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Performance is relative

One of the many hats I wear is as an educator. Recently, whilst presenting at a course for Queens IRC focused on strategic HR, we got on to the topic of measurement. The particular measure we were discussing was Time to Fill.

interview-tieTime to Fill is a commonly used metric when it comes to recruitment. It measures the number of days it takes from the date at which you open the hiring requisition to the date that the new employee accepts the contract. Many organizations believe that when a job is empty it is an opportunity wasted or leads to extra costs through increased overtime. It makes sense to track Time to Fill as it can tell you a lot about the effectiveness of your sourcing, selection and contracting process.

However it does not make sense to track Time to Fill in isolation. The conversation we got in to in the course was the fact that the HR group felt they only had limited control over whether or not they could reduce their Time to Fill. The leader of the group was worried that at times a reduction in the metric had nothing to do with their efforts and conversely an increase in the metric had nothing to do with their efforts. The risk for this individual was that her group’s performance was being judged using a number over which they had very limited influence. Success felt more like chance than effort.

The HR leader’s intuition was right. An analysis of a series of recruitment metrics indicates that Time to Fill is directly affected by Vacancy Rate. An increase in vacancies leads to an increase in the time it takes to fill these vacancies. Therefore it is possible for an organization to see its Time to Fill increase purely because there are more jobs out there to be filled. And not because their processes or practices are ineffective.

Again experience in HR and hiring lends itself to explaining this situation. First of all when there are more vacancies HR groups rarely add staff, so each individual has to handle a higher workload and so each part of the workload progresses more slowly. The second aspect is the behaviour of candidates who may start a process then drop out or delay their participation in order to keep their options open longer. All of this adds up to a longer Time to Fill, only part of which can be influenced by HR activities.

How do we resolve this dilemma? Time to Fill does tell us something important, yet we cannot be sure whether a change to this number is due to our own efforts or the effects of the overall job market.

The answer lies in the title of this piece. Performance is relative and so to use the Time to Fill metric you must set up to measure your performance relative to a benchmark or a comparator. Instead of looking at the specific changes to your own number, you look at the changes to your number relative to that of your comparison group. Instead of setting a target to maintain Time to Fill under 35 days, you set a target to maintain Time to Fill at 20 percent below the median for your comparison group. In this way you can track and prove that your performance is superior to your competitors and that this situation is down to the activity of your HR group.

Ian J. Cook
HR Metric Service

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Ian J Cook

Director, Product Management at Visier Analytics
Ian J. Cook MA, MBA, CHRP, continues to pursue a fascination for people and business. His quest to understand what it takes for organizations, and the people in them, to thrive has led to many fantastic career stages. Ian has been an entrepreneur, an operational manager and spent 10 years, consulting to some of the World’s leading companies. Read more
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