Moneyball for the Talent Function

Mark Fogel Mark Fogel, Metrics, Old School, Talent Strategy

Turnover continues to be a problem, engagement at an almost all-time low (if you don’t believe me check with The Gallup Organization), and very little has been done to crack the code of effective recruitment measurement or tactics. Adding to all this, it is a buyers’ market for applicants again with unemployment down to 4.3% nationally this May. All the talent software companies out there take note of this post as many of you should be concerned.

It’s time for an overhaul in the space. For those who frequent this site you know I am a bit of an HR renaissance man, an old schooler who likes his Converse Chuck Taylors or Puma Clyde Frazier’s over any high-tech shoes on the market today….

Recruiters and Talent functions have more data than they know what to do with yet they have yet to crack the code on recruitment excellence. We know Google and a few others have been pushing the envelope for a few years, but mass appeal and adoption has yet to take hold.

For those who have not read or watched Moneyball (the book by Michael Lewis) the central premise is that the collective wisdom of baseball insiders (including players, managers, coaches, scouts, and the front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed. Statistics such as stolen basesruns batted in, and batting average, typically used to gauge players, are relics of a 19th-century view of the game and the statistics available at that time. The book argues that the Oakland A’s’ front office took advantage of more analytical gauges of player performance to field a team that could better compete against richer competitors in Major League Baseball (MLB).

Rigorous statistical analysis had demonstrated that on-base percentage and slugging percentage are better indicators of offensive success, and the A’s became convinced that these qualities were cheaper to obtain on the open market than more historically valued qualities such as speed and contact. These observations often flew in the face of conventional baseball wisdom and the beliefs of many baseball scouts and executives.

So, I ask, what if the Talent Industry’s collective wisdom is flawed? What if we are deluding ourselves with the belief that all those items we have used for years really don’t matter?

So here is a different playbook to ponder:

What if success was primarily based on passion, savvy, and tenacity. What if we could measure this and select on this?

What if we could develop measurements that isolated this?

One of my beliefs is that we are hung up with all the wrong outcomes, so as a result we back into them with all the wrong measurements. A self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

Time to fill and cost per hire both relate to financial metrics. In fact, most of the measurements used by Talent functions do.

But what if it wasn’t about time or money at all. What if these were not part of the equation, at least not at the onset. What would we focus on and, as a by-product, what would we measure?

Well let me throw out a couple of ideas. They’re not even new, in fact some have been talking about these for years.

Let’s first break down a few concepts most organizations have.We want the best, we want the most experienced, we want the highest GPAs and the folks from the best schools.  We want the one percenters.  Well what if none of those were real criteria for success? What if the world is not flat???

What if we just hired people we liked and that really liked us and our respective businesses. Would your organizations suffer if we hired them? How would we know? There is no Bio-Dome to test this for a couple of years. So how would we prove this theory?

We live in a knowledge economy. The manufacturing revolution is dead. Anyone can access information with a few key strokes of their computer. One might argue it is no longer what you know, but how quickly you can find it and use it.  Do you even really need a college degree to do most jobs?

Many organizations ignore measuring savviness and political I.Q. in interviews, yet we know that navigating organizations’ twist and turns is half of most folks’ jobs and a key to success. How do me measure real “EQ” in the interview process. Or can we?

So, let’s tear a few pages out of the Michael Lewis’s book.

Knowledge, skills and abilities are a given for any job today. They’re not requirements, they are the price of admission. Almost any job recruited for has tens if not hundreds of technically capable candidates.

What if EQ and affinity to fit in were really the only two main criteria?

Let’s look at Disney–they have been successful and profitable for the past 4 decades. Or maybe Southwest Airlines, another success story. They both have organizations with thousands of transactional positions. Fit is everything at both organizations. You don’t have to be in the top 10% out of Harvard or have worked for only a tier one firm.

You need to be pleasant, engaged, and buy into the mission…

I know some of you are saying it’s not for everyone. That’s ok, the point here isn’t if it’s right for you. It is that organizational and recruiting success may be about something totally different than what most organizations focus on and measure.

I’m not done on this subject but I hope I have HIT a nerve. I will be back to discuss this further. ‘Til then tell me what you think…