Sprint Recruiting during COVID19

In March of 2020, my team and I were preparing for a four day summit to celebrate the wins achieved through the Sprint Recruiting company-wide rollout while also planning for the remaining part of the year. Of course, COVID19 threw all of our in person plans out of the window but that did not keep us from evaluating the wins and obstacles of Sprint Recruiting. COVID19 also brought us a unique opportunity to stress test this new methodology in one of the weirdest economic phases most of us had ever dealt with.

What are we learning? Sprint Recruiting is even more important during the COVID crisis. We had some mindset setbacks both with our client and on our team but it helped us recenter around the four principles that drive the success of Sprint Recruiting. Here are the principles and what we learned during COVID.

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The Sprint drives Focus

Perhaps one of the biggest mindset shifts experienced by both new recruiters and clients is the understanding of reviewing positions in a sprint time frame. Our sprints are two weeks beginning on a Wednesday. Most of our clients were still early in the adoption process when COVID hit. While I thought this would be a setback for us, it proved to work in our favor.

Situations were changing so fast during the early months of COVID. Just as we decided on one course of action, state or local edicts changed our plan or required us to reallocate our focus to other parts of the company. The Sprint allowed us to move as quickly as the market and clients demanded. Before the pandemic, clients typically struggled with the narrow focus of the two week sprint but with all of the noise and confusion brought by COVID, the simplicity of the Sprint helped clients focus on what could be accomplished during a turbulent time.

Points Drive the Priority

The point system is a determining factor in Sprint Recruiting. As COVID19 bore down on the nation and affected the number of openings company’s had, we were able to work with the same methodology we had been using prior to the pandemic to maximize efforts.

In one of our business units, we partially opened to the public to serve their needs as our business is an essential industry. The point system helped provide further context and focus for our executives during our point allocation call. One of our executives informed his team the only positions to receive points were those deemed most critical to keep our offices open. What was most interesting to me was the internal pushback our clients gave each other during our calls. Rather than unrealistic expectations being placed on my team, I listened as the executive on the call directed and sometimes redirected his or her team to define priority.

The role of Talent Acquisition was to provide an update on the progress during last sprint and provide insight to the discussion. We were not responsible for determining or guessing which roles were most important. After 15 years in the industry playing the guessing game, it was a beautiful moment to see this process work in our favor.

WIPs Maintain Efficiency

Reminder: Work in Progress Limits (WIPs) in Sprint Recruiting are the maximum number of candidates you allow in each of your major swimlanes of the process.

The COVID Confusion (my term) brought even more noise to the recruiting process. Most of our workforce were mandated to work from home which caused a lot of adjustment for most of our hiring managers when it came to interviewing. The WIPs allowed us to keep our managers focused on keeping the process moving efficiently. We had pockets of candidates who were able to interview with multiple managers across lines of business where before, we were unable to work this kind of magic. Part of this was because of the COVID economy and the other was driven by the candidate market.

WIP limits kept our recruiters and managers working toward a common goal, in spite of the COVID confusion. We had a couple of instances where we were at our WIP limit early in the sprint and waiting on feedback from managers on how to keep the process moving. Our team decided to update our status list to include WIP LIMIT. This status is quickly seen by both me and the top executives in the line of business. This is a trigger for both of us to dig deeper into where the process is broken and work to fix it. We’ve been able to train our hiring managers to work within the confines of WIPs which leads to one area that proved to be a major obstacle for us.

Feedback Keeps the Process Going

The gas in the Sprint Recruiting engine is manager feedback. It helps us determine if our search strategy is on point or needs refining. Feedback opens space in our funnel to pull more qualified and vetted candidates into the process for managers to review. All of this starts and stops with timely manager feedback.

The COVID confusion and noise seemed to present the largest obstacle in this principle. Understandably, managers were pulled in different directions while also learning to manage a virtual workforce. The multiple and changing deadlines created havoc for our managers.

The agreement in our Sprint Recruiting Process is for feedback to be provided within 48 hours of presenting or interviewing candidates. As you can imagine, COVID-19 complicated this process. Some managers were quarantined without notifying the recruiting teams which created a strain on our candidate experience.

Our team regrouped with our clients two sprints into the crisis to address the feedback obstacle. In some units, we created interview panels who determined candidates’ job fit and made hiring decisions on behalf of the rest of the team. Other areas leveraged reports showing which managers were understaffed and unable to interview to allow recruiters to create alternative ways to get the feedback needed to continue the process.

The major lesson learned from our obstacles was the commitment both the recruiting team and the clients had to the Sprint Recruiting methodology. We knew it worked pre-COVID so when one of the pillars presented challenges, we worked in PARTNERSHIP with our client to keep the process moving. COVID-19 taught us how Sprint Recruiting was even more effective during a crisis. Sure, we had to make some slight adjustments, but the core methodology and success factors did not change.

It’s exciting to report that in most of our critical areas, our time to fill decreased as a result of less open jobs and more focus on those deemed most critical. As we reopened our retail units, we were able to realign resources to key areas with the most risk to our client experience and deliver quality candidates in shorter time periods. We tested new recruiting team models to determine if we could experience efficiencies while continuously focusing on how our clients defined success during our sprints.

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