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Human Resource Management: Staff Selection and Appraisal

Human Resource Management: Selecting and Appraising Your Future Staff

The process of staff recruitment and selection is becoming increasingly complex and its integration into organizational and Human Resource (HR) strategies means that the successful outcome of these processes is vital for job performance and organizational success. The intricacy of matching the right applicant to the right job is a perpetual activity for management and HR practitioners considering the organization’s economic, social and political contexts.

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This paper aims to identify the effect the environmental context has on organizational strategies and the HR system and the subsequent impact on recruitment procedures and selection. Further, an analysis of the importance of staff recruitment and selection within the organization’s changing environment and tools used to facilitate the effectiveness of these functions. This will enable an assessment of any changes or strategies needed to avoid failures associated with poor selection and methods to improve recruitment and selection procedures.

Organizations are increasingly becoming focused on being competitive on a national and global level. The importance of the recruitment and selection process is vital for organizational competitiveness and a failure to approach this function effectively will have consequences for future job performance.

Numerous authors have emphasized the importance of integrating the recruitment and selection processes into organizational strategies and HR systems as well as the necessity to respond to changes in the organization’s environment (e.g. Stone, 2002, p.174, Nankervis, Compton & McCarthy, 1999, p.190, Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis, 2002, pp.16-17).

The organization is constantly changing to respond to changes in its environment, for instance, the structure of the organization may change and jobs redesigned to improve efficiency or reduce costs. However, one of the fundamental mistakes made by management is the failure to allocate “the right people to the right jobs” (Stone, 2002, p.124) once these changes occur. Such “economically” inspired” tactics have been criticized as having a detrimental impact on the productivity of the workforce and this could be related to the failure in acknowledging the job requirements needed after such fundamental organizational changes have occurred (ACIRRT, 1999, pp.16-17).

A further impact on organizational performance is the slow response to increased globalization resulting in “work intensification” which has consequences for the organization (ACIRRT, 1999, pp.31-33). In conjunction with the impact of the global economy, the high demand for skilled labour has meant a world-wide shortage of skilled staff and this trend continues as organizations seek increased competitiveness resulting in a fundamental change in the labour market (author, 2000,p.66).

This has led to a need for organizations to develop sound HR policies and an effective recruitment process ensuring that it can acquire the most qualified pool of applicants available. Management must seek to deal with this competition for skilled labour as well as abiding by anti-discrimination legislation, labour laws and a deregulated industrial relations system (Irwin, 2003, pp.1-5).

Recruitment and selection is vital to the organization in implementing change and counteracting changes in the environmental context (Stone, 2002, p174). Jobs change accordingly as organizations respond to economic and technological pressures (Nankervis, Compton & McCarthy, 1999, p.190). It is common for organizations to disregard this when the recruitment process begins and it will inevitably lead to an unqualified and unskilled workforce and consequently job failure.

For instance, it has been stated that corporations no longer have a centralized role in decision making, non-standard forms of employment have risen substantially and outsourcing is increasing for most activities (Drucker, 2001). Further, tasks are changing constantly, particularly in higher positioned jobs and HR practitioners will have difficulty in assessing job designs (Stone, 2002, p.124). Therefore if management does not acknowledge internal changes that occur than there will be a misallocation of workers and jobs.

In addition to the need for management to evaluate the effect of social, economic and political impacts on the organization, a factor that contributes towards poor performance is the incorrect assessment of the types of jobs that need filling and the skills needed to perform them. In other words, the organization’s external environment directly affects the organizational context (Irwin, 2003, pp.6-7). The main function of recruitment is to ensure that the organization is adequately and effectively staffed at all times (Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis, 2002, p.17).

For example, whilst an organization will restructure and re-engineer work processes to adapt to new technology or comply with legislative requirements, it will also reallocate work and create new jobs. However, if it fails to correctly address its staffing needs, then employees will inevitably fail to perform.

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It is, then, pertinent to incorporate one of the key factors for successful recruitment – job analysis and job design. Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis acknowledge that this activity should be responsive to “changes in organizational structures and strategies, employee skills, competencies…it is the main source of information about the position to be filled and type of person to fill it”(2002, p.27). Further, intensified competitive pressures, changing technology and market uncertainty has made the employment decision more complex (Allan, 2000, p.189).

The belief that the job analysis tool is vital in staff recruitment has been commonly adhered to, especially by larger organizations. However its importance in smaller organizations is questionable, for example, research showed job descriptions were vague and not updated regularly in cases concerning smaller organizations (Carroll, Marchington, Earnshaw, 1999, p.239). Difficulties faced by organizations and management also include what Nankervis, Compton & McCarthy describe as ‘mechanical and political inaccuracies’ about the job by exaggerating the difficulty of performing the job due to job loss fears (1999, p.203). In addition, the methods for gathering information are crucial for the accuracy of the job analysis (Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis, 2002, p.30).

One subsequent outcome that may emanate form the job analysis and job design process is the decision to use non-standard forms of employment including the use of part-time and agency labour. Economic and social influences such as intensified competitive pressures and a more deregulated labour market has resulted in organizations attempting to become more efficient and cost-effective. This is usually done by creating a flexible workforce through restructuring either through downsizing or using non-standard employment (Allan, 2000, p.189). For instance, the use of casual employment has risen from 10.8 percent in 1982 to 24.1 percent in 1994 (Allan, 2000, p.188). However, studies have shown that the use of non-standard employment has resulted in poor relations with full-time staff actively opposing to the agency labour and casuals . Low experience and training led to less commitment, skill retention problems and a decrease in quality standards have also been evident (Allan, 2000, p.195).

