This role, crucial to the survival of the organization, which has been vacant for the last few weeks, needs to be filled with urgency. A shortlist of candidates is done following weeks of vacancy postings on selected job platforms likely to generate required results of good candidates.
Following an impressive interview session and other selection tests, the seemingly ‘best candidate’ is selected almost unanimously by the interview panel. Fast forward, three to six months after assuming the position, the new employee is struggling in the attainment of results and is perceived as a ‘non performer’. What accounts for this? Why does the best candidate at the interview fail to translate their impressive display of competence into performance sometimes?
This article seeks to identify the causes of such stressful situations and prescribe solutions to curb it, a challenge which HR practitioners, Line Managers, Senior Managers, Chief Executives and all professionals looking to a job change must avoid.
- Ineffective Selection Process & Mismatched Competency frameworks
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the average recruitment cost of filling a vacancy is £4,000, increasing to £6,125 when the associated labour turnover costs are included. For a senior manager role, these figures rise up to £10,000 and may well rise once the employment agreement ends and cost of rehiring is considered. The Corporate Advisory Board of Washington, D.C. posits that it cost between 50% to 175% of the positions’ annual salary for replacement. Costs here include:
- advertising and recruitment fees,
- time invested in recruitment and selection process,
- money and time spent on training the new hire,
- salaries paid to the ‘mis-hired’ employee,
- revenue lost by the company as a result of unachieved sales and related targets
Research conducted in 2012 by Bradford Smart pegs the cost of rehiring from four times annual salary for supervisors to fifteen times annual salary for senior managers and executives. Then of course there is other immeasurable cost which has far reaching effects on the organization such as;
- Reduction of morale and confidence of existing employees
- Increase in turnover and low productivity
- Frustration emanating from having to retrain, rebuild teams and a general feeling of helplessness to drive organizational initiatives
A non performing new hire is almost certainly a by-product of an ineffective recruitment and selection process. Critical to finding the ‘right employee’ is the vehicle of selection – the recruitment and selection process. Often employers choose the traditional interview as a means of assessment in choosing a new hire. Rather than employing the use of traditional interviews only, which is fraught with several limitations including its subjectivity of measurements, employers can use a range of measurement tools appropriate to time and resources available (CIPD, 2018). Other considerations to be made in respect of the recruitment and selection process include;
- Reliable Competency Framework across the organization– A ‘competency framework’ is a structure that defines each individual competency (such as problem-solving or people management) required by individuals working in an organization (CIPD, 2018). They provide the employee with an indication of the behaviours and actions that will be valued, recognized and rewarded in some cases. Competencies are therefore a key performance indicator from the organization and throws light to an individual of the expected areas and levels of performance (CIPD, 2018). It is essential that the competency framework adopted by the organization encompasses all critical areas relevant to the role. Often the emphasis is placed on technical competencies to the detriment of behavioral and managerial competencies as well as project management and report writing requirements in roles. This clearly poses a challenge as we take ‘ourselves’ with us to work – including our behavior, our areas of improvement and our strengths. A poorly developed competency framework which serves as the foundation for the recruitment and selection process will have negative outcomes for the selection process.
- Conduct an analysis of the role – Gather information from a variety of sources in respect of the role. This should not only include the duties but the purpose of the role, the deliverables of the role holder and how that role fits into the organization’s structure.
- Map out clearly the personality competencies or person specifications for the role taking note of the role challenges and the context within which the new hire will be working in, organizational culture and the practicality of the person specification developed. It is essential that you are very practical here. Do not outline an overly assertive individual when your organization’s culture is not particularly accommodative of that. The Personality Competencies are as equally as important as their technical counterparts.
- Use a range of measurement tools including structured & competency-based interviews, psychometric testing and assessment tests (situational judgment tests, presentations, task prioritization exercises, personal and functional role plays amongst others). Competency based interviews are the most popular and preferred method of selection in the UK according to the Resource & Talent Planning Survey of CIPD conducted in 2017. Note that tests must be relevant to the role and seek to measure specific criteria. There is no point in administering personality tests whose measurement variables have little or no culture importance to candidates. It is also essential that there is clarity on the weighting score to be assigned to the tests employed in the selection process. Finally tests selected must be regularly reviewed in accordance to contemporary trends and best practice.
