By Valerie Bolden-Barrett, Houston Chronicle, work.chron.com
Resumes might provide hiring managers with enough information to evaluate job applicants’ skills. But human resources has broader concerns that factor into hiring decisions, including an applicant’s character, conduct and values. In a centralized staffing function, HR can free up managers from complex hiring tasks and set recruiting standards that are uniformly fair, legal and cost-effective.
Centralization allows HR to monitor interviewing tactics and hiring practices to see that managers comply with state and federal laws. Managers might know that passing on candidates solely on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion or disability is illegal. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects these classes of workers. But managers might not know that the law also prohibits interviewers from querying candidates about their marital status, parental obligations, religious affiliation or other personal issues unrelated to the job opening. Discriminatory interview questions could trigger complaints against the employer and force the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to take redemptive action.
HR can run routine background checks, including criminal and financial inquiries, on all job candidates. The purpose is to uncover records of past behavior that could prove to be a liability for employers. HR typically is familiar with the laws and guidelines that apply, such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FCRA requires employers to get candidates’ consent before running credit checks.
Also, HR can advise hiring managers about the risks of hiring or discriminating against job candidates with compromising pasts. Refusing to hire ex-offenders solely because of their history is illegal. But if a candidate with a criminal history is hired and repeats the offense in the workplace, a victim could charge the employer with “wrongful hiring” if it knew about the previous offense.
HR’s use of metrics can help reduce employers’ overall hiring costs. The Society for Human Resource Management’s cost-per-hire metric system factors in advertising fees, travel, employee referrals, relocation fees and recruiters’ wages and benefits, among other expenses. According to SHRM’s “2010-2012 Benchmarking Database,” employers typically spend $1,062 to $5,582 per recruit, depending on the size of the company, the industry and demand for talent. By centralizing the staffing function under HR, the human resources department can show employers how best to spend their hiring dollars and where to cut costs.
HR also can recommend ways to reduce costly hiring mistakes — an important point, considering that replacing bad hires can cost as much as 15 times an employee’s base salary. HR might recommend running thorough reference and background checks, or hiring temporary workers instead of filling full-time positions.
Employers rely on HR’s expertise to attract and retain high-performing workers. They also look to HR to lower high turnover rates or handle layoffs. HR can track employees’ reasons for leaving through employee satisfaction surveys and exit interviews with departing staff. HR might suggest more flexible work hours or work/life programs as remedies for low morale. And if layoffs become necessary, HR can see that staff reductions are fair, legal and communicated respectfully.
Most workplaces have a distinct culture or environment that promotes certain principles, values and behaviors. Some cultures stress teamwork. Others make continuous improvement a priority.
Employers often maintain their cultures through the people they hire. HR is trained to spot candidates who might have trouble adapting to an employer’s culture. A highly skilled candidate who prefers working alone, for example, might not perform well in a team-oriented environment. Values, or ethics, are additional cultural factors. HR enforces ethical standards in the workplace and helps employees adopt organizational codes of conduct.
NOTE: This piece is one in a series of business articles written for and posted on the Houston Chronicle’s online publication.