In 1999, NASA lost a $125 million Mars orbiter after a 286-day journey to the red planet. Investigations into the mishap determined that the contractor’s engineering team and NASA’s operations team were using different units of metric. As a result, the spacecraft came in too low and too close to enter into Mars’ orbit.
Mishaps in talent selection and the broader domain of HR are rarely so spectacular. However, they do happen and most definitely impact the bottom line – and, in some cases, the employment of accountable leaders and project managers.
During my career in selection and assessment, I have worked with clients to help undo some of these HR challenges. One client, for example, had inadvertently hired two different consulting firms to develop a leadership competency model. Another client had partnered with a contractor to develop content that did not “fit” into its new performance management system. Yet another situation arose when a product champion left the company and no one on the team knew how to run and troubleshoot the HR system.
With proper planning and communication all of these challenges could have been anticipated and dealt with before and/or during project set-up and execution.
Assuming the right design and team is in place, a successful project requires the identification and engagement of key stakeholders. The first level of stakeholders involves the Steering Committee who meets periodically to discuss project progress, obstacles and issues, and to make key decisions. This Committee is typically led by the Executive Sponsor who actively champions the project and its short- and long-term benefits to participants, incumbents, managers, etc. as well as the broader company.
The Executive Committee is typically staffed with leaders from Human Resources, Legal, and Operations – and executives from any other function or department that is directly impacted by the initiative.
At the second level lies the Implementation Committee who is made up of stakeholders who can facilitate the project’s design and execution. In developing and implementing a new web-based talent selection program, for example, individuals from the following areas should be represented on the Implementation Committee:
1) HR Staffing
2) Job Experts
3) Information Technology/Systems
5) Customers (e.g., Hiring Managers)
6) Performance Management
7) Learning & Development
I have color-coded the groups above to emphasize who is most (green) to least (red) likely to be invited to participate on this project’s Implementation Committee. The first two on the list should be obvious: HR Staffing manages candidates in the selection program for the target job(s) and, as I wrote in my March and May blog posts, job experts are critical to identifying and validating the criteria and test components of a talent selection program.
Though Information Technology/Systems is frequently excluded from the Implementation Committee they are an essential team member: they provide access (e.g., for an outside contractor) or they host and maintain the new selection program (e.g., for a homegrown system). In both cases their insights and experience will facilitate project planning and completion.
In smaller companies Recruiting and HR Staffing may be the same personnel. In large organizations, however, they are frequently different groups and for this reason I recommend that the former be included: they are upstream from the new talent selection program and therefore may have keen awareness and advice that impact the project (e.g., access of the candidate pool to the web-based system).
In a recent article (see pp. 15-26), my fellow authors and I discuss the importance of including Customers in project design and implementation. Such relationships create a feedback loop where both practical and innovative ideas can thrive.
Finally, and perhaps the least intuitively, the Implementation Team members for the new talent selection program should include individuals from Performance Management and Learning & Development. Their involvement is essential for two reasons: their input may prove useful from a design perspective (e.g., they may already have identified success criteria for the target jobs) as well as an implementation point of view (e.g., a new employee’s skill gaps may be closed through performance goals and training). [Note that in the fall I will be discussing how to connect selection with onboarding and development processes.]
Before signing off, I would like to leave you with one thought: Implicit in this discussion is the idea that stakeholders must be considered from a 360-degree perspective. Don’t limit yourself to internal stakeholders; also consider those that might be external to the company. To continue my previous example, an external stakeholder might be a software firm if the new selection system had to communicate with that firm’s applicant tracking system (ATS).
In next month’s blog, I will cover best practice characteristics in scoring. As always, I encourage you to leave your comments and questions in the text box below and to participate in a 3-minute anonymous survey – both of which will help drive discussion and inform subsequent blog posts.
To discuss your specific talent selection issues and challenges, please contact me at 203-817-7522.
In your experience, what are reasons for which performance management is not often part of the team designing the selection system? It seems only logical that IF a good performance management system is already in place that connects the mission of the organization to what is evaluated at an individual level, then those same things that are evaluated in incumbents could also be evaluated in selection, simplifying the process and reducing costs.
Good questions Will!
Based on my experience there are at least two reasons why this does not happen. First, companies frequently have separate performance mgt. and staffing teams which do not communicate. And, relatedly, performance mgt. and staffing systems are based on different metrics or different competencies.
To resolve this, there needs to be greater collaboration across teams – in terms of hand-offs (e.g., onboarding employee by transitioning him/her from staffing to training/development) as well as metrics (e.g., common measurement frameworks across HR systems).
Are the steps in this system interchangeable? If so, what will affect those changes, and if not why aren’t they.