Tips to Improve Time to Fill

Workforce attrition is a concern of every organization, especially among customer service organizations where voluntary turnover frequently averages 30 percent or more annually and can sometimes exceed 100 percent, according to Saddletree Research in its 2011 End User Survey. Maintaining a pipeline of qualified candidates can be daunting.

Many of these positions require that the new hires successfully complete several weeks of training before they are put before a customer for the first time. Overall productivity, quality of service and customer satisfaction for the entire organization often suffer as a result. It is therefore critical to predict when new employees are needed and find ways to streamline the hiring process to keep this unproductive window to a minimum.

Implementing technology to reduce time to hire is one tactic many companies are using to help minimize the impact of voluntary turnover in their organizations. Here are some steps to get started.

Forecast the need before you need it. Many companies are accustomed to forecasting anticipated workload to schedule the right number of the right kind of employees to achieve the desired results. This practice is essentially the economic equation of balancing supply and demand. Too few employees scheduled means customers are left waiting and service suffers, but labor costs are minimized. Conversely, too many employees means that while customer service is excellent, it comes at the price of higher than necessary labor costs. Many organizations have been performing this balancing act with varying degrees of success for many years.

One common and relatively effective way to forecast attrition is to look to the past to plan for the future. By collecting and analyzing turnover data as far back in history as possible, attrition patterns will emerge that help identify future labor needs. This works better for positions that span many employees; executive and mid-level management positions would probably not benefit from this approach given the relatively small number of new employees who need to be hired on a regular basis. But positions with relatively large numbers of employees, especially those with lengthy training or ramp-up programs, would.

Factor time-to-fill and training lead times. Forecasting the hiring need is only half the battle. Working backward from the anticipated need date, one must factor in the usual time-to-fill interval, which can be lengthy for many positions, as well as the normal training interval. For instance, if the training interval is six weeks and the average time to fill is two weeks, positions need to be advertised and active recruiting started two months or more in advance of the anticipated need. Many organizations are unable to plan that far in advance, if at all, resulting in a “just-in-time” hiring approach by which new employees are recruited only when existing ones leave. This leaves a productivity and proficiency gap as these new employees struggle to come up to speed and often exacerbates the attrition situation.

Use hiring optimization strategies to make further improvements. Technology can be an effective tool to help streamline the recruiting process, reduce the recruiting lead time, and minimize the impact on the organization and its customers. Using an online virtual interviewing technology in place of the customary recruiter-led, early-stage telephone interview can reduce the recruiting interval from a couple of weeks to only a couple of days. Using virtual interviewing also has the benefit of reaching more potential candidates than can be interviewed using traditional methods.

Using these interview results to collect individual candidate capabilities and proficiencies can also shorten the training lead time. For example, while every new employee might need indoctrination regarding an organization’s culture, values, tools and so on, those applicants who demonstrate proficiency in selling skills might not need extensive sales training and can bypass that part of the training program. The results are better-qualified candidates, hired faster, who are productive in a shorter period of time.

Forecasting and technology can help the hiring strategy. Forecasting attrition helps the recruiting organization better serve its stakeholders by planning its hiring well in advance of the need and delivering skilled, well-qualified employees just when they are required. Organizations can build their bench strength and, over time, become adept at throttling their hiring up and down to meet anticipated needs. Coupled with technology to shorten the overall time-to-fill interval, this strategy means that companies can hire better candidates faster and preserve their valuable customer relationships.

Kevin Hegebarth is vice president of marketing and product management for HireIQ Solutions Inc. He can be reached at