In this case study, a team strives to improve the recruiting process in a large, fast-moving consumer goods company. Part 1 focuses on reducing the recruiting cycle time. Part 2 focuses on decreasing the effort required to fill a job opening.
Rising attrition is a common problem across industries. Tight monthly, quarterly and annual objectives leave little room for error when it comes to having the required manpower being available consistently. Unwanted attrition results in two significant challenges for human resources (HR) teams. They must work to continuously:
- Decrease cycle time to fill a job opening.
- Decrease the effort required for a successful recruitment.
The case described here uses total quality management (TQM) to address these problems in a large, fast-moving consumer goods company in India. (Note: The details of the process have been condensed and modified for the sake of confidentiality and easy of storytelling.)
A two-day quality awareness program introduced the cross-functional project team members to TQM (including just-in-time [JIT], total quality control [TQC] and total employee involvement [TEI]). Fortnightly meetings then started to address the problem at hand through the seven steps of problem solving:
- Define the problem
- Research the causes
- Generate countermeasure ideas
- Test and modify the ideas
- Implement ideas
- Standardize procedures
- Compile quality improvement story
The case study is described in two parts: 1) decreasing cycle time and 2) decreasing effort.
Step 1: Define the Problem
Following the recommend practice of TQM, the project team began by defining the beginning and end of the process – in this case, the start and finish of the recruitment process. The possible starting and end points are shown in Table 1 below.
|Table 1: Possible Beginning and End Points in Recruitment Process|
|Employee resigns or there is otherwise an available position (1)||Make employment offer to successful candidate (3)|
|HR receives email for initiating recruitment (2)||Employee starts work (4)|
After discussion the group agreed to take up the process between HR’s receiving an email to initiate recruitment (Point 2) and an offer being mailed to a candidate (Point 3). It was concluded that the events between Points 1 and 2 and then between Points 3 and 4 were not within the control of the project team.
To measure the current state (problem = desired state – current state) of cycle time data, an overview of past recruitments was pulled.
|Average cycle time (A)||64 days|
|Standard deviation (σ)||52 days|
|A + 3σ||219 days|
The team members agreed (after heated discussion) that they would be happy with the result if they could reduce the current state of A + 3σ of 219 days to 45 days – an aggressive 80 percent reduction target.
Steps 2 and 3: Research the Causes/Generate Countermeasure Ideas
In JIT problems, the process of improvement typically involves the following three steps:
- Draw current state process map.
- Apply JIT principles to generate countermeasure ideas.
- Draw proposed process map including both value added and non-value added (NVA) activities.
The current process steps from HR’s receipt of the initial request to fill a position through to the offer letter being accepted are shown in Table 2.
|Table 2: Current Recruitment Process|
|1||Send resignation message to HR with request to initiate recruitment|
|2||HR manager directs hiring team to start the recruitment process|
|3||Log into employment website/contact recruiter|
|4||Identify/collect candidate resumes|
|7||Send shortlisted resumes to department manager|
|8||Agree to interview date|
|9||Call candidate for interview|
|11||Interviewers complete feedback form|
|12||Send feedback form to HR|
|13||Plan for interview 2|
|14||Schedule interview 2|
|16||Interviewers complete feedback form|
|17||Send feedback form to HR|
|18||Identify/collect resumes (batch 2)|
|21||Identify/collect resumes (batch 3)|
|25||Interviewers complete feedback form|
|26||Send feedback form to HR|
|28||Email HR regarding selected candidate|
|29||Send offer letter|
The key JIT countermeasure ideas to reduce cycle time are to:
- Reduce waiting time (typically 50 percent to 70 percent of cycle time) between finish of one activity and start of the next activity, and
- Eliminate NVA activities – activities that add time to the process but no value.
Step 4: Test and Modify the Ideas
The team first focused on reducing waiting time. In order to quantify the potential of reducing waiting time, a test was proposed: process one job opening with all members of the team being briefed to not let the activity wait at their desks and to record how much time it took to complete the relevant tasks. The results are detailed in Table 3 below.
|Table 3: Timing of Steps in Recruitment Process|
|Step Number||Activity||Time* (Minutes)|
|1||Send resignation message to HR with request to initiate recruitment||0|
|2||HR manager directs hiring team start the recruitment process||25|
|3||Log into employment website/contact recruiter||35|
|4||Identify/collect candidate resumes||4,320|
|7||Send shortlisted resumes to department manager||5,760|
|8||Agree to interview date||8,890|
|9||Call candidate for interview||30|
|11||Interviewers complete feedback form||330|
|12||Send feedback form to HR||0|
|13||Plan for interview 2||40|
|14||Schedule interview 2||2,880|
|16||Interviewers complete feedback form||120|
|17||Send feedback form to HR||0|
|18||Identify/collect resumes (batch 2)||1,440|
|21||Identify/collect resumes (batch 3)||8,640|
|25||Interviewers complete feedback form||0|
|26||Send feedback form to HR||0|
|28||Email HR re selected candidate||0|
|29||Send offer letter||0|
The team was greatly enthused with the result of 33 overall process days when compared to the past average of 64 days and A + 3σ of 210 days. The team believed that the targeted reduction of 50 percent was achievable.
Next the team turned to reducing NVA activities and rework. Looking at the activities in the existing process revealed that not finding enough suitable candidates was a recurring problem. The effectiveness and breadth of the initial candidate search was enhanced to avoid rework. This led to the elimination of seven out of the 29 steps in Table 3. The now 22-step process is shown in Table 4.
|Table 4: Revised Recruiting Process|
|Step Number||Activity||Process Time (Minutes)||Waiting Time (Minutes)|
|1||Send resignation message to HR with request to initiate recruitment||0|
|2||HR manager directs hiring team to start the recruitment process||25|
|3||Log into employment website/contact recruiter||0|
|4||Identify/collect candidate resumes||360|
|8||Send shortlisted resumes to department manager|
|9||Agree to interview date||0|
|10||Call candidate for interview||30|
|12||Interviewers complete feedback form||30|
|13||Send feedback form to HR||0|
|14||Call candidate for interview 2||5|
|15||Confirm interview date||15|
|17||Complete feedback form||10|
|18||Compensation offer determined||60|
|19||Compensation offer sent for approval||0|
|21||Send offer letter||30|
The group was asked to estimate a fair time for each step with no undue delays. The revised process includes some waiting time when it comes to directly interacting with candidates, whose availability is an uncontrolled variable. The total of all times added up to eight working days and a reduction of 75 percent in cycle time. The drop from 33 days (shown in Table 3) to eight days pleasantly surprised the group.
Testing this idea was achieved by treating one recruitment as a special case and ensuring the minimum waiting time through the process. Team members recorded how long each step took to complete.
The test recruitment took 18 days compared to 33 days originally. Two further recruitment test cases took six days each.
Step 5: Implement Ideas
The process was implemented for all future recruitments. The cycle time for each recruitment was plotted in a graph shown below. The reductions in cycle time achieved in 25 recruitments are shown here.
|Before (Days)||After (Days)||Percentage Improvement|
|Average (A)||63||8||More than 85%|
|A + 3σ||175||30||More than 80%|
Step 6: Standardize Procedures
The 22-step process shown in Table 4 was documented, and the staff were trained to adhere to the new recruitment process. Regular tracking of each recruitment was introduced to preempt slack from creeping back into the process. In addition, each recruitment’s cycle time was recorded and graphs were produced to monitor the results. Any delays were analyzed for root causes and addressed.
Step 7: Compile Quality Improvement Story
The quality improvement story was prepared and presented to the company’s management team.