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KPIs with my FMCGs

By July 23, 2010One Comment

This week’s blog is kindly sponsored by Bonnie Scarlett Rice who was born on Wednesday evening and who is also the reason why I am only now starting to resurface back into the blogosphere, and the real, world again.

I must admit it’s been quite a full on week and hard to keep my mind fully focused on the world of recruitment.  I did have an interesting encounter down the local supermarket yesterday, though, that made me think about all those “Key Performance Indicators” we are always banging on about in recruitment.

It seems to be a widely universal belief that “KPI’s” (ok I’m going to stop with the inverted commas all the time now) are a necessary evil in recruitment.  I personally entered the world of  recruitment from a heavily sales-orientated company headquartered in the USA so KPIs (see) were nothing new to me.  In fact I was probably unable to function in any professional capacity without them.  So when I was presented with a weekly breakdown of my personal stats, ranging from BD calls, candidate calls, interviews, CV send outs and client visits, up to actual temp margins and perm fees, I was delighted.  In fact it fired up the competitive spirit in me and made me want to beat the averages and top the tables in as many categories as I could.

I am also aware they are not everyone’s cup of tea.  In fact I would say that nearly every recruiter I interview says they don’t like to be managed to strict KPIs and would rather have the autonomy and flexibility to run their desk as they please.  I suppose it boils down to how strict are the KPIs and how closely are you managed to them?

So it was with a certain amount of wry amusement that I arrived at the local supermarket check-out on Thursday to find the lovely Rose sitting waiting for me, reading through a sheet of paper with a resigned look on her face.  Rose is the kind of checkout operator that restores your faith in people.  She greets everyone with genuine warmth and makes every transaction and conversation feel personal.  If I could have her bleeping my FMCGs through the till each week I would (expect usually I’m working and not staggering about bleery eyed after just becoming a Dad again).

What Rose had been presented with was her weekly KPIs (or “report-thingy” as she referred to it – which I felt was just as useful a reference as KPIs).  The report measured her on factors such as speed of transactions, number of customers, accuracy of till balancing all the way down to the number of delete keys she hit on each shift.  I could tell from Rose’s face that things weren’t good.  Interestingly enough, I could also tell that she cared.  She gave the impression that she didn’t and that all this new-fangled reporting was a waste of time, but it was clear that underneath it all she really did mind how her KPIs stacked up with the others.  I could tell because, for the first ten seconds of my time standing at her counter, she was engrossed in reading through the report, and this usually total-customer-focused person had had her usual care and attention diverted.

I think this was a shame.  Not just the fact that her performance was broken down into a computer generated management tool.  But that the report was casually handed to her – mid-shift – without a word or comment from the supervisor.  And also that the report gave absolutely no indication of her ability to generate warmth and loyalty in her customers.

There is a lesson to be learned there by recuritment companies.  You wouldn’t find Rose working in an agency in the first place, she’s not that type, but the same rules obviously apply.  Yes, KPIs are a necessary evil, particularly in the ultra competitive world of recruitment, but make sure they actually make sense, that they are relevant to the job you are actually doing, that they promote and encourage the right kind of behaviours (not forcing people into making time-wasting client calls for the sake of achieving a number).

But most of all deliver them with humanity and respect.  Whatever recruitment leaders might think of certain team members, if you manage people to KPIs, the chances are they do care deeply about those numbers, however they may appear on the surface.  So bring out the report in a one-on-one and talk it through with them.

It would be great for someone like Rose to receive a KPI as part of her “report-thingy” about the numbers of satisfied customers she deals with on a daily basis as she would beat her colleagues hands-down.  And I just know how that would make her feel.  But how could you measure that?

I’m keen to hear of any recruiters out there exploring some innovation with KPIs.  We have seen and experienced what does and doesn’t work, but who is trying something different and getting great results from it?

Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.

One Comment

  • The problem is rarely with the KPIs themselves. Any decent recruiter should welcome good KPIs as they assist them succeed quickly, not slowly (is it quicker to get somewhere with a map or get there through trial and error?).

    The problem is mostly through the management of KPIs by the recruiter’s upline report. Too often KPIs are used as a blunt instrument and hence why most recruiters hate KPIs (and with good reason).