Who’s Responsible for Quality of Hire?

Over the past few months I’ve been describing a new approach for determining quality of hire, and using changes in this to justify any new expenditures on an ROI basis. While the methodology is pretty slick, the pushback is coming not from the process, but from the idea that HR/recruiting is responsible for quality of hire at all.

If not HR/recruiting, then who?

Most HR/recruiting execs would suggest hiring managers themselves as the likely assignee. Others would contend that HR/recruiting is responsible for the quality of the candidates, but managers are responsible for the quality of hire. Others would suggest there are too many variables to assign it to anyone.

Further confusing the issue is determining when quality of hire should be measured. If you do it before the person starts, you’re measuring the sourcing and selection process. After the hire, you’re measuring the hiring manager’s management and leadership abilities as much as you are the candidate’s ability to perform the job needs. Compounding the time variable is the measurement standard. If you use a different measurement technique for before and after, then you’re left with a comparison between oranges and cell phones, or more likely, experience and qualifications vs. performance.

It’s because of these complex issues that I believe that HR/recruiting must take responsibility for quality of hire. If not HR/recruiting, then who?

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Here’s my rationale behind the nomination.

  1. Maximizing quality of hire is the most important strategic role HR/recruiting can play. Other than maximizing on-the-job performance and retention, there is no more important role for the HR/recruiting department. Not wanting responsibility for this seems odd to an old recruiter like me. All the executives I’ve placed thrive on this type of challenge. Why would HR/recruiting be reluctant to take on — even demand — this responsibility?
  2. The CFO is responsible for the capital acquisition process, so why shouldn’t HR/recruiting be responsible for the talent acquisition process? While the financial department doesn’t select, install, and run the capital equipment it approves, it still manages the approval process and strongly influences the ultimate decision. This parallels the role HR/recruiting should play in the talent acquisition process.
  3. Having responsibility means the process is adhered to, not the decision itself. Developing and monitoring the hiring/selection process is the role of HR/recruiting. This means developing and implementing processes that ensure that the best candidates are seen and hired. There should be an audit process as part of this to ensure that the best decision has been made, and that if it has not been, the process is modified.
  4. There is a huge tactical and strategic cost to making mistakes. HR/recruiting needs to deal with all the mistakes, including finding replacements and dealing with the legal and employee relations issues. The opportunity costs of bad hires alone provides the rationale for some type of vigorous and auditable selection process. Who else could possibly lead this type of cross-functional effort?
  5. If not HR/recruiting, then who? Hiring managers should police themselves on quality of hire. Some do it, most don’t, and even those that do, don’t do it well. Regardless, there should be one standardized process that works and is used company-wide. This is the primary reason why hiring managers can only be held responsible for the successful performance of the person hired, not the process used. If some managers want to use their own process, they need to be held 100% responsible for mistakes, including the costs associated with this. This is one way to convince them they should use the approved process.

Of course, if HR/recruiting is given the responsibility for maximizing and measuring quality of hire, there comes some programs that need to be implemented to pull it off. Here are some quick recommendations:

  1. Stop using job descriptions to source and select candidates. If you describe the work that needs to be done and assess candidates on this, before and after the hire, you’ll solve the dual measurement problem and reduce turnover dramatically. The primary reasons new hires underperform and/or leave is lack of understanding of real job needs and a poor fit with their hiring manager.
  2. Develop sourcing programs that target high-quality candidates, rather than eliminating the worst to see who’s left. This is not insignificant. It means you must stop asking knockout questions and stop posting boring ads. The only reason companies ask knockout questions is to eliminate weak candidates who apply. If you change the sourcing paradigm to target great candidates, rather than hoping great candidates fall through the cracks, you eliminate the “eliminate the weak candidates” problem at the strategic level.
  3. Use a performance-based talent scorecard and evidence-based assessment system to measure pre-hire quality. Competency models and behavioral interviews are too generic and do not measure a candidate’s ability and motivation to perform the actual tasks required for success. Instead, candidates should be evaluated across all real jobs, including their ability to work effectively with the hiring manager. Quantifiable evidence of consistent and comparable past performance needs to be the basis of the yes/no decision.

