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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Using technology for smarter recruitment
Article Type: HR at work From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 10, Issue 2
Short case studies and research papers that demonstrate best practice in HR
Counting the cost of recruitment
While hiring the right staff will never be an exact science, human capital management (HCM) technologies can help organizations to develop a more cost effective and successful recruitment strategy. According to a poll by online recruiter TalentPuzzle in January 2010 (TalentPuzzle.com, 2010), UK businesses spend £2.6 billion on external recruitment each year and yet over three-quarters (76 percent) of business owners and HR staff surveyed feel that they are not getting value for money. Recent research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC, 2010) also reveals that the cost of replacing a competent member of staff equates to approximately a year of that person’s salary, reflecting all costs associated with lost skills and productivity, cost of replacement and training of new recruits. Therefore recruitment is often a very costly process.
Invariably HR professionals spend significant amounts of time on recruitment, from drafting job advertisements and briefing recruitment agencies through to managing the interview stages and negotiating contracts. Even then, without an effective means of analyzing a candidate’s suitability for a role, many appointments are made based upon little more than a “gut feeling.” All too often, the significant time and effort invested into recruitment is not reflected in the results.
With the economic climate forcing many UK organizations to try to cut spending while maintaining similar levels of productivity (often with fewer people), recruitment costs and the suitability of new recruits will be under close scrutiny. With this in mind, perhaps it is time for HR professionals to re-examine their usual recruitment methods. The ongoing questions HR professionals should be asking are: Is there a better way? And how can technologies help to cut the costs and improve the effectiveness of recruitment?
Recruiting at Browne Jacobson
In 2007, these very questions were asked of Browne Jacobson’s recruitment strategy. It is one of the largest law firms in the Midlands, employing 500 staff with regional and national reach through offices in Nottingham, Birmingham and London. Recruiting the best talent to join Browne Jacobson is vitally important if the company is to remain a leader in its field.
A heavy reliance was being placed on using external agencies for recruiting staff. The firm was also running internal open days and assessment centers to determine the suitability of trainee solicitors to join the firm. These assessment centers test candidates’ specific competencies, such as their written and oral communication skills, procedural and legal knowledge and their ability to apply these skills in practical situations. The problem was that there was no way of accurately assessing the success of each of these recruitment methods.
Browne Jacobson used a basic software system to support its HR but due to its restrictive functionality and laborious reporting capabilities, recruitment processes were manually-intensive and the HR team was often recruiting “in the dark.” It was difficult to identify, monitor and report on key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine the suitability of one candidate over another from the assessment centers and open days. It was also very difficult to analyze which recruitment agencies were providing best value for money and, ultimately, the success of the trainee recruitment program, which is a huge investment for the firm.
Investing in smart recruitment technology
It was clear that Browne Jacobson needed to invest in a more intelligent HR system with greater automation and improved reporting functionality. After reviewing the marketplace, the firm selected an HCM system from Advanced Business Solutions (ABS). The project commenced in November 2007 and the implementation was completed on July 1, 2008 when the HCM system went fully live and the self-service functionality was rolled-out to employees. The project initially involved the HR team, including the senior level partner champions and Browne Jacobson’s IT technical team in addition to the ABS team. Partners, line managers and supervisors were subsequently consulted as the final access permissions were agreed.
The ABS HCM system is far more automated than the previous system and provides links between the HCM system and the posting of new positions directly onto the Browne Jacobson website, helping to streamline the recruitment process. The system has been customized to store and report on all aspects of the recruitment lifecycle. Tailored reports accurately break down recruitment spend and highlight how each new person was recruited, whether it was via an external agency, through an internal assessment center or due to an introduction from an existing member of staff.
The HCM system also provides instant information about the recruitment agencies used by the firm, highlighting their percentage commission charge along with the fees they were paid. It is easy to determine which agencies have historically provided the firm with the most successful candidates. This information helps with agency selection and is used to negotiate better rates going forward and in determining the preferred supplier list.
