Is HR in Denial?

I think HR is in denial.  Denial about what, you may ask? Denial about why new hires fail and why they are struggling to attract talent.

In our 2016 McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Report, we found that a third (34%) of HR professionals around the globe are finding it harder to fill openings now than they were one year ago. The survey responses gave us lots of really interesting insights into why that was, what companies were doing about it and, this year, what impact leadership was having on those efforts. The result that caught my attention, and the one I think our respondents may be in denial about, is why new hires fail.

Let’s break down the numbers and see if you agree with the story I think they’re telling.

In our survey (which you can download here) just 6% of HR professionals said the reason a new hire doesn’t work out is due to a personality conflict with their manager. The overwhelming majority (53%) puts the blame on the candidate and the fact that their personality wasn’t suited to the role. This is huge, because consider that lack of skills only came in at 20%.

So, in more than half the cases in which a new hire fails, it’s either the new hire’s fault or just a case of a bad cultural fit. We did have 62% of people say that finding cultural fit was hard.

But wait a minute, that feels a little too convenient to me. I’ve always heard that most people quit their boss not their job. In fact, a 2015 Gallup poll found that about 50% of adults surveyed left a job to get away from their manager.

So, are we in denial? Are we pointing the finger at the person no longer here to defend themselves, when we should be taking a hard look at the quality of our managers?

I think that’s part of it. I also think something else is going on. I think we’re underestimating the importance of a personality fit in that manager/employee relationship. As a result, I think we’re spending time and effort trying to solve the wrong problem.

The manager/employee relationship is the most important relationship an employee has and a lot of companies don’t really give it any thought. How can I say they don’t give it any thought? Well, here are two reasons.

Reason number one: we don’t support our managers. If you acknowledge that relationship is critical, then why are nearly 40% of companies providing no leadership training to new leaders? That’s what our survey respondents said. Managing people is hard. Coping with different personalities and figuring out how to effectively coach and manage them is really difficult.

These folks need support and tools to help them develop self-awareness, awareness of their staff’s personality, and how to adapt their style to each person. Without that support, they’ll fail and people will get frustrated and leave, either voluntarily or because their performance suffers.

Only 42% of those hiring managers have had any interview training. So, their ability to make the right hiring decision is also in question, but that leads me to my next reason.

Reason number two: we’re putting too much faith in a hiring manager’s decision. I think we’re relying on the fact that one or two interviews will allow everyone to get a sense of whether this relationship is going to work.

Look at what our survey tells us:

  • HR professionals believe that 72% of the hiring decision is based on the interview
  • Only 40 agree that their hiring managers are “excellent interviewers”

So, the interview is the most important part of the hiring process and 60% of our managers aren’t very good at it. And they’re not likely to get any better if only 42% of them are getting any interview training (another survey result).

But here’s the real head scratcher for me. The HR professionals in our survey are telling us the interview is critical to the hiring decision. They’re telling us their hiring managers are not that good at it. And yet, 63% told us their hiring managers have the skills to assess candidates.

This is where I pause for effect … I struggle with this one. I think we’re putting way too much faith in people without the proper training, possibly without the tools to support them, and then blaming the hire or a culture mismatch when things don’t work out.

I think we may be trying to solve the wrong problem. What if it’s not the candidate or a better way to find a cultural fit that we need to look at? What if it’s the hiring manager/employee relationship?

What if we gave those hiring managers support in the form of interview training, leadership development, and behavioral assessments to equip them to understand themselves, other people, and the impact of their actions?

Would that help that 34% finding it harder to find talent find it a bit easier? Would that increase your retention rates so you didn’t have to fill as many roles? Would that make finding A-level talent easier because word spread that your staff liked their bosses so much?

I think it might.

Author: Kristen Harcourt

Kristen Harcourt is a speaker, blogger and senior consultant with The McQuaig Institute She has 15 years of strategic sales, HR consulting, marketing and customer relations experience and enjoys working with companies who are invested in their people. She successfully helps her clients improve their bottom line through effective HR strategies. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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