KPI – certainly the most used 3 letter acronym in recruitment. It seems that the whole industry is totally obsessed with them; and why not. KPIs are vital in any business, and especially in recruitment where activity is the cornerstone of success. The amount you bill is largely a result of the amount of activity, so tracking the key activities tells you a lot. KPIs make a lot of sense.
It’s odd then that I often find myself speaking with successful recruiters who moan about the heavily KPI driven culture they work in. In fact, it is one of the most common reasons for recruiters moving jobs. These are not rookies or poor performers who are about to get the heave-ho from their employer. They are good, experienced recruiters who are consistently high billers. They know what activity they need to do to make money, and they know if they don’t do it they will be out of a job. They don’t need to be micro-managed. Regardless, they are made to count the number of telephone calls they are making, and then put a little stick man in a little box to show they have done it. They are told they need to interview a certain number of candidates, and if they fall short they have to justify why . It is obvious from my conversations that this approach is largely de-motivating, patronising, time –consuming, irritating etc…
And I tend to agree . As a recruiter with over 10 years experience I embrace the concept of KPIs every day. What I don’t embrace are the KPI junkies – the managers who are totally fixated on KPIs, KPIs and more KPIs
One recruiter I met this week told me he is measured on twelve activity targets. I didn’t realise that there were twelve activities in recruitment, let alone twelve that could justifiably be called ‘key’! He said he spent more time focusing on achieving all these KPIs than focusing on the end result. So, he would end up just seeing people for a quick 20 minute interview or knocking out ten quick cold calls just to say he had done it. ( I wonder how many of the cold calls an HR Manager gets a day are from a recruiter just ticking a KPI box). Then there is the guy I spoke to who had his bonus stopped because although he had achieved his financial target, he hadn’t achieved some of the KPIs. Another just got fed up with having to justify everything he did after 15 years proven experience. “There is something a bit Big Brother that doesn’t feel right about a manager wanting to dissect every hour of your day” he said. And guess what – none of these recruiters I speak to ever say that their performance improved. Just that they are looking for a new job where there is more to life than KPIs.
It is not KPIs themselves that are the problem. It is the way KPIs are managed. Often, far too many KPIs are being tracked at anyone time. Greg Savage argues in a recent post that The Only Recruitment Metric That Matters is client interviews and I wouldn’t disagree with him. Often there is a one size fits all model which doesn’t take into account individual experience, market, strengths and weaknesses. An over reliance on KPIs leads to a quantity over quality approach that doesn’t serve anyone well. An activity sheet that needs to be filled with little ticks is childish – especially if all the same information is in your CRM and probably more accurate. It encourages micro-management, or management just for the sake of it. I suspect a lot of managers who push KPIs are not particularly good managers, and hide behind a KPI spread sheet trying to seem effective. In any case, the bottom line is that if someone doesn’t want to do the activity, they aren’t going to do it. It doesn’t matter how many KPIs you track and how closely you manage them.
Think of it another way. What would happen if you suddenly stopped measuring KPIs? Would your best performers suddenly stop billing ? Would everyone in the team just put their feet up for a few weeks and hope for the best? Would you arrive one day in the office to find anarchy and chaos had taken over?
Maybe it is time to reconsider how KPIs are managed in your organisation? Maybe your KPIs have become more irritating than indicating? Maybe it is time to say RIP to the obsession with KPIs ?