Posted by: Richard Colgan

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HR needs to ‘raise the bar’ on own recruitment

HR needs to raise its game on its own recruitment and stop being the “cobbler’s children” when it comes to bringing in the right talent, research has found today.

A survey of almost 500 HR practitioners by Oakleaf Partnership found that only 11 per cent were totally happy with the success of their HR hiring, while 55 per cent said it was ‘mostly successful’ and 34 per cent saying it was ‘mixed’ or worse. The majority (71 per cent) reported that some of their new hires leave within the first 12 months, with almost two in ten (17 per cent) identifying a significant attrition rate of 10-25 per cent leaving in the first year.

While 41 per cent nevertheless believed that recruitment for the function was better than elsewhere in the organisation, the remainder felt that it was either middling (38 per cent) or worse (21 per cent) suggesting that HR could be doing more to set an example for the rest of the business.

Poor cultural fit (74 per cent), lack of delivery (47 per cent), lack of commercial sense (45 per cent) and wrong skill fit (24 per cent) were the most commonly cited reasons for the failure of an HR hire.

“Our research clearly shows that there is a need, at an operational level, for improvements in the recruitment of HR professionals and at a strategic level, culture needs defining not just for today’s business environment but for the future journey,” said Richard Colgan, Oakleaf’s managing partner. “Raising the bar will enable the business to be more successful which will itself be a catalyst for and an enabler of HR change... an increased level of value-add and sophistication from suppliers is essential – many suppliers continue to measure success in the rear-view mirror.”

At a launch event for the research held at the British Bankers’ Association in London, Ralf Schneider, founder of 2B (Better Business) and until recently a senior HR leader at HSBC, said that identifying the culture of the organisation, and then finding somebody to fit that culture, was better than being obsessed by models and processes.

“Too often there is lack of clarity about what we want the HR function to be in terms of culture. There is a lot of talk about models, but you can make any model work if you have got the right people,” said Schneider. “In my experience we are often guilty of creating huge processes around selection, but then when we get the data back we either don’t use it or don’t use it in the right way.”

Tracey Hahn, former regional head of HR at Merrill Lynch, said that strong leadership in HR was crucial to address the issue. “If you’ve got inspirational HR leadership then you will have already done the work around what we stand for and where we’re going, so the ‘HR for HR’ recruitment person has something to work with,” she said. “We talk about raising the bar, but some organisations have not set the bar in the first place – if you don’t set out clearly what the expectations are then how can your team hope to deliver?”

Linda Kennedy, group HR director at Yell, said that was easier for an HR leader to set the tone on HR recruitment when they are new in a position and adopt a change management role, but it was much more difficult when the function is in a ‘steady state’ and a certain culture is ingrained. “If you’ve been in an organisation for a long time, the problem is that you don’t know what you don’t know,” she said.

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