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This is part two of the two part “Making a Case for Recruiting Metrics in UR” blog posts. You can read part I here.

All Metrics Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal

So if I’ve convinced you to come over from the “dark-side”, you’ll naturally want to know the metrics to consider utilizing. NACE’s Professional Standards for University Relations & Recruiting suggest a number of common metrics such as:

• Retention Rate • Promotion Rate • Performance Rate
• Applicant Interview Rate • Applicant-to-Hire Ratio • Interviews-per-Hire (Avg.)
• Interview-to-Hire Ratio • Interview Offer Rate • Offer-Accept Rate
• Progress-to-Goal Rate • Hire Rate • Intern Conversion Rate

However, utilizing metrics for the sake of metrics isn’t truly the goal! But it is the currency to establish credibility within your organization and leadership team.

Recall that the first part of the process was to create a strategic plan. Intrinsic to every strategic plan are strategic goals – and this is what should be measured. It’s the only way you’ll know how large or small the gap is between expected results and your actual results. To say it more simply, it’s how you’ll know you’ve arrived.

The process does not have to be complicated. A few years ago, I adopted a “secret formula” for creating metrics to align with my strategic goals. The formula looked like this:

  1. Set Strategic Goals = The What
  2. Define The Execution Strategy = The How
  3. Establish Measurable Metrics = The End Game

To make this easier to understand and visualize, let’s assume that as part of my strategic plan, I’ve identified a critical need to train interviewers before they visit campus, or ever interview…kind of important to help reduce future liabilities and such right?

This is what it might look like fully baked into my first year strategic plan:

  1. Strategic Goal (The What) = Increase the number of interviewers certified to conduct interviews from the current state of 20%.
  2. Execution Strategy (The How) = Sponsor monthly interviewer training sessions.
  3. Measurable Metric (The End Game) = Increase trained interviewers to 60% by year-end.

As the saying goes “Rome was not built in a day,” so it is likely that you’re not going to be able to solve every issue in your program overnight. But using this approach will help you crystalize issues that deserve focus, acquire support from leadership, and give you solid indicators to help drive momentum in the direction of agreed upon success. Brilliant!

Metrics – A Little Bit of This, And A Lot of That

At this point, I hope I’ve least convinced you to consider utilizing metrics as part of your SOP, and if you are already there, to ratchet it up a notch. But I’ll say it again; utilizing metrics for the sake of metrics isn’t truly the goal! I’ll use my building analogy to make my point.

As I float around the house attempting to check off what I am convinced is a self-replicating “honey do list”, I utilize an assortment of tools to accomplish various tasks that allow me to ultimately achieve my goals. Sometimes I use a really cool, noisy, and intimidating power tool that by design, requires testosterone to function (at least in my mind), whereas at other times, a hammer and nail is all that’s needed. Depending on the project, I’ll take time to check-in with my wife (aka the boss) to make sure “we” haven’t changed our mind, as well as give feedback to my kids (aka staff). Measurements (metrics) come into play to keep me aligned with my overall goal, but they are never the sole focus, rather serving as a constant feedback mechanism to adjust my approach and progress. In essence, they serve as a tool to separate the craftsman from the amateur.

So to bring it back to business, when employing metrics, you’ll need to consider the context your working in and what kinds of metrics you’ll want to call upon. Dr. John Sullivan, THE guru on the subject of HR metrics, has a great article entitled “Metrics for Assessing College-hire Effectiveness and ROI” from a few years back. Beyond providing great examples of metrics to consider, he makes the point that in addition to using metrics, you have to think about the audience you’re targeting which will either be internal (immediate staff/team) or external (hiring managers/ executive leadership). Sort of like an inside versus outside voice (those of you with kids get this) to adjust the message.

For internal teams, their need is to be apprised of progress on the team’s goals such as Offer/Decline %, Intern Conversion Rates, and Interview Invites/Campus Interview Ratios. He refers to these as Internal Program Effectiveness Metrics and they fall into a classification he refers to as tactical in their purpose. I call them my Vegas Metrics as in “What Happens in HR Stays In HR”, as they don’t need to be communicated outside of HR, i.e., no one outside of HR cares.

On the other hand, when reporting to external groups, especially C-Level, Dr. Sullivan refers to these metrics as Business Impact Metrics that include things such as Retention, Performance, Diversity, and Termination information rates. These types of metrics fall into a category he refers to as strategic in that they impact the business in areas they do or should care about.

