December can make normally stable people insane with holiday shopping, family get-togethers, vacations and end-of-year business commitments. Add a flurry of hiring activity–due to anxiety over use-it-or-lose-it headcount policies–and you’re sure to want to step in front of a snowplow.
IT leaders say the problem is that the end-of-year rush leads to poor hiring decisions.
Rusty Patel, former CIO of VWR International, a $4 billion global laboratory supplier, shied away from the use-it-or-lose-it practice. “We certainly vacillated from time to time, as most companies do, regarding the affordability of the hire within a given time frame, such as a quarter. But once we decided we wanted to make the investment in new talent, we moved forward deliberately.”
Patel says “deliberately,” I say “quickly.” If you want a competitive advantage in the talent wars, speed matters. Organizations that are game to hire need to get in the game. Talent is in demand and hiring managers who overanalyze are missing out. Even a company as large as VWR was able to select some director-level hires within a month and technical contributors in a matter of weeks.
The Cost of a Bad Hire
But Patel also warns against moving too quickly in reaction to a use-it-or-lose-it policy. “If my organization went through the process to justify the need for a hire and then didn’t make sufficient progress with the search, we had a conversation about priorities. But that’s quite different from filling a slot opportunistically, perhaps blindly, that may or may not disappear at some point in the future.”
In other words, don’t let the December rush produce a bad hire. “The cost of bringing in the wrong talent to address a justified need can often be more dramatic than making do without,” Patel says.
While Patel doesn’t feel searches should have expiration dates, he emphasizes that getting the green light to hire doesn’t mean it’s OK for the search to take forever.
“Like most expected outcomes in business, I believe searches should have reasonable completion time frames. Without that, the organization can become fatigued, lose focus, or adapt and solve the gap in a less-than-optimal way, causing strain elsewhere.”
Strain is a mild word. Those employees doing the work of two, three or even four people don’t take too kindly to being told that that workload will be theirs forever. So how do you balance it?
“When we were not able to identify compelling candidates, I asked folks to assume the role for which they were leading the search. But I tried to be thoughtful in relieving or transitioning other responsibilities of theirs–to ensure focus and avoid unnecessary stress,” Patel says.
Fill the Talent Pool Year-Round
So what’s a CIO to do? Instead of reacting to use-it-or-lose-it policies with a frenetic hiring spree in December, get proactive and set a steady pace of talent acquisition throughout the year. “It’s important to build a candidate bench of qualified talent. It’s the only reliable and cost-effective way I’ve found to address the need,” says Patel.
Even if your organization doesn’t espouse a use-it-or-lose-it philosophy, December can be a challenging month for your hiring process. “Calendar and fiscal deadlines did not complicate hiring decisions,” Patel says, “but year-end holidays certainly impacted availability.”
And it’s not just the job candidates who are away for the holidays. Your hiring managers may have December plans, too. Take a family vacation in Aruba or stay to hire a data architect–hmm, that’s a tough decision. Happy Holidays!
Kristen Lamoreaux is president and CEO of Lamoreaux Search, which finds IT professionals for hiring managers.