Thursday, January 06, 2005

Redeployment - great hires on your doorstep

Why do we all miss some of the best solutions because they are staring us in the face?

I have yet to meet a company who is truly great at redeploying its people. Not just the ones on the 'talent list' but the whole workforce. Successful hiring is about getting the right person into the right job at the right time and many firms simply don't do this.

I have also to meet a firm who devotes as much money, resource or energy to redeploying its people as it spends on hiring new ones.

Why should this be so high on your agenda. Well a few things:

Redeployment saves money.

Do the sums, even count in time involved. Significant savings is another way of looking at it.

Redeployed staff are more productive

The time it takes for someone to become fully productive in a job is reduced if the person already knows the organisation. They have a network in place, know where to find information, know some of the history. These things take time. The ability to 'hit the ground running' if far greater if the individual only needs to learn the new job, not the organisation as well.

Redeployed staff are less likely to leave.

There is a simple relation between time spent in the firm and chance of leaving in most firms - the longer you are there the less likely you are of moving on. Results such as 35% of staff leave in their first year but only 2% of staff leave between their 15th and 16th year are common. Given that many surveys show the cost of replacement is somewhere in the region of 150% of salary then hiring staff who aren't likely to leave should be a high priority.

Redeploying staff helps staff feel that they are being developed

Challenge and staff development usually come very high to the most important factors of job demand. Development isn't just about a training course, it is about situational learning, new challenges. This sort or development is more productive for the firm and ultimately more firm-specific.

focusing on the internal labour market means you lose less to competitors

One of the most stupid HR policies, but one that I see over and over again is 'you must be in your role for X months before you can move on' or 'you must ask your manager's permission before applying'. Do your staff need to ask permission or be in a role X months before applying to a competitor?

Everyone has roles that don't pan out the way they expect (see those 35% leaving in first year figures). As a firm you need to accept this and make it as easy for your staff to move onto something where they are the right person.

How about targeting managers on how many of their staff move on within the firm?

What does this mean?

Well just posting an ad on your corporate intranet won't work. It will get the active seekers but hiring is about getting the best person, and that person might be passive. Have you built an internal CV database? Does the hiring team know what people want to do next? Be active. (You will need a good process here but it is possible).

You should be thinking of job publicity. How about your internal audit team having an open day (or evening) with an explanation of what internal audit is all about? Get them to meet the team, chat with people who have moved on to great things after a post in the department. Create some buzz.

Bring in technology. Build employment related stories and send them to interested parties. Create 'good news' which is targeted towards a future hire and let people subscribe to these channels. How about RSS for that? Do your colleagues really know what other departments do, where the opportunities are? Build interest communities.

Not only will this mean you redeploy people better, but they will start to refer people they know. Ask them if they know someone suitable and remind them of your referral programme.

So, what are the problems?

Well, first is to get over the traditional HR mentality and starting seeing it as a great opportunity. You need to communicate that you want to help them manage their careers (yes, take some of that responsibility back, just like you have done for that talent list already). There are decisions to be made, many will be highly political. You need good sponsorship for this.

Second, there is often a perception that your own staff aren't as good as external people (where are the stats to prove that all new hires are better than existing staff?). This happens because of what economists call 'Asymmetric Information'. The Economist describes this as:
When somebody knows more than somebody else. Such asymmetric information can make it difficult for the two people to do business together, which is why economists, especially those practicing GAME THEORY, are interested in it. ... This kind of asymmetry can distort people's incentives and result in significant inefficiencies.

In this case you know far more about your internal candidate than the external one. The external one presents only their best aspect so there is an impression that they are more talented. Better selection data can help reduce this, as can standardising the process for internal and external candidates. Either way, you need to know it exists and deal with it.

Getting deployment and the internal job market to work could be your most valuable contribution this year.