Santa’s Workshop: Human Capital Management Review

For the fourth consecutive year Santa has welcomed us into his workshop to review his workforce management successes and challenges. Going into 2002, Santa was pretty satisfied with the accomplishments his recruiting team had made in 2001. As you may recall from the review last year, in 2001 Santa primarily worked on improving efficiencies in the recruiting process. Times were tight and budgets were cut. ROI was more critical than ever. As a result, 2001 was the year for maximizing internal efficiency. Having just invested in an “end-to-end” candidate management system (CMS), Santa knew that that was the place to turn to find ways to improve ROI. His team of dedicated elves jumped in with full enthusiasm and turned the product inside out. They used every feature to its maximum benefit. For purposes of brief review some of the things they did in 2001 included:

  • Using the current candidate database more thoroughly and creatively
  • Perfecting their ability to write actionable and meaningful pre-screening questions
  • Determining if their budgets were being spend most effectively by focusing on quality of candidate by source, and not simply quantity
  • Figuring out where in the process candidates were being disqualified to help improve efficiencies in sourcing, screening, and interviewing
  • Analyzing each step of the process to determine any candidate processing inefficiencies
  • Profiling employee skills and career interests within the CMS to make sure they were capitalizing on internal skills prior to going to the outside

2002 Review Having successfully accomplished the above in 2001, exceeding his ROI goals, Santa thought that he was prepared to face anything in 2002. But just when he thought he had things under control, a whole new set of workforce issues cropped up. Most of Santa’s 2002 workforce issues centered on residual effects of the international economic and political climate. With increasing unemployment nationally, Santa’s Workshop’s resume database became enormous. It seems as though everyone wants to work for an organization that brings joy and happiness to others. While we think of Santa’s workshop as a multinational organization whose sole objective is to provide gifts to primarily Christian children of all ages, in actuality Santa’s Workshop has many business units. Each one focuses on ways to bring joy and happiness to people from all ethnicities and religions. For instance the “Shalom Yeladeem” division centers on bringing gifts to Jewish children at Hanukah time. Santa is a stickler for making sure that no religion’s cultural or religious norms are being violated. As such, Santa employs an extremely diverse workforce that is multinational and multicultural. Every year Santa hires hundreds of foreign workers. Normally, the immigration process is fairly simple. The INS has an entire department dedicated to processing Santa’s Workshop employees. Despite the dedicated resources, all the upheaval in the INS resulting from the aftermath and scrutiny from the September 11 crisis has caused the visa processing time to more than double. This delay created significant workforce issues for Santa’s Workshop. Outlined below is a summary of these challenges and how Santa worked through them. Challenge 1: Workforce Shortages in Critical Areas The delay in on boarding H1 visa employees created setbacks in the development and production of some important products. This was aggravated by the fact that Hanukah fell particularly early this year, in close timing with celebrations associated with the end of Ramadan. Santa was in a real bind. Many of the dreidels were still in production. The software games written in Hebrew and Arabic were not complete. Solution: Fortunately the work Santa’s recruiting team did in 2001 really helped with the 2002 crisis. By utilizing the employee profiles in the CMS database, Santa was able to shift a few employees between business units and departments to assist in the areas with the worst shortages. He was then able to backfill some of these employees by searching the external candidate database for individuals that were willing to work on a temporary basis. The elves were able to complete the orders and the Hanukah and Eid-Al-Fitr (end of Ramadan) celebrations transpired with only a few minor glitches. But these glitches caused Santa’s second challenge. Challenge 2: Resume Overload With unemployment rates rising, every job posted to Santa’s Workshop website received an abnormally large number of responses. While the use of the pre-screening questions helped filter out the unqualified candidates, the number of qualified candidates was still so large that it was almost overwhelming for the recruiters to keep up. Santa needed a second filter. Solution: Traditionally, after a candidate is determined to be viable “on paper,” a recruiter would call them for a telephone interview and then invite them in for an in-person interview. But because the volume of qualified candidates was so great, Santa needed a secondary filter. After evaluating the internal employee pool to build a profile of the most successful Santa’s Workshop employees, Santa determined that the best employees were those who were creative problem-solvers, team players, and had the ability to work well under extreme last-minute time pressure. Santa then added an additional “online” screening tool that would help evaluate a candidate’s ability to perform in this type of environment. All candidates that achieved above a specific rating on the initial online pre-screen received an email inviting them back to participate in a second screen. While Santa recognized that two sets of screens would result in drop-off by some great candidates who are opposed to participating in so many online screens prior to verbal human interaction, he felt this was the best route to take. He remedied the situation somewhat by making sure that every experience a candidate had was positive and that they all received appropriate summaries of the assessment tools. He also made sure that every candidate that was invited in for an in-person interview had a terrific experience onsite. Each received a small gift basket of Santa’s workshop “trinkets” and a “thank you for visiting” note signed personally by Santa. The result was fantastic. By having more thorough information on the potential for candidates to succeed in the Santa’s Workshop environment, Santa’s Workshop recruiters’ and hiring managers’ time was used much more effectively. While this was intended to be a short-term solution, Santa has decided to keep the online assessment tool as a standard part of the candidate evaluation process. While it is too soon to tell, every indication is that this assessment may help further reduce the already low turnover. Summary Santa learned some valuable lessons in 2002.

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  1. Despite every best effort to have your internal recruiting processes running smoothly, uncontrollable external factors can present unexpected challenges.
  2. Recruiting setbacks can affect the entire supply chain, down to the last step in the distribution channel, resulting in significant unanticipated corporate expense.
  3. Challenges often include a silver lining. The solutions to the short-term problem often provide a means for long-term efficiencies that improve overall ROI and retention.

Have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season!

Karen Osofsky (karen.o@tiburongroup.com) is a co-founder of TiburonGroup.com, an e-recruiting consulting firm that provides outsourced recruiting solutions to rapidly growing companies and new ventures. The firm provides a broad range of recruiting consulting, sourcing, screening, and strategy development services to help companies manage the front-end recruiting process. Tiburon Group is a Certified AIRS Solutions Partner.

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