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Six Sigma and Recruiting

You may be surprised to learn that many recruiters and staffing departments are using the Six Sigma methodologies, to adopt and implement some form of internal process improvement. This is a direct reflection of the fact that Six Sigma is the most talked about process-improvement methodologies that is being used in business today. Because of this it raises several questions among recruiting professionals. Some of these questions are:

  • What is Six Sigma exactly?
  • How it can be applied to the recruiting function?
However, the first step is to clearly understand what Six Sigma is and clear up the confusion about some of the issues that surround it. Whether or not you've had exposure to the Six Sigma concept, understanding exactly what it is isn't always easy. The simple explanation is that Six Sigma is a process-improvement methodology, or a plan for analyzing and improving a business function. It involves a specific framework and accompanying tools that will help walk a business through the steps of identifying, measuring, and diagnosing a problem. It will then help in creating a specific solution and managing the results. Six Sigma is a system to manage a process-improvement project from start to finish, which includes a:
  • Robust methodology
  • Focus on the customer
  • Data-driven strategy
The manufacturing roots of Six Sigma raise concerns as to whether it can effectively be applied to the human aspect of the employee sourcing and selection process. There are many staffing professionals who pit Six Sigma, against other process-improvement methodologies. However, it is important to realize that everything in business, including sourcing and selection, is a process. This means that if you can break down the process, identify customer requirements, and understand what causes deviations from those requirements, you can work towards improving the process. By measuring each step of the process, you can analyze and make decisions based on data (facts) and effectively evaluate the outcome of your efforts to determine success or not. All of this is at the heart of Six Sigma, and can definitely be applied to recruiting.

It should be noted that whether or not, you should actually use Six Sigma, in your recruiting organization is another issue entirely. There are several factors, which will help determine whether Six Sigma is the best methodology for your organization. Some of these are:

  • Company culture-Human Resources must understand that the cultural acceptance or rejection, of Six Sigma is arguably one of the most critical factors to consider. This is due in part to the fact that the staffing department is not the most likely part of an organization, to pilot a Six Sigma program, and additionally the attitude of upper management, may dictate whether it should be adopted or not. Sometimes upper management may not be receptive to Six Sigma (or worse, may have had poor experiences with it in the past). This can mean that implementing it may prove to be an uphill battle. On the other hand, if your organization is already using Six Sigma, then by all means fold the sourcing and selection functions into the existing culture. Most likely upper management will already have an understanding of the methodology, and resources will most likely be available in the organization.

  • Return on investment (ROI)-It is crucial to realize that having a thoroughly trained team, consisting of Black Belts, Green Belts, and (ideally) a Six Sigma Master Black Belt, to guide the effort is key. Keep in mind that if these resources are feasible, and the economics of the investment are sound, then a well-trained team would clearly be an asset to your success. However, for this to be a sound decision, the training and time investment, would need to yield a substantial return, based on the savings/improvements that the project(s) could yield. Finally it can be helpful to understand that applying Basic Six Sigma, if extensive resources are not available, or the scope of the project does not warrant the substantial training investment, can still be done. You can utilize the basic principles as a rough framework to guide your efforts.

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