With this type of process in place, HR/recruiting’s role then becomes one of ensuring that the process for maximizing quality of hire is being followed — not making the hiring decision. This is comparable to the authority given, or taken, by the CFO, in ensuring that capital expenditures are justified in some reasonable fashion. Maximizing the quality of every single hiring decision is the primary strategic role of the HR/recruiting department. If HR/recruiting wants a seat at the strategic table it should demand this responsibility.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


17 Comments on “Who’s Responsible for Quality of Hire?

  1. Lou,
    I do agree with the majority of what you’re saying, that HR teams must be willing to take some serious accountability for the quality of talent they are bringing into the organization. However, the quality measurement ownership has to shift when the hiring manager takes over the management responsibility for the new hire. I have seen many instances where a recruitment team worked diligently to bring excellent talent into an organization, and the hires end up leaving because they have been mismanaged, treated poorly, feel disengaged, etc. Those circumstances can’t be tied back to the quality of hire-they are a factor of quality management or lack thereof.

    -Alison Citti, Blogger, http://www.theseamlessworkforce.com

  2. Great article, Lou. I am seeing good things lately in the measurement area related to quality of hire, as more companies are gathering and combining existing metrics and seeing where they have data gaps that will help them measure Q of H more effectively. The components of a good Q of H index: retention, performance, movement, time to productivity, manager satisfaction (the first 3 of which are more readily available). Looking at this by manager and by recruiter — that’s were the goods are.

    Nicholas Garbis, Sr. Consultant
    Infohrm – global leader in workforce planning, reporting, and analytics

  3. Great Article Lou! It doesn’t matter who is directly responsible for the quality of hire. What matters is for the HR/Recruiting professional to earn the Hiring Managers’ respect and to do that there must be quality candidates as well as a focus on retention. The best recruiters recognize that if we retain our top talent on a consistant basis then respect is earned and the organization succeeds. Top recruiters take responsibilty and hold themselves accountable for retaining the candidates they have sourced. They work with the Hiring Managers to develop training and retention strategies that work. I know I always did.

    Thanks again for a great article!


  4. Lou, excellent synopsis as usual.

    From my perspective, it takes a village to raise a Quality Hire. If you believe that the performance of the least influences the productivity of the whole (the ‘weakest link’ theory), then everyone has a stake in the outcome. Clearly some have more influence than others at various times: HR in terms of sourcing and process; hiring managers in selection and ongoing management; peers in terms of coaching and feedback, even the new hires themselves in the decision to engage and become/remain productive.

    Seen in this way, it only seems natural to me that (as you suggest) HR should not only own the process but also the metrics; and to further your comparison with behaviors of the CFO, HR should also own the communication of progress and gap analysis. Somebody has to drive that bus, and it is ludicrous to push the responsibility onto the shoulders of individual business units.

    Nicholas, in your description of the QoH components I’m curious to clarify what you mean by “movement.” Are you referring to mobility (promotion) in the organization? And over what period of time are you suggesting this be measured?

    There are tools in the market to measure HM satisfaction and peer feedback about perceived quality of hire in the critical first year (we offer one at Improved Experience), and to raise awareness of everyone who participates in the selection process of which behaviors actually do influence a better outcome. Isnt’ that, after all, the heart of this debate: whose behaviors must change to consistently raise the bar of talent excellence? And wouldn’t it be nice to get HR/Recruiting out of the finger-pointing game and into the role of Solution Provider?

    Claudia Faust
    Improved Experience

  5. Clarificaton: ‘movement’ meaning promotion or transfer….as each of these represents another point at which the organization is (in most cases) providing another review of the employee and, in essence, and endorsement of the employee as someone worth keeping around. Some exclusions would apply, such as demotions.

