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Your Leadership Team Wants Hires Only From Elite Schools - They're Wrong...

It's a dance as old as time itself. Your leadership team has opinions on talent - which is good.  They're interested.  That's a positive.

But one of the calls a lot of leadership teams make is this:

"In order to be the best, we've got to recruit from the best. We should really focus on elite schools for our key hires - Ivy and maybe a few other schools"

There are a couple of problems with that stance.  Let's list them:

  1. Your company may not be an attractive destination to graduates of elite college and university programs. Back to school
  2. The graduates of those elite programs may not be equipped or motivated to do the jobs you would place them in.
  3. Other talent, just as capable for the positions you have open, is available for reduced cost, lower retention risk and will perform as well - if not outperform the elite group.

If your leadership team has a focus on recruiting from elite schools and you have concerns, here's some help from a name your leadership team will probably recognize - McKinsey. The July 2016 edition of the McKinsey Quarterly has an article entitled "People Analytics Reveals 3 Things HR May Be Getting Wrong".  

It's a good read.  Here's what the article has to say about elite hiring at one of their clients:

"A bank in Asia had a well-worn plan for hiring: recruit the best and the brightest from the highest-regarded universities. The process was one of many put to the test when the company, which employed more than 8,000 people across 30 branches, began a major organizational restructuring. As part of the effort, the bank turned to data analytics to identify high-potential employees, map new roles, and gain greater insight into key indicators of performance.

Thirty data points aligned with five categories—demographics, branch information, performance, professional history, and tenure—were collected for each employee, using existing sources. Analytics were then applied to identify commonalities among high (and low) performers. This information, in turn, helped create profiles for employees with a higher likelihood of succeeding in particular roles.

Whereas the bank had always thought top talent came from top academic programs, for example, hard analysis revealed that the most effective employees came from a wider variety of institutions, including five specific universities and an additional three certification programs. An observable correlation was evident between certain employees who were regarded as “top performers” and those who had worked in previous roles, indicating that specific positions could serve as feeders for future highfliers. Both of these findings have since been applied in how the bank recruits, measures performance, and matches people to roles.

The results: a 26 percent increase in branch productivity (as measured by the number of full-time employees needed to support revenue) and a rate of conversion of new recruits 80 percent higher than before the changes were put in place. During the same period, net income also rose by 14 percent."

That tells you multiple things - that elite programs generally don't outperform what I'll call "the field", feeder groups into key positions are more important than we realize, and by the way, you're always going to do better recruiting the field (conversion rate) than you'll do at elite schools.

I would have loved to see the relative retention rate of the elite schools vs the field as well, but I'll take what they gave us.

Use this article to help calm down any leaders you have who only want to recruit from elite schools.  As it turns out, a lot of gold comes from schools like Kennesaw State or Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

 

Comments

Rob

I've shared this with countless people over the past five years and have used it to push back on the notion....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UEwbRWFZVc

J. Matt Landrum

Well, KD, since I graduated from an elite school, Mississippi State University (The Michigan State of the South), I'm gonna have to take umbrage. Normally, you are dead on though.

--Matt

;-)

Patrick

Amen, I say. This can advice can also be applied to hiring from "blue-chip" companies. In my past marketing career, I have seen how mid-level firms like mine never had success bringing in "rockstars" from Coca-Cola or P&G. The new recruits had trouble fitting into a culture that did not have unlimited resources and budgets. They almost always left after a short and uneventful tenure.

Andrea Colantoni

Hi KD,
I also see a tendency of candidates form "2nd tier" schools or companies to have a chip on their shoulder. You certainly don't have one after graduating from Harvard, as those persons often consider themselves "made" already.
-Andrea

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