Let It Go! Fearless Change in Approval Processes
At the beginning of recruiting implementation projects, I hear the same problem over and over: Hiring people takes way too long. Shortening up the timeline for approving and posting requisitions is usually identified as one of the primary goals of the implementation. The team gets excited at the prospect of making changes, becoming efficient, and simplifying their work.
Then, after we have discussed the current process, problems, and goals for the project, we move into the design phase for the new solution.
And completely replicate exactly what is being done today.
The design of the requisition approval process is mired down by so many political and social landmines. Senior leaders insist on being involved in the approval of every position. Competing internal organizations wrestle for available resources. Budgets are a moving target that must be continually reevaluated. Managers clutch at authority they are terrified of losing.
As we work through the implementation, I see organizations and individuals desperately clinging to the status quo.
How can you let go and make big changes? First of all, remember that the requisition approval process should really be about allocating resources that were planned for in a budget. This is when you should be approving the job description, requirements, and details, not asking for permission to staff a position.
Beyond that, use these rules when designing your approval process:
Is it required for compliance or legal reasons?
If a step in the process is necessary to ensure compliance with law or policy, keep it in place. (Please bring in the right people to confirm that it really is a legal requirement, not just the way you’ve always done it!)
Is it necessary for reporting? Is the reporting necessary?
If documenting a particular step or data point is critical to your reporting, and if that reporting is critical to your business, you need it.
Is it necessary for accountability?
The intention of the approval process is to keep people accountable for making responsible staffing decisions. Who in your organization is empowered to make these decisions? Someone should have oversight at a reasonable level, and should be involved in the approval. This is probably at a department or division level. This approver needs to have a large enough span of control that he or she can make resourcing decisions to allocate available headcount appropriately, but should also have enough authority to make these decisions without needing additional approvals. (In other words, if your Engineering division has budgetary approval to add five positions this year, someone in leadership of that division should be empowered to decide where those five people go without needing to get additional approval each time a requisition is opened.)
Is it necessary for notification or knowledge-sharing?
Notification is the worst reason I see for adding a step to the approval process. If your CEO needs to know how many positions are open, produce a report that can be reviewed regularly. Each approval adds time to the process, and the process shouldn’t be slowed down just to inform someone that a position is being opened.
When you are designing your new approval process, start with very few steps and insist that people build a convincing argument to add a step, rather than arguing about removing steps that exist today. Remember that it is almost always easier to go back later and add a step to the process than it is to remove a step once it’s been established. (Talk to your implementation consultant about how this would work.)
No matter how well you design your system and processes, they cannot substitute for good communication. If you aren’t sure that you have the budget to hire, go ask someone! Don’t just create a requisition and throw it out there, hoping that the approval process will take care of everything for you.
Managing to a budget or for financial accountability should be the job of the management team, so if people are recklessly approving requisitions or hiring when they shouldn’t, deal with those rule-breakers in the performance review process instead of adding more approvals!