The scores of potential trainee solicitors who attend the firm’s assessment centers and open days are recorded in the HCM system and comprehensive reports are produced so that candidates’ scores and their overall suitability for the business can be quickly and easily determined. The HCM reports also reveal the success rate of the open days including the percentage of retained solicitors who were hired after attending one of the open days.
Reduced costs and improved efficiency
Browne Jacobson now has all types of recruitment intelligence at its fingertips enabling it to analyze the costs and success of its different recruitment methods and, ultimately, recruit as successfully and cost-effectively as possible. In the last financial year (2009-2010), new starter costs were reduced by over £200,000 as the average cost to recruit fell from £9,847 to £3,842, a decrease of 66 percent compared with the previous 12-month period. These savings have been achieved in spite of increasing the number of new starters from 73 in 2008-2009 to 90 in 2009-2010. Browne Jacobson’s retention rate in 2010 has also increased to 83 percent from 58 percent in 2009 and the firm has been awarded eight out of a possible nine rosettes in the Lex 100, a respected reference guide for students looking for training contracts.
The automation of previously manual recruitment processes including having real-time access to bespoke reports has saved significant amounts of time. The HR team now spends less time on administration and more time adding value to the business, such as by monitoring the success of its trainee recruitment program and improving absence management. Browne Jacobson is currently developing the HCM system to create a candidate database that will accept uploaded CVs from job seekers and its preferred agency suppliers. These CVs will be able to be uploaded via the firm’s web site, further cutting recruitment administration.
In addition, the move to more automated processes has cut paper use by 70 percent and document storage space has been freed-up. All HR documents, such as job descriptions, new starter paperwork and appraisals, are electronically imaged and linked to the relevant fields in the HCM system, supporting Browne Jacobson’s drive to become a paper-light organization. The HR team can now also instantly jump between all documents relating to a particular employee, further improving efficiency.
Evidence of the value of intelligent HCM technology
Browne Jacobson is evidence of how the implementation of intelligent HCM technology can enable firms to more successfully and cost-effectively execute recruitment strategies. At Browne Jacobson, better informed recruitment decisions are now possible, ensuring that the firm continues to attract, recruit and retain the very best and most suitable candidates so that it remains a leader in its field.
Dean Dickinson Managing Director at Advanced Business Solutions.
Kelly TattonHR Systems Adviser at law firm Browne Jacobson.
About the authors
Dean Dickinson is Managing Director of Advanced Business Solutions, formerly COA Solutions. He has been in the finance software business since 1990. He was part of the senior management team at QSP/Arelon prior to the acquisition by COA Solutions, at which time he became deputy MD for the business as a whole. Since the acquisition of COA Solutions by Advanced Computer Software Group in February 2010, Dickinson has become MD for Advanced Business Solutions. He is a specialist in consultancy and has a strong knowledge of business processes within a high volume/high value environment. Dean Dickinson can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelly Tatton joined Browne Jacobson in 2002 and is HR Systems Advisor. She is a senior member of the HR team and has played a key role in Browne Jacobson winning several industry awards. These include the Lawyer HR “Best Graduate Recruitment Campaign” in 2010 and 2008, Personnel Magazine’s Top 40 best places to work in HR 2008 and the MPF top 100 “best professional firms to work for” 2008, in addition to achieving the Lexcel quality standard in 2010. Tatton previously worked at Alliance & Leicester as a HR MI analyst and performance analyst. She is a chartered CIPD member and obtained an MSc in Strategic HRM for her dissertation on maximizing potential through HCM. Kelly Tatton can be contacted at: email@example.com
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) (2010), “Failure to retain competent employees costing UK businesses £42bn a year”, PWC news release, October 24, available at: www.ukmediacentre.pwc.com/News-Releases/Failure-to-retain-competent-employees-costing-UK-businesses-42bn-a-year-f27.aspx
TalentPuzzle.com (2010), “Beating the frustration: improving HR’s relationship with recruiters”, HR Zone, February 18, available at: http://press.talentpuzzle.com/2010/02/beating-frustration-improving-hrs.html