Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Recruitment in China is trending downward

Recruitment in China is trending downward, admittedly at a very slow rate, but it is still the number one issue for HR departments.

We all have our own understanding of what hiring is but it might be instructive to look at what hiring is not.

A. Firstly, hiring is not the responsibility of the HR department. This is a line manager’s problem, and only they can truly assess candidate fit with the job and the company. HR is basically the government. It is there as the standard bearer for candidate quality, and to ensure compliance with hiring policies. HR can add value in terms of understanding the psychology and motivation of both candidates and line managers so that a better outcome is ensured. The final decision lies with the line manager.

B. Hiring is not even a good fit with HR itself in many ways. Hiring is outwardly focused and subjective, which is exactly the opposite of most HR functions like payroll, org charts, succession planning etc. Hiring is more akin to marketing or branding and it cannot be fulfilled with a box-filling or bureaucratic approach. At the same time, hiring is not just about ill-defined issues, like quality and engagement. Hiring can and should be measured.

C. Hiring is not about waiting. It is an intense function that requires constant vigilance. Take your eye off the ball for more than a few days and you will lose momentum. Change companies on a regular basis and you will never be a good Recruiter.

D. It’s a candidate's market in China now so hiring cannot be about finding candidates at the lowest possible overhead cost. In this market you can be hiring efficient, and save your pennies, but only at the cost of hiring effectiveness. You can’t have both efficiency and effectiveness. Telling your GM how you have saved RMBXXXXX on headhunter fees and recruiter salaries will only fly if your hiring requisitions are being filled on-time, in time.

E. It’s not even about staff salaries. Hiring people does not become that much easier when you increase the salary. It is true that in the short-term you get ‘bums on seats’, but the kind of people you get are the ones that will resign in a very short time, and then you are back to square one. Seeking people with the right fit ie. those with 80% of what you want, will take longer but the net benefits are greater. The 20% that they don’t have will allow you to offer them coaching and training, and this will keep them engaged for longer period of time.

F. Hiring is not a gate keeping exercise. It needs to be inclusive, not exclusive. Candidate fit is not about filling your office with people who all fit your culture exactly. Monolithic cultures tend to die because there are problems out there in the environment that they are not capable of seeing. Diversity is not just a useful politically correct (PC) concept. It’s a survival mechanism.

G. Hiring is not solvable using job portals. These sites are an excellent start, and worth the money, but they are just the minimum cost of entry. They offer you a huge database of professionals to choose from, but this database has been worked to death already, by your competitors.

H. The hiring process itself is not an opportunity to tell potential new staff how fantastic your company truly is. Your company is fantastic, of course, but so is everyone else’s. On the internet they say that no one knows you are a dog, and in China no one knows you are the World’s-Premier-Manufacturer-Of-Novelty-Items. No candidate cares to hear this spiel because it means you are speaking to yourself, and not to their needs.

I. Hiring is not a jigsaw that the candidate has to figure out by himself. It needs clear Job Descriptions with a linkage to KPIs that will be assessed on a half yearly basis. The new China Labor Law ensures that this is now imperative.

J. The job of Recruiter is not a path to HR Manager, unless you have a special arrangement where you can do work in other areas, or your company offers job rotation. This is unlikely as hiring is such a demanding position right now. Despite what you may have heard, hiring is something you need to settle into for the long-term. If you love it, stay, because other HR jobs will probably not satisfy.

In the end, hiring is not a game you can lose. If you lose this game you lose everything. At the same time you can let candidates go if they are not the right fit.

Winning the wrong people is more costly in the long term than losing them.

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