Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Batting A Thousand

I'm sure you've heard the expression...

It comes from baseball and refers to the statistic 'batting average' or #hits / #at-bats. Getting a hit every time you're at bat is batting a thousand.

Batting greater than "three hundred" or getting a hit 3 out of every 10 at - bats is pretty good. Batting greater than "four hundred" is next to impossible (last done by ted williams in 1941), and has never been done in the long run (career batting average leader ty cobb holds the record at 0.366).

Batting 0.500 has never been done (in a career, or single season).

Getting a hit at bat is often used as a metaphor for a business "win". I've used in the past to refer to hiring or recruiting success. In my experience, batting 0.500 is great for managers hiring for professional/senior positions. Having 50% of new recruits be considered successful hires who meet their position requirements, and perform at or above target is a great result in my opinion. I want to stress the point re: professionals / senior positions. I don't think this applies equally to junior, procedural positions.

As in baseball, time scale is a factor. In recruiting however, there are two dimensions: # of hires in a period of time (frequency), and duration of a hire, ( tenure). Higher batting averages are possible with lower frequencies. Higher batting averages are also possible in the short run, or short tenure. With higher frequencies, the opportunities & therefore cumulative likelihood for failure is greater. With longer tenure or elapsed time per hire, the likelihood of failure is greater.

Batting 0.500 or better in recruiting senior / professional positions is great performance at high frequency, in the long run.
If you believe in the importance of good management, it is a must. If you believe that the single most important task of a manager is to recruit talent, then measuring recruiting performance of your senior managers is a recommended practice.

I've had an opportunity to observe a number of senior managers, in different companies, recruit. Many of them were my peers in title but far more senior in their experience and management skill. Today a number of these managers have executive / C-level roles in the Fortune 500. While I am not a baseball fan, I've observed their stats.

My conclusions go beyond the fact that 0.500 is great, with high frequency, in the long run: the batting averages of most senior hiring managers would surprise you.

Time and time again, I've witnessed terrible hiring performance. Managers make the same mistakes over and over again. Whether it is bad fit, bad fit leading to bad performance, or just plain bad performance - i've seen managers repeatedly make the same mistakes in recruitment. Guess what? Whatever the reason, turning a bad hire into a "good" situation is a tough proposition. It takes precious management bandwidth and time - two scarce resources. Because of this a bad hire is usually hard to turn, and in the meantime, has a negative impact on the organization (and the individual). At senior levels, the degree of impact can be truly damaging to an organization.

Recruiting is a skill. Some managers get the necessary training and experience to hone their skills, while others do not. At a senior level, this is a skill that I believe should be put to the test, and should be measured. If you took your senior management team and evaluated recruiting performance (like baseball, i'm sure this one could be sliced and diced several ways) how would they stack up - to eachother? - to your competition? - to the industry? How would they react to the data? Like athletes looking at the sports page? Could you use this as a tool? I wonder what the korn ferry's of the world would say....

At a minimum, I guarantee no one would be batting a thousand in the long run... ;)