It is not often that I hear my business coaching clients use “hiring new employees” and “strategy” in the same sentence. In fact, before hiring me, beyond the typical tactical issues with employees, it was rare for human resources issues to be considered during strategic planning meetings. I recently met with one of my clients regarding challenges they encountered in recruiting sales personnel, and it became obvious that their tactical issues were really related to their strategic model for hiring employees. Worse even than their tactical issues was the fact that it was costing them a huge amount of money to hire new staff members.
Before discussing the strategic issues of my Miami coaching client and how we wrestled them to the table, I want to clarify what I mean by “the cost of hiring new employees”. Here are some costs you probably do not measure, and they are the big ones:
- The lower your hiring success, the more people you have to hire to get a full set of performers. For example, if you need to add 10 people, but your hiring success rate is only 25%, you will ultimately have hired 31 people before you have the 10 people that will perform at your required performance levels.
- Most companies are lowering their performance standards rather than raising their hiring standards. They get frustrated by their inability to recruit the right people and take whatever they find available. The lower performance requirements result in excess employees, lower customer service, more mistakes, lost opportunities, and lost customers.
- Leadership has to divert significant time to interview extra people, manage superfluous people, and address the performance-related issues of substandard employees. This brings far less value to the company than the leadership activities they would perform otherwise.
There is no separate income statement line item for the above, and in every company I have visited, when we start trying to quantify the above the numbers, the financial statement impact is huge. This is what I am referring to when I am concerned about the cost of hiring new employees.
As I was working with one of my customers in Miami, they were explaining to me that 2,000 candidates had applied for 10 open sales positions over a 6-month period, and they were very disappointed with their results. Very few were qualified. They had tried hiring a few, several of whom never showed up for the first day, and, of the ones that did show up, they were not pleased. They were looking at all the time that was passing and how much money the hiring process was costing them. They were losing money on sales that were not generated by having an open position, sales that were not generated by people that could not perform, and the cost of management time applied for recruiting. After reviewing their situation, we realized the situation was a strategy issue.
When developing a strategy, you need to consider the people decisions related to that strategy. In every company, there are several key positions that must be filled quickly in order to grow your business. In my client’s case the need was for additional salespeople. If your business model requires a unique individual (in other words, someone with a skill that is very unusual, hard to find, hard to attract, etc.) and you will need a lot of them to grow to the levels you want, you have a bad strategy. The solution to this is to change the model so that you will be able to staff your model.
My coaching client and I looked at the cost of hiring problem and realized that he was not considering all the factors in the recruitment process and addressing them wisely. In their case, they wanted people to work on a commission-only basis, be highly experienced in my client’s industry, and be a seasoned salesperson. It should not have been a big surprise that none of their ideal candidates were biting. The people that were biting required different internal support systems, and the company was not set up to help them be successful.
So here is how we attacked the problem. We broke down candidates into 3 groups: No Experience, Sales Experience/No Industry Experience, and Sales Experience with Significant Industry Experience. We then discussed the implications of risk, internal system support, ramp-up time required, compensation systems needed, and search strategy. What we learned from the process was that they had 4 different sales positions, two of which could not be successful without significant industry experience. Compensation needed to be very different for these people versus the others. We concluded that the client’s current internal systems and processes to support the strategy they had chosen were severely inadequate.
These revelations were critical. Failure to identify and address them would certainly have resulted in continued frustration. By addressing the disconnect between how they were approaching people decisions, their operations, and their strategy, my client was in a much better position for success. This was a clear case where the cost of hiring new employees was much greater than they realized.
Howard Shore is an executive coach and founder of Activate Group Inc., based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver business coaching to improve executive leadership development. To learn more about executive leadership coaching through AGI, please contact Howard at (305) 722-7213.