Without a doubt, mastering the latter type of metrics is by far the most challenging type of communication because you have to move away from a “just the facts” approach to a role in which you are part storyteller and part futurist. A more simple way to express this is to understand that just because a metric is important to you, it will most likely NOT be important to someone outside of your group. Dr. Sullivan has a great slide deck from a past webinar that provides great examples bring this point home. Just how important are strategic metrics versus tactical? In his slide deck, Dr. Sullivan devotes about 1 slide to the tactical kind and close to 40 on the value of the strategic type. This last part – placing yourself into the shoes of the executives to appeal to their interests – and then creating compelling “stories” backed up by data – is what will get you taken seriously.

So here is the hard pill to swallow. UR is rarely taken seriously in organizations for a number of reasons. Sure there are exceptions, and in some cases, it’s value is directly proportional to how hot/cold the economy is at that time – great on the up swing…. But fundamentally, I believe the root cause is the near absence of ANY real use of metrics, and most importantly, metrics that the business cares about. So how do you know if your metrics are meaningful outside your team? That’s easy.

During my days as a recruiter, I used to really enjoy conducting mock interviews to help candidates prepare. My message to them was really quite simple – “Your only purpose in being here today is to tell me why you should be hired over anyone else.” The tool I gave them was equally quite simple and consisted of two words: So What? If their response could not address these two words – most likely it was not worth mentioning. Every time they started on their accomplishments, I would blurt out “So what?” Needless to say, this approach provided great clarity to the majority of participants and was almost as effective as shock therapy – but without the nasty side-effects – but I digress.

The point is this same principle applies to the use of metrics when addressing leadership. For every metric you provide, leadership is saying the same thing – So What? And you have to be answering this 100% of the time in anticipation of their questions. Notice I didn’t say to be prepared to answer. In other words, it is up to you to help them visualize how your actions contribute to the organization either making money or saving money. Simple isn’t it? Not really.

In actuality, adopting a metrics based approach to more effectively managing UR will hinge on three elements:

  1. Your Commitment – chances are that unless you are being told to ramp up metrics, you’ll have to come up to speed on your own. The good news is there is an abundance of information available and for the most part it is free.
  2. Discipline – taking time to think through what you want to accomplish and then continuously measuring & reporting on your success, especially if it will go outside your immediate group is extremely hard work – remember Mr. Ford’s quote. But it also requires a disciplined approach to measure, assess, evaluate, adjust and then repeat continuously for there to be meaningful longer-term benefits.
  3. Technology Support – prior to 2009, UR could get away with saying (legitimately in my opinion) that aside from spreadsheets, it had no real support from a technology systems perspective. And what was available was horribly configured for the uniqueness of UR. Warning!!! Shameless Plug: RECSOLU has changed all this with systems designed by UR professionals for UR professionals. With the introduction of mobile solutions, what was once incalculable is now calculated on the fly. And we are just getting started.

Final Thoughts:

Whether you are new to UR or a seasoned professional, adopting a metrics based approach is no longer optional if you want to see your career progress. To some extent, technology is making this easier as system after system comes on line with more insightful dashboards and ever more sophisticated reporting to alert practitioners to opportunities or threats to success. The downside is these metrics are often pre-configured to measure the things that may not be completely relevant to your overall success – again, you’re measuring against your strategic plan – not someone else’s idea of a plan.

Perhaps the most important piece of parting advice I can provide is something I heard back in the days when I went through a version of Deming’s Continuous Quality Improvement training while in UR. The facilitator, made it very clear the to be really successful in quality improvement, you had to view it as a journey rather than a destination.

I think the same applies to incorporating metrics into your career. At first, your focus will be just getting the basics into play and becoming comfortable with the discipline and appreciative of the resulting information. As you begin to see results, you’ll need to expand your scope of measurements along with the sophistication of the communications utilized to keep your peers and leadership apprised of your team’s success. Along the way, as old issues are put to rest, new opportunities for improvement will present themselves with a never-ending appetite for your time and resources. All of which leads back to careful planning and measuring to ensure you’re the destination is the intended one after all. Good luck!

About Steve Tiufekchiev

As Yello’s Chief Evangelist, Steve’s mission is to be the voice of recruitment change. With nearly 20 years of experience in talent acquisition, he evangelizes the benefits of using technology to power recruitment programs.

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