Making Hiring Decisions Should Not Be This Hard, Part 1
It has always been the case that the process for deciding on external hires and even internal moves seems to take a lot of time, particularly for those on the receiving end of these decisions. However, several of our colleagues have recently lamented that the trend towards indecision has become a far more obvious problem over the past year as the retail industry has changed and turmoil has become the norm.
Is this “trend” so much more surprising or counterintuitive given that the need for more creative and strategic-minded talent has become even more essential to the health and growth of an organization. Add to that the fact that employment is at a higher rate than in years past and you have an even more substantive problem. We initially saw the trend towards slow hiring decision making during the 2008 recession; this made sense given the economic challenges and uncertainties of that period. In 2018, with robust employment and a strong economic environment as major business sectors have turned positive, we ask why is this trend still the case? What's holding organizations back from making timely decisions and hiring needed talent?
In our last article, we addressed the issue of impatience around giving new senior hires that “honeymoon” (i.e., onboarding) period which has been the focus in hiring over the last few years. This trend towards indecision in hiring and/or promoting seems contradictory to what we discussed last month, yet it seems to be an increasingly discussed reality. We offer some thoughts on this emerging reality.
Under the Guise of Being Thoughtful and Thorough
When asking senior executives about the factors that go into making hiring decisions, leaders often talk about the need to be thoughtful and thorough. What does this really mean? Is this just a mask for the fear of making a hiring mistake or something more telling? Some leaders are more risk averse; some are fundamentally insecure about hiring talent for any number of reasons; some overcompensate for their need to control their work environment and their need to build a specific type of team that reflects their own skills and values. Most leaders approach decision making consistently, whether on policies, strategies, operations or hiring. However, many leaders approach decision making around internal promotions differently, especially from external hiring decisions. One could argue that this is due to the fact that internal decisions are made in an environment where there's familiarity and comfort, whereas deciding upon an external hire is clouded in more ”unknowns.” Hiring an “unknown” or untested talent carries more risk and, hence, slows the process.
With the proliferation of information available today (Linkedin, Google, social media, etc.), shouldn’t the hiring process occur more quickly? We posit no because of an increasing sense of doubt. In actuality, it seems that the explosion of social media sources has exacerbated this sense of concern. This is not always conscious or apparent, but it's no less real. With a proliferation of information, the sense of concern around making a mistake has been exacerbated, whether consciously or not. What's true and what's opinion? There are few “standards” social media adheres to, so how does one assess what's true and what's opinion when researching or referencing a candidate?
Another factor at play is the increased pressure on being collaborative and inclusive. Collaboration and inclusion are positive factors to consider; however, has assessing these skills slowed the decision-making process as well? An effective leader gets input, listens to her/his team and respects different points of view, but ultimately makes a decision and acts. This is Effective Leadership 101. In today’s climate, this collaborative approach can be counterproductive as opinion giving is more an accepted part of the process (as more people are involved), especially if the leader is reluctant to take a clear and stated point of view.
The Role of Human Resources
Human Resources is most effective (and strategic) when leadership provides the tools and coaching to guide an organization towards a decision and making the connection between that decision and its impact on the achievement of business goals. HR leaders are responsible for ensuring that line leadership is equipped with the tools and skills to help them make the “right” hiring decisions.
HR, as part of the leadership function, also drives both the assessment and hiring process as well as the development processes (in conjunction with other leaders). Effective talent management must be the result of the focus and actions of a leadership team, not just the HR leader. Effective HR must be the “check” for both the strategic hiring and internal development processes. This means that when decisions are not made or are unrealistically delayed, HR (as process leader) has either not been successful in defining the need or aligning the action plan, and must identify the cause and help drive the process to a conclusion. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen for a variety of reasons. The HR leader lacks the organizational understanding or the partnership skills with other executive team members, or functional leaders know what they want but cannot verbalize it. Either way, there's a problem.
Related story: Retail Succession Planning: Now and Then