I received some great email feedback from the last past on measuring quality of hire. There seems to be a hunger for more clarity and specificity in the HR metrics space, and particularly a call to move beyond measures that create the wrong incentives. Given this feedback, you can expect more posts in this area, and I’ve created a blog category called “Meaningful Metrics” to organize them.

One interesting theme I saw in my email feedback was a tendency to worry about “ability to control.” The premise was this: a recruiter doesn’t control how good someone will be in 24 months, since that’s really more on the hiring manager and interview team to understand how good someone really is. So how can they be held accountable to it? “Once you measure it, people will manage to it and want to link it to pay. And it doesn’t seem like a great measure to use in a compensation plan.”

In each case, I quickly replied that nowhere was I assuming quality of hire would used as a metric to measure a recruiter – certainly not something one would pay against. The blog post even said this. So when smart people worry that a metric not intended for performance management will become a performance management tool, it suggests more is at play.

I had a follow-up conversation with a friend who uses a scorecard of metrics for their recruiting team. This scorecard includes things like time to fill, % of positions filled within a stated SLA, a hiring manager feedback score, some candidate funnel metrics (like candidates per position), offer acceptance rate, and hire quality (measured similar to my last post). She specifically talked about the natural inclination for her recruiting team is to think of the scorecard like a report card. They don’t want any of their measures to “look bad.” This leads to judgement calls about when to “just fill the job” so time to fill doesn’t get too high, even though it’s a known risk to the hire quality metric. They’d rather have all A’s and B’s on the report card than to have that one ugly C.

Perhaps it is natural for us to focus on being evaluated by metrics. Goal-oriented people will want to see “their numbers” improve, and performance-paranoia people will worry that any slippage in a metric could be grounds for termination. But my hope for HR is that we can adopt metrics that are simply data points to monitor, understand, and inform decisions. Let the numbers be your guide, not your grade.

As we explore more HR metrics, we should assume this spirit. HR’s metrics should guide our work, not be seen as a judgment of HR’s performance. Of course there are some metrics to which we can and should be accountable, but they are a subset of the metrics we should be tracking and using as business indicators.