March 23, 2004   view past issues

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Feature: How to Measure New Hire Quality

Staffing metrics are all the rage these days, and none generates more discussion and angst than measures of new hire quality. Just how good are the new employees acquired by the Staffing Team and how do you tell? What numbers or scales can be used to indicate-accurately and fairly-new hire capabilities and motivation and when should these measures be used to avoid their contamination by other factors present in the enterprise environment?

This debate is far from academic. Executives and managers are increasingly critical of what their workers can do and how well they can do it. For example, a 2003 survey of 200 CEOs, COOs, CFOs and CIOs found that only one-out-of-four of these executives was satisfied with the quality of their workforce. When a problem of such magnitude is uncovered in any other function of the enterprise, the typical reaction is an investment of priority, money, and management attention to ensure that it’s fixed and quickly. With an HR issue, however, the opposite reaction occurs. The normal carping about the overhead status of HR goes up, and the HR budget and headcount go down … often by a substantial amount.

As a consequence, hiring manager dissatisfaction with new hire quality often threatens the very viability of the staffing function, itself. We’re not talking about doing more with less here; we’re talking about the elimination of the function altogether. If you think that’s hyperbole, consider this: HR business process outsourcing (BPO)-that’s business jargon for getting rid of the HR Department-is now projected to be a $30-60 billion market by the end of the decade.

Listen closely and you can hear the little wheels in the CFO’s head turning: if the staffing function can’t get the results we need, let’s get rid of it and turn the job over to some group outside the company who promises to do it better and cheaper. They get away with that kind of reasoning because:

  • “It’s not their job to check the validity of the vendors’ claims;”
  • BPO is today’s management fad, and there are lots of articles about it in all those nifty management magazines that the CEO reads; and
  • The staffing function isn’t measuring new hire quality and thus is unable to prove that the hiring managers are (a) wrong in their assessment, (b) covering up their own inept leadership or (c) both.

    So, why aren’t we doing it … measuring new hire quality, that is? Part of the problem, of course, is that there is no generally accepted definition of what constitutes a “quality hire.” That makes measuring new hire quality just a tad difficult. Nevertheless, various metrics and methodologies have been proposed, including:

  • A person’s score on a work performance simulation,
  • Their successful completion of an assigned task within a specified period of time after hire,
  • Their performance appraisal, and
  • Their retention.
  • For a whole host of political, bureaucratic and cultural reasons, however, none of these approaches has gained widespread acceptance in the enterprise. As a consequence, the only method of measuring quality that seems to have any traction today is the IKIWISI technique favored by most hiring managers. You know how it works; when asked how they measure quality, they tell you, “I’ll know it when I see it.”

    This approach clearly has a number of downsides, not the least of which is in the “I” of the beholder. The fact of the matter is that the perception of new hire quality is (or should be) based on performance, and performance is profoundly affected by hiring managers. Their leadership skills and style-more than any other single factor-shape what a new employee does and how well they do it. Assessment and selection, orientation and on-boarding all play a role, certainly, but it is the direct supervisor who shapes what happens on-the-job. Their words and deeds determine whether an “A” level recruit delivers “A” or “C” level work and, indeed, whether that “A” level person will even bother to stay around. As the old truism acknowledges, “People join organizations and leave supervisors.”

    All of which brings us back to the original question: what should we do? How can we measure how “good” a new employee really is without tripping over the supervisor and their influence? Here’s my modest proposal: measure quality twice. That’s right, see the assessment of new hire quality as a process for which recruiters and hiring managers are jointly responsible. In essence, I’m proposing that they be-Tah Dah-strategic partners in the assessment of new hire quality.

    In step one of this process, recruiters bring the raw material of quality performance-that would be the recruit-into the enterprise based on specifications provided by the hiring manager. The measure of that quality, then, is the difference between what the candidate can do (as determined by interviews and other assessments) and what they should be able to do (as stated in the specification). This approach (rightly) underscores the importance of developing an accurate, performance-based position description and executing a detailed and focused assessment. In addition, it clearly centers the measurement of new hire quality on those things that recruiters do or influence significantly.

