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All the Training in the World Won’t Make Up for a Bad Hire

By Mark Busine

Mark Busine

If you had a dollar to invest in selection or development where would you put your money? While the likely response is ‘’it depends’’, research and experience, continues to strengthen the view that effective development is not a substitute for poor hiring decisions.

When it comes to talent, a thoughtful and comprehensive selection process is necessary to ensure you have the right people in the right jobs. All the training and development in the world won’t make up for a bad hiring decision. That’s not to say that training and development aren’t important. But it does acknowledge that there are critical elements to success that just can’t be trained.

Bad HireThis view was highlighted in the Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) 2012 research, Creating People Advantage 2012 that showed a strong link between the quality of an organisation’s recruitment processes and key business metrics such as revenue and profitability. Indeed the report which compares the practices of high-performing companies against those of lower-performing ones in 22 key people-management areas found that out of all the people management areas, effective recruitment practices have the greatest impact on business performance.

Taking a closer look at organisations and their current recruitment practices, there remains significant opportunity for improvement. DDI’s Selection Forecast identified a number of key findings and mistakes in current selection practices.

  • Where is the person we interviewed? When staffing directors were asked what the top reasons were for hiring mistakes, nearly one-third of responders blamed over-reliance on hiring manager evaluations and 21 percent blamed candidates overselling their own skills. An unpleasant surprise after a candidate becomes an employee is that the new hire just is not cut out for the job. The shame of it all is that information about candidates goes undiscovered in the selection process. Hiring managers need to go farther below the surface to really get to the truth about an employee’s fit for the job.
  • The research reported that only half (48 percent) of all organisations rated the hiring process as highly effective. This is a very painful ‘look in the mirror’ for hiring managers and the staffing directors they support, especially considering that organisations said that 14 percent of their new hires were failures in last 12 months.
  • I didn’t apply for this job! The research also revealed that only 51 percent of new hires are confident in their decision to accept a new job. Adding to this uncertainty is the failure of the hiring process to paint a realistic picture of the job, department and company. Not surprising, the research also found that organisations that do a better job of giving a candidates a realistic job preview, yielded hires that were more confident in their decision, highly engaged and less likely to get right back on the job boards.
  • Bad interviews do more harm. Interviews remain the hardest working selection tool to predict new-hire performance and resulting business impact, according to the research. The only catch—they have to be done correctly. Only one in three staffing directors said their hiring managers are skilled at conducting high quality interviews—probably due to the fact that the same number are satisfied with their interviewer-training program.

Other common mistakes include:

  • Hiring managers did not follow selection process
  • Insufficient information on candidate
  • Ignored information provided
  • Interview guides are not based on an identified set of competencies.

These common mistakes show recruitment practices are missing opportunities to get a clear picture of the candidate early in the process, confidence is low in making actual hiring decisions and new hire decisions are made as quick wins rather than fitting the person to a role in alignment where an organisation needs to be.

But selection is not just about external recruitment. It also covers those critical internal promotions and appointments such as frontline leader selection.

A DDI study, 'Be Better than Average', revealed the weary state of frontline leadership. Organisations were found lacking in the ability to effectively select, promote and develop their frontline leaders—unable to set them up for success in their newly found roles. While the challenges of a frontline leader are changing and growing more complex at a rapid rate, the weight of leadership remains heavy on frontline leaders shoulders.

The study found that over 80 percent of frontline leadership promotion decisions were based on a manager recommendation. While a recommendation can be useful in terms of providing on the job insight, too much emphasis on this one method can lead to poor decision making. Promotions based on recommendations tend to focus on past or current performance and technical skill. They often neglect to address or consider the skills required for success at the next level.

So what can you do to improve the quality of your selection and promotion decisions? Here are 4 steps to follow for your next hiring decision.

  1. Define Success. Be clear on the competencies, experience, knowledge and attributes that will contribute to success. Determine what is trainable and what is not trainable in that profile.
  2. Use the right tools. Match what you measure with the best and most efficient selection tools such as pre-employment test and behavioural interviewing. Focus on the things that are not trainable.
  3. Organise tools for efficiency. Which method will give you the best candidate for the lowest cost. Integrate a good screening process to save you time in the interviewing stage.
  4. Use analytics. Measure the impact of your system and help you predict future performance.

Jim Collins, the author of Built to Last and Good to Great once wrote, “The old adage people are your most important asset is wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are”. While organisations should continue to balance their investment in selection and development, organisations that ensure their recruitment and hiring practices are robust, focused and effective will go a long way to ensuring they have the best talent on board and in turn delivering the best return on their talent investment.

This blog originally appeared on LinkedIn on April 28, 2015: All the Training in the World Won’t Make Up for a Bad Hire

Mark Busine is managing director for DDI Australia.

Posted: 29 May, 2015,
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