driven toward the mean when this happens.

The second reason recruiting staff do not get enough feedback is because the staffing leader does not invest enough time in evaluating performance at each step in the staffing process. Often they only measure end results such as time to fill or total number of hires per period. This is an error, as most staffing processes are metaphorically similar to an obstacle course … with different segments requiring different subject-matter expertise, skills, and competencies in order to optimize. Therefore, to optimize the results systemically, one needs to evaluate performance at each step in the staffing process to produce the optimal results.

Both of these underpin the argument for why training often doesn’t produce results — trainees do not understand the expectations for each step in the recruitment process, and staffing leaders often deliver training that doesn’t really address the gaps in performance (because they don’t know the true gaps in performance). A common, real-world example I frequently observe is when staffing leaders train their recruiters on sourcing skills, when in fact the ability to source candidates is not the gating factor at all.

So before delivering training, leaders should answer yes to the following questions:

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  • Is each step of the recruiting process well documented and communicated to each stakeholder?
  • Are the competencies, behaviors, and subject-matter expertise required to be demonstrated in each step of the staffing process well-communicated to everyone on the staffing team?
  • Are the business outcomes for each step in the recruiting process understood and measured?
  • Has the performance of each member of the staffing team been evaluated against the previously described objectives for each step in the staffing process?

Once these questions are answered, then training may be developed and delivered in an effective manner.

Evaluating Environmental Factors

The final impediments that sometimes gets in the way of recruiter training effectiveness are the host of environmental factors that, if left unchecked, can render training useless.

What are the time constraints impacting recruiter performance? What are the tools constraints? What is the stress level? How distracting is the work environment? Are cubicles better than offices? The list goes on and on.

An effective exercise is to survey the recruiting staff and ask: “What are the obstacles that get in the way of you doing excellent work?” and “What tools do you wish you had in order to be more effective?”

I’ve been amazed at how many recruiting departments don’t provide mobile phones to their recruiting staff. Or laptops. Or business cards (really). Effective staffing leaders evaluate the environment, work to reasonably optimize it, and then train their staff.

Now that we’ve evaluated some of the reasons training recruiters doesn’t work, in the next installment we’ll examine the top strategies and tactics to deliver high-quality training that really makes a difference.

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.


6 Comments on “How to Really Do More With Less: Why Recruiter Training Doesn’t Work (Part Two)

  1. Nice article, I have to agree with the premise of we don’t give sufficient feedback to recruiters on each step of the process but that just points to another issue. That is, most firms are also being asked to do more with less so we cut either levels of management completely or at least slim them down so managers are so overloaded themselves that they can not possibly look at the steps in enough detail to give good feedback. That takes a lot of time to do well and most companies and managers will not or can not spend it. Just as more planes will fall out of the air and crash with “steamlened” maintenance depts, so too will more recruiters “crash and burn” without DETAILED PERFORMANCE REVIEW.
    Wishing everyone a wonderful and well earned holiday break. Let’s come back strong on Monday and finish the year with a flourish!!!!
    Best regards,

  2. Great comment Robert. There’s a lot of what I refer to as False Economies in my systems. It’s one of the reasons I strongly recommend taking a systems approach to evaluating yield, costs, and other optimization efforts.

    What looks like a savings often is an expense.

    The organizations with the grossly slimmed down management structures will be stretched as the economy comes back and recruiting staff have options. Many of the recruiting professionals I speak with have noted they are retention risks because they’ve been running on shoe string budgets and capacity models the last 3 years.

    But now they have options (with more options on the way).


  3. It has been my experience that it’s best for me to provide lots of information up the hierarchy, and not expect that I’ll receive much back. This is aka “proactive communication,” aka “CYA”.

    Happy T-Day, Folks!

  4. Jason I love the quality of this series so far. Also glad to see another bullish view on the economy; the first few years of inflation are the best! Not sure if the Fed by themselves can do it, but that’s another comment.

    When you write “I have observed recruiters in the same department doing completely different jobs in terms of tasks, behaviors, and results. By default, performance standards and levels are driven toward the mean when this happens” I think you have to elaborate on the non-default situation too.

    Small group dyanmics are especially tricky- the history of war and business shows small groups moving big levers. The non-default is a general who knows how to align whatever personalities he has into an effective counter for a specific enemy, or the best group to succeed in a narrow role.

    Since I/O Psych is just one small step removed from politics and religion, we all have our opinions and models when it comes to the intagibles of leadership (I’m watching Belichick work right now with no offensive or defensive coordinators).

    If you leave tactical personality-driven adjustment out of your system designs, you are betting that the system remains deterministic, but stochastic systems seem to rule the fate of human beings, and discounting their eventual manifestation can be expensive.

    In plain english- there will always be exceptions, and within small groups, sometimes everyone doing their own thing is a successful way to innovate and win.

    Hi Keith – if you dont hear from me, everthing is great !

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