    In step two of the process, the hiring manager activates new hire quality on-the-job so as to achieve the performance objectives stated in the position description. The measure of quality here is the difference between what the new hire did (as determined by managerial and peer observations) and what they should be able to do (as stated in the position description). As in the first step, this approach centers the measurement of quality on those things that supervisors do or influence significantly. In essence, it underscores the importance of both developing an accurate, performance-based position description and providing clear and effective supervision.

    The value of this proposal-aside from its ability to ensure that new hire quality is accurately and fairly measured-is that it also reveals the true purpose of staffing metrics, in general, and measuring new hire quality, in particular. Despite what some believe, that purpose is not to give recruiters (or even hiring managers) a report card. It is not to find fault or to prove that some outcome has been achieved or not. Unlike financial measures, staffing metrics are not about audit, but about excellence. Their purpose is not to assign good or bad labels to actions taken, but to find the way to improve those actions continuously.

    Thanks for reading,


    This Issue’s Sponsor: Dice

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Dice.

    Give Dice a try with our FREE job posting offer!

    Dice is where you will find the best tech candidates available.

    But don’t just take our word for it …. Try Dice for yourself – at no risk. Click here today!

    The Free Job Posting offer is available to first time customers only, posting jobs by March 31, 2004.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Catalyst released the results of a 4-year study that found the glass ceiling in corporate America is as impenetrable as ever. The study placed companies in four bands based on the number of women in the organization and the company’s success in the marketplace. The good news is that the organizations in the top band-defined as those with the most women within three positions of the CEO-had a 35.1% higher return on equity and a 34% higher total shareholder return than those in the bottom band. The bad news is that the companies in the top band had women in just 20.3% of their positions, and it went downhill from there in the other three bands. Hence, getting your leadership ranks better aligned with the two-gender reality of the customer population in almost every industry is likely have a significant positive influence on bottom line performance. That goal should be a factor in your recruitment, your succession planning and in your developmental programs for current employees.

    HRsmart, Inc., a provider of Web-based talent management solutions, has acquired CareerBoard, a niche site specializing in recruitment for employers with openings in the state of Ohio.

    MetLife announced the results of a study regarding worker views of employer-provided benefits. It found that only one-out of-three (32%) employees was content with the benefits their employer was providing, down from the already dismal level of 42% just last year. What should these results tell us? First, we must survey our employees to make sure that our employer’s benefits are serving the employees’ needs and do so continuously because, in these days and times, our workforce is changing continuously. Second, we must not confuse the administration of benefits (which can be outsourced) with the selling of them (which cannot). I’m not talking about those slick little brochures that the vendor provides or even the “town meetings” they attend. I’m talking about a continuous campaign of messaging (to the employee and their spouse) that communicates the employer’s significant investment in benefits and how they can be helpful to each and every beneficiary. has acquired Military Advantage, the company that operates, a site serving veterans and their families.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. If you’re recruiting a new Project Director for your nonprofit’s urban renewal program, which of the following sites can’t serve your needs?

  • Community Career Center
  • 2. Spring break is breaking out all over and you need another travel agent to handle the business; which of the following sites would leave you feeling lost in cyberspace?

  • American Society of Travel Agents (
  • 3. Your employees travel a lot, so you want to offer a new benefit for your Northern Virginia-based company: pet watching. Which of the following sites is the cat’s meow … or the holy growl?

  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2004 Guides and Directories


    A WEDDLE’s 2004 User’s Choice Award Winner

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – All

    Distribution of jobs: International

    Fee to post a job: $101-200/posting

    Posting period: 30 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 60,000

    Source of resumes: Direct from candidates

    Top occupations among resumes: Management, Sales & Marketing, Research & Development

    Other services for employers: Auto notification of resume-job match, Banner advertising, Special area for HR professionals, Status reports: banners/job postings

    Answers to Site Insite:

    1., a site to help people quit smoking.

    2., a site that sells tickets to sports, concerts and other events.

    3. All of these sites can help you.

    This Issue’s Sponsor: Dice

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Dice.

    Give Dice a try with our FREE job posting offer!

    Dice is where you will find the best tech candidates available.

    But don’t just take our word for it …. Try Dice for yourself – at no risk. Click here today!

    The Free Job Posting offer is available to first time customers only, posting jobs by March 31, 2004.