  6. I really like this topic and wish I coudl see more critical thinking focused on the Quality of Hire issue. I think you are spot on in that the time factor begins to change the conditions of the measurement. I cannot understand anyone not wanting, or as you say “demanding” this responsibility, but the organization one is in partly dictates how much “sphere of influence” you have here. If you are in a large org, and recruiting is a seperate function than HR, you have even less line of sight into the new hire once the hire is made. But, we are talking about quality of hire here, not quality of employee, right?

    In any case, I beleive the quality of hire is a metric that measures the quality of the organizations cabability as a collective system and cannot be put on any one person’s shoudlers – HMs or Recruiters. In fact, I see a huge difference in the Quality of Hire behaviors in companies that the HM and Recruiting team share the metric result. That is, the metric reflects on both, and they share the responsibility of working together, in a complex system, to create a common goal – a quality hire.

  7. Lou,
    Good article! At the company I work for we use the Studer Pillars for our strategic frame work so HR is definitely responsible for quality of hire since our major responsibility in the strategic frame work is the people pillar. We have implemented a new on boarding process as a result of our strategic framework and reduced our orientation to 1 day. We have also implemented a 30-60-90 day follow up on new hires. What we have found is that if an employee terms within 90 days then it is most likely a recruitment issue (job fit etc…);after ninety days based on exit interviews responsibility blurs. To help with this we are implementing a mentorship or buddy program but I have no data on that as of yet. While I believe early termination (up to 90 days) is recruitment’s responsibility, I also believe that afterwards quality of hire becomes more of a joint team effort between HR, the hiring manager, and the organization.

  8. I am a strong advocate in HR/Recruiting being involved in the Quality of Hires. It puts accountability on the recruiting function and validates that they play an intrinsic role in the talent management process. It also solidifies the value the company places in their talent acquisition function as a strategic partner. Ultimately, an organization that works together will involve every stake holder in this important decision making process.

    HR/Recruitment must be involved up to a certain point for example accountability for the first 90 days, on boarding process, training check points, follow-up and feedback on successes and or failures and evening partnering with new hire committees. To tie it all together, it’s imperative to integrate metrics to measure you’re ROI. Great recruiters believe in strategic workforce staffing solutions that support their partners build winning teams.

  9. Hey Lou,
    I second all the votes for HR/Recruiting needing to be accountable and proactive in quantifying the business impact for Quality of Hire and the leverage that human assets have around accomplishing executive strategies. That is what Dan Hilbert did so well at Valero, and is offering now through his Orca software.

    I notice that you join in raining on the parade of Job Descriptions. You have good company– Libby Sartain, Kevin Wheeler, John (Sullivan for sure and likely Sumser as well). I have accepted the task of leading a SHRM Work Group to define the ANSI standard for Job Descriptions. Am I nuts? I don’t think so. Industry analysts and thought leaders such as yourself seem to love piling on to resumes and job descriptions— yet they exist because they serve a not-yet-replaced function. Are they going to be replaced any time soon? Perhaps they can be made better. That is my hope at least. Why not require that job descriptions “describe the work that needs to be done”, along with observable key result measures? There are 50 people in the work group and I get one vote, so the outcome is far from clear. We are just starting. But the excitement for me is what job descriptions could become, much more than what they are. Reactions?

  10. IMHO, if the Hiring Manager can’t hire quality, on time, within budget, THEY’RE not a “Quality Hire”. We don’t “pull the trigger,” so can’t be held responsible for the results.
    I’d LOVE a scenario like this: Hiring Manager says, “Staffing forced me to hire an idiot. It’s not my fault!”

    Your thoughts….


