The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities. Stephen Covey
Prior to implementing Sprint Recruiting, I found it hard to balance what should be done with what needed to be done. Part of me was driven by my over-achiever mindset and wanted to prove I could do all things like a superman. The other part of me was driven by the value I placed on the relationships I had developed with my hiring managers. Both drove me to succeed but I did not have a clear way to chart my ultimate destination.
What I needed to learn was how to set priorities work in my recruiting process.
Why Priorities Work
Have you ever gone to the grocery store without a shopping list? Maybe it was just a quick run to the store for only four items and you thought, surely you could remember four items right?
How many times have you walked out of the store, gotten hom, only to relized the main reason you went to the store was to get the one item you forgot?
This is what happens when we don’t have priorities. Our brains are wired to rank lists in terms of priorities. Stop and think about it:
- 1st, 2nd & 3rd place
- Gold, Silver Bronze
- High, Medium, Low
Ranking allows the brain to quickly assess which tasks should be completed first. It provides structure to large sets of information and creates a virtual roadmap for items to be completed. Absent of a ranking system, our brains attempt to classify information into subsets for quicker processing. This process of prioritization taxes the brain and quickly causes fatigue and anxiety.
Imagine a job board with 25 positions, each with a different manager and each with a different required skillset. Each job is essentially its own unique search which will require a certain investment of time and administrative work.
Which job do you start on first?
The tendency is to go after the low hanging fruit. In the recruiting world, this is the job with the most applicants. It’ll be easier to sit and comb through a ton of resumes (most which will not qualify) than it would be to tackle the harder jobs requiring sourcing. Sound familiar?
Don’t beat yourself up, I’m guilty of doing the same. Sometimes we just need a quick win to get us going and prove to ourself we can get through the monumentous task of making all of our managers happy with the perfect candidates. Unfortunately, this is a lie and one too many recruiters keep believing.
As a recruiting manager, I had weekly conversations with executives who compalined how we were not filling their critical roles. I would go into theses meetings with with hire and sourcing reports showing how many jobs we filled to prove the managers’ accusations were wrong.
No matter how many meetings I went to with this information, the outcome was the same. We were not meeting the needs of our clients, despite how many jobs we had filled.
Enter Points and Gamification
As I began the creation journey for Sprint Recruiting, I tried several variations of gamifying the process: Red/Yellow/Green, High/Medium/Low, etc. None of these really quantified or gamified the process the way I needed. Each method only complicated an already chaotic process.
I read the book SCRUM by Jeff Sutherland and found my answer. The AGILE Framework breaks projects into stories. The focus is on the end user so the user story is developed to capture a description of a software or product feature. The process helps to create a simplified description of a requirement and can fit into Agile frameworks like Scrum and Kanban. The purpose of a user story is to write down how a project will deliver value back to the user. It is then the project team’s job to develop the feature to satisfy the requirements of the user story. Points are applied to each story or epic to indicate priority and to measure progress in each sprint.
There it was–let’s try using points.
Sprint Recruiting allows recruiters to force their clients to prioritize the work during the sprint using points. It’s simple to understand but often hard to implement. Essentially, over the two week sprint, you ask your clients to assign a point value to their open roles using a budget of points.
Let’s say you give your client 200 points for the sprint and they have 45 open roles. The prioritization forces clients to really pinpoint which roles are most important with their point value. I like to use the matrix below to help guide my clients in assessing the importance of their open roles and how to allocate their points.
Impact represents the importance to the business. How important is it that the role be filled during the sprint? The effort is the amount of time or focus required for the recruiter to fill the role. Using the matrix, a role that is hard to find (requiring high effort) and the highest impact to the client would need to be defined as mission critical for the sprint and be assigned 60% of the point value.
This process allows clients to have a say in how recruiters spend their limited time and focus during the sprint. The added benefit is the recruiters will have a prioritized list, based on client needs, at the beginning of the sprint.
How did our first attempt at gamification go?
Rather than seven to ten high priority jobs out of a batch of 25 jobs, we had a clearer ranking of what was critical to the business. Our business partner gave one job 25 points, another two 15 points and then spread the remaining points equally over the remaining roles. When we hung up the phone, the recruiter and I immediately began planning how we were going to get those two jobs filled to show the clients we were rock stars.
We almost became obsessed with the points. Our standups became centered around progress we had made on those high point roles. My one on ones were focused on the progress made during the week on the “high pointers” which gave us a standard agenda for this biweekly time together. We build dashboards to track how many points we gained by day during the sprint to chart our progress both individually and as a team. Finally, we found what worked.
Our clients liked it too. It was clearer for them to assign points against a budget. If you have 100 points and have 25 jobs, it might be easy for the client to simply assign four points to each job in the beginning. We had fortunately been through two iterations over roughly three months by the time we discovered the point system so it was an easier transition for our clients.
We did make a minor tweek to point allocation in the middle of our third iteration, instituting a rule that 60% of the points could be spread over no more than five roles. This was a tough sale at first but over time, the clients began to see how the prioritization and focus produced results.
The consistent progress we made in each sprint filling the jobs bought us more credibility and trust with our clients. It also allowed us to position ourselves less as order takers and more as consultants. During the biweekly allocation meetings, we would update the clients on progress made during the previous sprint while also identifying and addressing any obstacles experienced.
The points allowed us to have a common language. Our clients were business people, they’re used to numbers. We are recruiters and competitive by nature. Numbers worked. Metrics also helped us fine tune our recruiting processes and lingo.
If I had to pick one principle in Sprint Recruiting that both excites and confuses readers, it’s the point system. It’s the very essence of the maximizing efficiency in the process but I find recruiting leaders are often hesitant to force their clients to prioritize. Trust me, the benefits far outweigh the apprehension you may feel. Recruiters are competitive at our core, why not take advantage of it and increase your efficiencies, decrease your time to fill, and maximize your client value?
Points are an easy way to accomplish this goal and gamify the recruiting process. It’s a win for the candidates, clients and recruiters. If you are interested in learning more about this principle and how it works with the other three in sprint recruiting, be sure to check out my book by clicking the link below.
and Sprint Recruiting
Trent Cotton is a highly accomplished leader and strategist with extensive experience in organizational development, talent management, and business operations. With a strong background in HR leadership, he has a proven track record of designing and implementing innovative HR programs that drive employee engagement, retention, and business performance.
As an experienced executive, Trent has worked with some of the world’s leading companies, where he has led and supported HR initiatives across a broad range of functions, including talent acquisition, workforce planning, diversity and inclusion, performance management, and employee relations. He is also highly skilled in HR technology implementation, data analytics, and HR process improvement, helping organizations to optimize their HR operations and drive business results.
If you follow his blog http://www.sprintrecruiting.com or have read his book, Sprint Recruiting, you would experience his raw communication style, his ability to build and lead high-performing teams, and his strategic mindset. He is passionate about creating workplaces where employees can thrive and grow, and he is committed to helping organizations leverage the power of their people to achieve their business objectives.
In addition to his professional experience, Trent is actively involved in his community and has served on several boards and committees supporting education, workforce development, and diversity initiatives.
In his free time, Trent has written two books: “The 7 Deadly Sins of HR” and most recently, “Sprint Recruiting”. He will be releasing “The High Performing Recruiting Team” in the fall of 2023 and “FutHRist” in 2024.
He’s an active participant in the HR Industry and is asked to participate in roundtables or provide keynotes for many organizations. His blog Sprintrecruiting.com reaches thousands of readers and provides unique insights on a range of recruiting topics.