- The Cultural misfit
Arguably one of the complex concepts in organizational management is organizational culture or corporate culture. Organizational culture encompasses the collective view of the organization’s set of values and beliefs which invariably affect how employees react to various situations (Kapur, 2016). Generally it is reflected in the organization’s internal workings, the way it conducts business, how the organization treats its people and customers, extent to which authority and decision making is distributed, the acceptance of personal expression and employee innovativeness, commitment of employees towards goals, how power and information flows through its hierarchy and the allowance of acceptance of interactions (Kapur, 2016, CIPD, 2014)
In the simplest words, organizational culture means ‘how we do things around here’. A weak organizational culture affects labour turnover, employee morale, breeds frustration amongst employees and to an extent reduces productivity. An outcome, simplified in the words of Patrick Whitesell, Co-CEO of WME (media & entertainment agency), ‘You can have all the right strategy in the world; if you don’t have the right culture, and you’re dead’. Or through the quote controversially attributed to renowned management consultant Peter Drucker ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’.
When a new hire is ineffective or inefficient given that all other resources have been made available to them, an area that should raise red flags is the ability of the new hire to imbibe and settle into the organizational culture. Thus a mismatch in the person-organization fit. A crucial but often overlooked item in the selection process. The following are points recommended to handling this situation;
- HR Managers must conduct an evaluation of their organizational culture and take steps to address challenges of such cultures
- The evaluation of the organizational culture must then take note of the elements likely to negatively influence the performance of the new hire’s integration. This evaluation as well as alternate suggestions to manage such situations must be shared with senior executives of the organization including the Chief Executive Officer.
- In cases where it is unlikely that such elements are likely to be addressed in the short term, the new hire must be briefed on this and given possible alternatives to manage such situations
- Job seekers need to carry out an evaluation of the organization’s culture and must be disarmingly honest with themselves in answering the question of whether to work with an organization or not. In Ghana and other parts of Africa, the challenge often is access to information on the ‘actual values and beliefs’ of the organization, not the aspirational values and beliefs sitting on the organization’s website or on pop up stands at the reception areas. Such information is easily reached with websites such as glassdoor, provided that the organization is registered on the website. That notwithstanding using social networks and speaking to employees of the organization gives a sense of employee engagement and ‘actual’ organizational culture.
- Organizations must also conduct person –organizational fit analysis and adopt a recruitment approach that considers cultural fit just as technical skills. The issue of inclusion of diversity in workforce is however a concern here, if everyone in the organization must be a cultural fit. The underlining point here is that the goal of the person-fit analysis is not to disqualify individuals with varying views in management approaches but to identify individuals that will be most suitable for various positions of the organization bearing the organizational culture in mind.
- Poorly designed Induction Programs
Induction programs address the training and socialization of new hires through to the understanding of the job function and getting up to speed by the new hire. It is premised on the principle of ensuring that employees integrate well into the organization. A poorly designed one could result in the new employee never understanding the organization nor his role in it, a situation likely to lead to ineffectiveness. The key is to ensure that the induction programme is not only limited to a day of completing forms; checking boxes and meet everyone else. The induction programme should be comprehensive and an on-going process covering a period up to the expiration of the probationary period of the employee. A period of up to six months is recommended. Induction programs should:
- Provide a positive first impression of the organization and enhance the employee’s experience without necessarily overwhelming the employee with an overload of information
- Cover engaging pre-employment communications that gives an over view of the information essential to the new hire on the reporting date
- Involve an on-going support system where a designated employee (from HR Department or a team member) checks on the integration of the new hire taking note of both cultural and work requirements
- Involve participation of the line managers and not only HR. This promotes a shared process and ensures that the line manager is well informed of challenges being encountered by the new hire for redress.
- Reflect the organizational values and culture rather than emphasize only compliance and administrative protocols.
This paper has identified ineffective recruitment and mismatched competency framework, non-aligned person-organizational fit and poorly designed induction progrmmes as causes of the new hire’s inability to meet performance requirements. Clearly the subject of recruitment is an evolving process and presents a challenge to all HR practitioners and business executives to identify more ingenious ways at finding the best candidate who would later develop to be one of the most engaged employees of the organization. Perhaps this is a challenge to all HR practitioners to slide out of their comfort zone. Understand the context in which they operate and commit to develop systems, processes and assessment centers in the recruitment process that seeks to find that suitable persons have been employed for every role in your organization. Equally research, design systems and processes aimed at supporting the integration of the new hire till they are settled in their role and performing to their utmost. After all that is our focus as practitioners!
The author, Naa Amaakai Laryea is an avid writer and CEO of HR Bureau Ghana, an HR Consulting firm in Accra, Ghana.
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By Naa Amaakai Laryea