Assessing Your Recruiting Function for Compliance and Best Practices

By Roy Maurer April 28, 2015

SAN DIEGO--There are many compelling reasons to assess your organization’s recruiting function, including for legal compliance, to ascertain best practices, and to align the function with the company’s overall strategic plan, attendees heard at the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM's) 2015 Talent Management Conference & Exposition.

“Doing an assessment will alert you to warning signs that things may be going awry,” said Lori Kleiman, SHRM-SCP, president of HR Topics. “Assessments can be used as a basis for continual improvement of your recruiting and other HR functions and to create high-performing organizations.”

Risks that can be uncovered in an assessment include whether hiring managers are up-to-date on changes to employment laws, whether the organization’s recruiting processes are being adhered to, and how new technology tools are being used--or if they're not.

“We’ve got a lot of people out there just writing employment ads, and before we know it, we’ve got things getting us in a lot of trouble,” Kleiman said.

According to Kleiman, some of those trouble spots include not understanding at-will employment; issues around employee classification; misunderstanding federal, state and local anti-discrimination laws, ban-the-box laws, and credit check restrictions; negligent hiring issues; and not providing Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility when interviewing candidates.

Areas of risk specific to recruiters and hiring managers include job descriptions, employment ads, interview questions, offer letters, I-9 audits and background checks.

Job descriptions can become stale and inaccurate and should be reviewed to make sure they are relevant, Kleiman said. “In any kind of legal action, the first thing you’ll have to show are your job descriptions.” If you have bad job descriptions, it’s better not to have any descriptions at all, she said.

Kleiman encouraged the attendees to look at public job sites and type in their company name. “Look for ads for jobs that you haven’t posted. Somebody in your shipping department decided they needed someone and posted an ad.” This is especially important for organizations that share their job site accounts with multiple members of their management team. “Make sure that job ads describe the position properly and make sure that the sources being used will gain you a diverse candidate pool,” Kleiman said.

Offer letters can be potential minefields. Never talk about specific benefits in offer letters, she said. This is because the specifics of benefits change over time. Other things to audit are what types of interview questions are being used, whether background checks are being conducted, and whether I-9s are being retained properly.

An Assessment in 7 Steps

Kleiman gave the following seven steps to complete an effective assessment of your recruiting function. She reminded attendees that the process of the assessment itself is not the end result. “It’s just going through a checklist,” she said. What’s critical is how you ultimately present the results to your leadership team and what actions you take afterwards.

Purpose. Define the reason you are undertaking the assessment. For many companies, it’ll be compliance, Kleiman said. But there can be other reasons, including the desire to gather valuable data on employee retention, hiring sources, promotions, compensation metrics and statistical breakdowns by manager and department. “I would suggest that if you engage the right people, you will be able to have an educational component to this, to help others in your organization understand the recruiting function.” Once you have clearly defined the vision, goals and deliverables of the assessment with relevant stakeholders, you can move onto the next steps.

Scope. A full-scale assessment can be a daunting task. Consider how much you can really take on, Kleiman suggested. Small HR departments especially will be challenged to conduct a full-scale assessment. You must also consider your real influence and credibility, she said. Know which areas you can really affect change in. “Think about where you are today, not where you want to be years from now in terms of influence.”

Process. Be very deliberate in outlining the procedure for the assessment in advance, Kleiman recommended. Use the assessment process as a way to elevate HR’s role at the organization, she said. You will want to alert members of the leadership team that you will be evaluating processes; be sure that they understand what you’re trying to accomplish.

Data collection. Collecting the data can be the most time-consuming part of the assessment. “Don’t get stuck in minutia,” Kleiman said. “You can get more data than you have the time to go through,” she said. Consider what types of internal documents you want to review, and decide on what types of benchmarking resources you wish to use. Where the budget allows, consider external sources for benchmarking of critical data, she said.

Analysis. Being able to objectively review your findings is a critical piece of the assessment. Kleiman recommended using HR consultants, employment attorneys or your employment practices liability insurance provider. Think about metrics that really mean something to your organization, such as talent retention at 90 days and one year out, and what source of hire those employees came from, she said. “Look at a metric of the number of people who applied for an ad versus how many you called in for an interview. That’s a metric that’s an efficient use of your time,” she said.

Action plans. The results presented to the leadership team should be at a very high level. Kleiman advised using a cost/impact graph. “You can say to executives, ‘Here is what I found out through the assessment process and here’s what I need to focus on for the next 12 to 14 months.’ ”

Action plans should be “detailed, appropriate for the organization and identify the resources you need using SMART deadlines of expected completion.”

Evaluate. After the process is over, it's important to review the successes and failures of the assessment. “Don’t just put it on a shelf and forget about it.” Think about what you need to do three months, six months, one year after the assessment, she said. Kleiman recommended conducting a new assessment every three to five years.

Take Caution

Kleiman cautioned attendees to be aware of the legal ramifications of conducting assessments or audits. “You have got to be careful anytime you do an assessment or audit, that you watch what you put in writing. You have to realize that you will uncover things that may be discoverable in a lawsuit,” she said. A tactic to minimize liability would be to review the results of the assessment with your attorney. “Now those findings become attorney-client privilege,” she said.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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