How Top Recruiters Are Applying "The Toyota Way" to Talent Acquisition

It’s difficult to find enough quality talent right now — historically so.

The nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.9% in May, matching the lowest point in half a century. It’s even more difficult to find quality talent in some locations and industries. In the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area, which we call home, the unemployment rate in April was under 3 percent, including 2.2% in San Francisco, according to Beacon Economics. Meanwhile, in tech, the unemployment rate was just 1.9% nationally in April, according to a Dice report.

So what can employers and recruiters do? Some are getting creative — and desperate. For example, the Silicon Valley employers that are relaxing their dress codes in hopes it will lure candidates.

But when times are tough, the best practice is to perfect fundamentals that are essential for success, both individually and collectively. Some top recruiters are accomplishing this by applying The Toyota Way — the famed comprehensive management approach practiced by the Japanese carmaker — to recruiting. Let’s take a look at how you too can apply The Toyota Way’s 14 key principles to drive your recruiting efforts to success.

Principle 1: Base Your Management Decisions on a Long-Term Philosophy, Even at the Expense of Short-Term Financial Goals

Main idea: People need purpose to find motivation and establish goals.

Application to recruiting: Don’t let short-term hiring goals distract you from acquiring talented people who can help your company meet its long-term objectives. It’s better to leave positions open longer than to hire the wrong people. Just putting “butts in seats” will do little or nothing to help your company in the long term.

An important component of this is considering whether your company and the position you are hiring for are a good fit for the candidate. If either isn’t, the candidate is likely to be uninspired, and there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself having to fill the position again in the near future.

Here’s a real-world example to show how you might apply this principle. Suppose a software engineer is an active candidate applying for project management roles (software like Hirevisor can tell you this) with other companies, but isn’t making the final cut. You might try to hire this person for a software engineering role, but they probably wouldn’t stick around for long. You might try to hire them for a project management role, but they might not be ready for it. Instead, try offering them a “bridge” role that offers them a chance to use their current skills while providing a clear path to their longer-term career goals. By doing so, you maximize your chances of serving both your company’s needs and the candidate’s needs in the long term.

Principle 2: Create a Continuous Process Flow to Bring Problems to the Surface

Main idea: Work processes are redesigned to eliminate waste through the process of continuous improvement.

Application to recruiting: Create a consistent recruiting workflow, taking care to eliminate waste (both of time and effort) and roadblocks to improve hiring speed. Monitor key metrics that will identify areas that need improvement. Examples of such metrics (a fuller list available from ERE via Wikipedia is available here) include:

  • Time to fill — The number of days it takes from the job requisition being posted to when the offer was accepted.
  • Time to hire — The number of days it takes from the moment your eventual hire entered your pipeline (through sourcing or application) and the moment they accepted your job offer.
  • Offer acceptance rate — The percentage of candidates who accepted a formal job offer.

Additionally, work to optimize your use of sourcing and recruiting tools that save you time and/or help improve your recruiting results.

Principle 3: Use “Pull” Systems to Avoid Overproduction

Main idea: A pull system produces required material only after the subsequent operation signals a need for it.

Application to recruiting: Recruiters should take their cue — or “pull” — from hiring managers to avoid over-filling jobs, and conversely to avoid being underprepared when a large batch of jobs are needed to be filled.

This means recruiters need to sit down with hiring managers — both to get insights about the skills and experience needed for open positions and to learn about potential future hiring needs. As a Sourcecon article details, effective intake meetings with hiring managers are the foundation for effective sourcing and recruiting.

Principle 4: Level Out the Workload (Work Like the Tortoise, Not the Hare)

Main idea: Achieve more consistency and minimize waste by not overburdening people or equipment.

Application to recruiting: Recruit smarter, not harder. Recruiting smarter includes:

  • Forecasting your hiring needs to prevent being surprised by spikes.
  • Properly leveraging your applicant tracking system.
  • Using recruiting tools that help save you time and improve your results, including candidate sourcing tools (avoid wasting time cold-emailing hundreds of thousands of candidates who won’t respond) and candidate scheduling tools (avoid back-and-forth time scheduling interviews).
  • Staying informed about recruiting trends to never fall behind the learning curve.

Principle 5: Build a Culture of Stopping To Fix Problems, To Get Quality Right the First Time

Main idea: Quality takes precedence. Any employee has the authority to stop the process to signal a quality issue.

Application to recruiting: Ensure that candidate and recruiting process quality take precedence over all other factors. If the hiring manager isn’t satisfied with the quality of the candidates delivered, always stop to take the time to analyze what you can do to improve the quality. Determine commonalities among satisfactory candidates and among unsatisfactory candidates to make beneficial changes to the recruiting process.

Remember that quality starts at the source but can break down at any point. So when candidates are unsatisfactory, consider changes to the job description and where and how you’re sourcing your candidates (for example, if you’re relying on outreach via LinkedIn, consider looking at pre-qualified pools). Then continue to work your way down the funnel to see if there issues with other parts of the process, from breakdowns in communication with candidates to shortcomings in assessment of candidates’ skills and experience.

Principle 6: Standardized Tasks and Processes Are the Foundation for Continuous Improvement and Employee Empowerment

Main idea: Be sure the system that is implemented empowers the company and employees.

Application to recruiting: Your recruiting process — including the tools that you use — should be implemented in a way that empowers performance. This means:

  • Everyone on the recruiting team should know your recruiting methodology, and be on the same page for making strategic improvements.
  • Individual tasks within the process should be standardized. For example, ensuring that candidates are asked standardized questions to prevent unconscious bias.
  • Recruiting team members’ performance should be evaluated with objective standards. This helps them feel treated fairly and empowers them to achieve because they know the basis on which their performance will be judged.

Principle 7: Use Visual Control So No Problems Are Hidden

Main idea: Use the 5S Program:

  • Sort: Sort out unneeded items.
  • Straighten: Have a place for everything.
  • Shine: Keep the area clean.
  • Standardize: Create rules and standard operating procedures.
  • Sustain: Maintain the system and continue to improve it.

Application to recruiting: Use the 5S Program for recruiting.

  • Sort: Eliminate any unneeded elements or steps from the recruiting process.
  • Straighten: Have a tool for every step of the recruiting process and put the steps in the right order.
  • Shine: Avoid having incorrect or out-of-date candidate data hindering your efforts (a quality ATS can often help you keep your data “clean”).
  • Standardize: Ensure that the same steps are followed every time to provide a quality candidate experience and to keep the recruiting process running smoothly.
  • Sustain: Avoid getting sloppy. Always strive to improve your recruiting process and to achieve the best possible talent acquisition results — even, or perhaps especially, in a historically challenging hiring market.

Well, That’s Half of It

There’s too much here to fit in one post, so we’ll have to split this into two parts. We look forward to showing how you can apply Principles 8–14 of The Toyota Way to improve your recruiting strategy and drive better talent acquisition results. Come back to read Part 2, which will be published soon! Follow us by checking this out at our blog at https://blog.hirevisor.com

About Hirevisor

Hirevisor was founded on the premise that there is a better way to land top talent. We enable companies to find quality, actionable candidates in a data-driven way, all while delivering a stellar candidate experience at scale. Great companies are built by great people. Let Hirevisor help you find great people.

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