  11. The primary point of this article is that just because HR/Recruiting isn’t responsible for actual hire, or what happens to the person after the hire, it can still be responsible for quality of hire from a process standpoint. I don’t want this point to get lost in the sea of these other great comments. Implementing a process that ensures the best person gets hired, is on-boarded properly and is managed properly is certainly the responsibility of HR/Recruiting. Metrics and a follow-up audit process need to be part of this QoH process responsibility, both to improve the process and to identify problems.

    Regarding Tom’s point about eliminating job description, it’s already being done, so don’t reinvent the wheel. See Chapter 2 of Hire With Your Head (http://budurl.com/hwyhamazon). It’s been validated for all hires and accepted by the top OFCCP lawyer as a means to eliminate bias and minimize legal exposure.

    We’re now developing the model for converting QoH into financial impact to justify any new process on an ROI basis.

  12. Thank you, Lou. I believe you brought to focus what I refer to as the differences between those of us who believe that Recruiting should be primarily goal-oriented and the process made as simple and straightforward as possible and others who are more process-oriented.

    While an efficient process is vital to Recruiting, it has been my experience that those who typically design the process rarely solicit the input of those responsible for carrying it out (at least the lower levels) and also rarely are responsible for the more tedious aspects of the process they have required. Again in IMHO, if an organization wants an effective hiring process, it will involve everyone involved in it from the Scheduling Coordinator on up to have a hand in its fashioning.

    Good criteria for designing processes could be:
    1) Do we need to perform this task, and if so, why?
    2) If we do, how much per hour is it worth?
    3) Is any given task the most valuable use of that task-performer’s time?
    This is consistent with the goal of Eliminating, Automating, or Outsourcing as much low-level, low value-add activity as possible.

  13. Great Article..I believe that recruiting is a partnership between the Hiring Manager/HR.We should understand the needs of the business and therefore work towards achieving this. In the end we are looking for the same thing, top talent and a right fit within the organization.

  14. Lou, I really liked this article because it really made me think. Here are some of my thoughts:

    In your rationale bullet #1 regarding HR and QOH and strategy, I really think of Recruiting as being project oriented and having to stay within scope, meaning not only achieving QOH but doing it within the business scope. This means a balancing act between quality, cost and time.

    Your #2 rationale also makes me ask, “Shouldn’t today’s org chart, read CFO=CPO, especially if HR is going to be responsible for Human Capital?” So many organizations seem to have an HR gap at the upper ranks, creating imbalance.

    Your #1 recommendation to stop using job descriptions, makes me think of the many times poor job descriptions meant a position not being filled or high turnover because of a poor QOH. Does that mean that we should ditch the almighty job description altogether? Perhaps it might be better to sit down with the hiring manager or workforce planning team and really listen to what they need and what the company needs strategically. As for totally dispelling of them, that might be difficult. Reinventing them might be better both legally (not just OFCCP but ADA) and for QOH and corporate wide compensation. I tried clicking on your link that you mention in your comment, Lou, but it wouldn’t take me there.

    I’m a big believer in your #2 recommendation and think recruiters should source on the positives,not the negatives. Regretfully, with this recessionary economy and an over abundance of resumes, some have fallen into what I call “lazy recruiting”.

  15. I did find a copy of your book on Amazon and agree that most job description do not really focus on needs. There is no “needs analysis”. It seems that when we hire a plumber or electrician, we know exactly what we need. “Come fix my leaking faucet.” “Come fix my light switch.” When it comes to more abstract services, we come up with “job descriptions.”

  16. Great discussion. A lot of great points. I’d like to underline Lou’s comment about the difference between process and results. In our new book, “Onboarding: How to Get Your New Employees Up to Speed in Half the Time” we argue that hiring managers must must must take responsibility for the success of their new employees. We further argue that they must get deeply involved in acquiring those employees.

    It’s often said that when something fails big, there’s enough blame to go around. When something succeeds, there’s enough credit to go around as well. The most effective hiring managers work closely with HR and with recruiting to do everything they can to make sure new employees are acquired, accommodated, assimilated and accelerated as well as possible.

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