How to make better hiring decisions with OKRs.

May 30, 2017 - 10 minute read - Posted by

Photo Credit: Nitsawan | iStockPhoto

‘A-Player’s’, “Purple Squirrels”, “10x-ers”. Whatever you call them, the one thing we all agree on is that hiring the right people is critical to growing a successful company.

“When a company selects the right candidates they can expect 30% increase in profitability and 10% decrease in turnover.”

—Gallup (State of the American Manager Report 2016)

Great employees are what makes building extraordinary products and companies possible.

The challenge for most companies is finding them. According to Glassdoor’s 2015 Survey, 48 percent of hiring decision-makers say they don’t find enough qualified candidates for positions they are seeking to fill”.

Gallup paints an even scarier picture, saying: “companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time”.

Managers and companies can’t find candidates with all the desired skills for the job, and even in when they do, there aren’t enough of them.

But, there’s a twist. We’ve only been listening to the management side. When we listen to what employees say, it’s a little different.

85% of employees feel they don’t live up to their full potential at work as a result of skill underutilization.

Employees feel like they have more skills than are necessary, and are not given a chance to use them. There’s a huge disconnect in expectations. To put it another way, hiring managers are looking for a one-person orchestra to play a flute solo; and that makes staff miserable.

Before hiring, managers need to check their expectations. Here are three steps you can go through when crafting a job description to keep your expectations in check.

What projects does the team need to build or ship in the next 6 months?

Kickoff your hiring process by listing all the projects that the hire will work on from Day 1 and last less than 6 months.

Now step back and take a critical assessment of these projects. How long will these projects run? Is this hire just a band-aid solution that will work on ‘squeaky wheel projects’, the kind that makes a lot of noise but won’t be a problem after 6 months?

There are a time and place for band-aid solutions, but hiring a real person for a full-time role is rarely one. That’s what consultants and temporary projects are ideal for.

As a general rule of thumb, make sure the position you’re looking to fill has an ongoing role in the team beyond 6 months. By doing so, you’re recognizing hiring to be a long process that is only going to be worthwhile if there is a true need in the long run.

What does the department need in the following next 6-18 months?

Our view at 7Geese is that we hire people for the long-term. With any long-term employee relationship, we want employees to thrive and grow with the company. And we certainly don’t want any of our employees to be part of the 85% of employees feel they don’t live up to their full potential at work.

Before building a job description, we want to reconcile how a new hire will contribute to the long-term success of the company.

If you find yourself with immediate short-term projects but are getting very vague about what your next hire will work on 6 months down the line, these are clear warning signs a hire isn’t the right solution.

What you can do instead, is drawn from the short and long term needs assessments that have already been made previously for the hire. With these defined skills and requirements, you can look to match them with internal employees.

Discuss Department OKRs in your next 1-on-1 with reports.

With a need to bridge a skill gap in mind, conduct 1-on-1s with your direct reports. The benefits of filling a role with a current employee include better knowledge, judgment, and trust to make decisions internally. Not to mention there’s the added bonus of reducing time spent hiring and training a new hire.

As a leader or manager, it’s easy to see hiring employees as filling seats on the bus–to use the Jim Collins description. That’s to say, you have a need right now, and you find somebody to fill that need.

But what Jim Collins doesn’t talk about is how current employees can outgrow their seats. In fact, they might even be qualified to drive the bus.

Ok, the analogy is falling apart and, that’s my point. People and companies aren’t static, so you need to devise a way to keep setting transparent department goals, projects and needs so employees can recognize the gaps they’d love to fill and advance in their careers.

People aren’t just UX designers or back-end developers, they might have skills and interests slightly outside of the original job description. It’s important to take note of these because you may be able to fill pressing roles with your current team’s skills already!

Hiring takes 52 days. Why go through that if you can win twice by helping a colleague to advance; use their skills and explore their passions and save time.

Translate a ‘normal job’ ad into first quarter OKRs and first-year OKRs.

Research from the University of Cambridge tells us that new hires find more success in their roles when they’re given clear expectations.

When we’re listing job responsibilities we might include statements like “manage content marketing” in the advert. But statements like these don’t show candidates the expectations being set for the role.

Drafting OKRs for the role can really clear to candidates what defines success in the role and help narrow down the applicant pool.

For instance, when converting the previous statement “manage content marketing”  into an OKR, you might come up with something like the follows:

Objective: Manage content marketing

Key Result 1: Produce 3 blogs monthly averaging 1,000 reads

Key Result 2: Manage monthly webinars with external partners

As you can see, job responsibilities can be easily converted into objectives. You’ll want to spend time on this step because candidates who better understand what they need to achieve and how their success will be measured based on the minimum expectations are more likely to be a better fit for your team.

Nailing down expectations for the new role as you create the job advert takes any regular job advert to one that attracts candidates with the best potential to succeed. As a bonus, candidates can also talk you through an action plan of how they will meet these expectations rather than feel underutilized.

After all, “the average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30% of the individual’s first-year potential earnings”. (US Department of Labor and Statistics), so let’s get things right.

In summary.

You might not be able to trim the hiring process much shorter than the average 52 working days, but you sure can engage your team, give them the chance to live up to their potential by utilizing their hidden skills and hire an amazing candidate for the long-term–a candidate joins the team who knowing exactly what to expect.

Next Read: How one company runs without managers.


Also published on Medium.

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