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January 01, 2000
Team approach delivers hiring success
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up effort, commitment pays off at Rapidforms

Remember those days not so long ago when HR's biggest problem was downsizing and successfully outplacing unneeded employees? Sure seems like a world away from today's big challenge - hiring and retaining the torrent of skilled people needed to keep your organization going. So what can you do to succeed in this challenge; other than worry, complain a lot, and frantically spend money and time? One approach relies on the belief that HR can't do it all alone, that the people who are actually going to use new recruits better be involved in the hiring process from start to finish. Here's a case study explaining what Rapidforms, a leading provider of pre-printed forms for businesses, has developed with great success.

Ann Mirabito is the Senior VP of Marketing at Rapidforms. Located in Thorofare, New Jersey, the company competes for talent with corporate giants in the New York/Philadelphia metros. Many positions were being unfilled, or lost quickly to turnover, and the result was slowing down the company's ability to grow. Mirabito's tactic, using a team approach, has helped the company turnaround its recruiting and retention programs.

Structuring the Team
One of the most unusual aspects of her approach is the structure of the team. At Rapidforms 5-6 people are assigned to each new hire team. These will include the manager to whom the person will report, several peers, perhaps even a subordinate or two of the new hire. It might include other managers or someone from HR. This flexible approach, Ann explains, has many benefits. First, there is a lot more energy in a group - five or six people can accomplish a lot more than one. The judgment of a group helps make more informed and balanced decisions. And, in this day of changing work assignments, having many managers buy in to the hiring decision makes for better success in the long term. That's because in six months the new hire might end up working for a different manager, and chances are that relation will be more successful if the new boss is someone who was part of the original hiring team. Each team has a leader, although Ann confesses she or someone from her HR department often has to act as an adviser or stimulus to keep the team focused.

Problems... and Solutions
Consider all these problems, and how the team approach can help. First, finding the right candidates. One manager or a stretched out HR department often just doesn't have the resources to explore all the avenues to find enough qualified candidates. A big challenge is to identify prospects that aren't looking. Enter the group solution: working together, the group can brainstorm new avenues, expand the network to find more candidates, and generally put more energy into finding a big enough pool of the right people.

Job criteria essential
A critical part of the team hiring process at Rapidforms is the development of the key criteria essential to success in the job, along with a solid job description. Ann finds that the team approach is unusually successful in these functions. These people are used to working for and with the folks who are going to be in these positions, and they know what it takes to be successful. By brainstorming together they are able to pin down the qualifications and aptitudes that are likely to result in a successful hire. And as we shall see, this group commitment to these criteria has another big payoff.

Interviewing and evaluation by the group
First all the team interviews the prospective candidates, either individually or in groups. The candidates have been examined from many perspectives, and through that process the advantages and disadvantages they offer as a new hire become apparent. Then, to decide who is going to be given an offer, the team meets to critically examine each candidate. A critical step is to discuss how each one stacks up against the list of attributes the team agreed were essential to success. The group process ensures that hidden biases and missed signals emerge, and the best candidate is selected.

Selling and orientation
The team approach keeps paying dividends after the final selection is made. That's because these days making an offer to a terrific candidate is hardly the end of the process. Ann's teams have responsibility for the selling process, ensuring that the selected person accepts the offer and doesn't defect to the opposition. Even after the candidate accepts, the team's job continues. Rapidforms has it set up so the team is responsible for helping orient, coach and buddy up with new hires. The company has found this helps insure that new employees get off to a good start and resolve early problems - getting through the first few months without problems usually guarantees long-term retention.

Mirabito is extremely enthusiastic about the team approach at Rapidforms. Judging from the reaction of other managers at a recent business conference where this concept was discussed, many other companies will soon be launching programs like hers.

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