Management may further experience failure in effectively sourcing potential candidates during the recruitment process and this may impact on the competitive advantage because of the inability to acquire skilled workers. One reason for this may be attributed to a failure in integrating a dynamic job analysis and recruitment procedure into the organization’s strategy (source).

Recruiting is affected when management makes fundamental strategic changes to the organization’s structure or design and this will impact upon job requirements and may result in poor job performance if the incorrect selection has occurred (Stone, 2002, pp.174-175). There must be a comprehensive knowledge of the organization’s mission and objectives as well as job requirements and person specifications (Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis, 2002, pp.31-33).

In addition, HR management and staff must have a comprehensive understanding of the legal and industrial obligations associated with the recruiting process (Irwin, 2003, p.27). Federal legislation that directly affects recruiting include Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Sexual Discrimination Act 1984, Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Workplace Relations Act 1996 and the Privacy Act 1988.

While the organization may have a thorough understanding of the job requirements, HR management will need to evaluate the most effective recruitment methods, internally and externally, otherwise HR practitioners may fail in acquiring the most suitable pool of applicants (Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis, 2002, pp.52-57). The main decision facing HR and line management may be whether the most suitable applicants can be sourced using internal or external recruitment methods and which will provide the best pool of applicants (Irwin, 2003, p.21).

It is a common perception by management that internal recruitment methods are beneficial because of the cost advantages and knowledge of applicants. However, it should be acknowledged that there may be discontent from rejected applicants and the belief that internal recruitment reduces creativity because if ‘inbreeding’ and limited pools of applicants may appear discriminatory (Stone, 2002, p.178; Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis, 2002, p.52).

Further, if certain jobs require particular skills or competencies which are not available within the organization, applicants must be sourced externally (Nankervis, Compton & McCarthy, 1999, p.232; Schuler et al, 1992, p.165).

Management must additionally consider methods used to attract applicants and ‘promote’ the organization to gain a competitive edge other rival organizations (Schuler et al, 1992, p.166). In relation to external recruitment, advertisements are seen as the most effective tool for recruiting (Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis, 2002, p.60; Stone, 2002, p.180). However, there has been criticism towards the effectiveness of advertising, particularly in print media, with most advertisements remaining “passive in construction and execution” consequently failing to gain attention and waste money and resources (Hollings, 1998, p.32).

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Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis elaborate on this belief, stating that the use of AIDA (attention, interest, desire and action) is effective in promoting occupants along with clear statements about the requirements of the job and organization (2002, pp.63-64). The effect that incorrect or misleading advertising has can be quite detrimental and costly to the organization, as well as the applicant post-selection as the employee, does not have the required skills and qualifications (Iwrin, 2003, p.28).

One growing method of attracting external applicants has been the use of the Internet. Due to the advances in technology and changing demographics of the workforce, more people are accessing the Internet as a form of job search (Stone, 2002, pp.187-188). There are numerous benefits towards the organization including speed of recruiting results and reduced costs due to the inexpensive use of the Web instead of print media (HR Focus, Mar. 2000, p13).

Further, research showed that 80 percent of businesses surveyed believed candidates who came via the Web are of a higher calibre than others (HR Focus, Mar. 2000, p.14). In general, though, management and HR managers must critically examine recruitment advertisements, printed or Web-based, to ensure consistency with HR policies and legislation. Further, any recruitment advertisements must be monitored and evaluated to ensure future recruitment processes are successful (Stone, 2002, p.181).

Significantly compounding the challenges faced by HR managers and practitioners in the recruiting process is the handling of job applications and interview preparation. One main contributor to the poor selection of applicants is the failure to establish a selection criterion that is not only consistent with organizational strategies but reflects the frame of reference set by the job analysis. Employers frequently change job requirements and this results in incorrect selection if HR and line management select unqualified candidates (Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis, 2002, p.81).

This will have consequences for the organization, such as increased training time, labour turnover, absenteeism and poor performance (Stone, 2002, p.212). Therefore, the information required for interview preparation must be accurate and objective. Further, it is necessary to specify the exact skills and qualifications required for jobs and this is difficult due to the dynamic, perpetually changing nature of jobs (Irwin, 2003, p.31).

Once management addresses the complex task of effectively sourcing and attracting the right applicants for the available position(s), it is pertinent to address the selection process and methods used to eliminate unsuitable applicants. Management often fail to select the right applicant and this may be a result of low reliability and validity associated with selection methods (Irwin, 2003, p.36).

Interviews, although common, are criticized for being unreliable and invalid and “are not particularly successful as predictors of future job success (Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis, 2002, pp.133-134).

Studies (eg Doyle, 2002) have shown that selection decisions in organizations were based largely on a subjective and arbitrary basis which led to incorrect or misguided assumptions and the selection process was open to manipulation. In addition to these findings, the selection process, and in particular, the interview, is strongly influenced by the interviewer’s beliefs and assumptions, judgement and stereotyping and this affects the validity of interviews (Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis, 2002, pp.135-137). Such subjective and discriminatory behaviour will result in a failure to select the most suitable applicant.

While interviews still remain the most commonly used selection tool for organizations (99.6 percent based on one study ), psychological and aptitude tests are also methods used in selection. However, such tests must be job related, non-discriminatory and should accurately predict job performance through valid and reliable measures (Stone, 2002, p.224).

Tests have been criticized in the past for lack of relevance, cultural limitations and faking such tests were common (Compton, Morrissey & Nankervis, 2002, p.152). Despite the methods used in screening applicants, the bottom-line is that incorrect selection costs the organization. Recruitment and training costs will rise as well as opportunity costs, reduced profit, loss of competitive advantage and reputation (Nankervis, Compton & McCarthy, 1999, p.291).

While interviews and testing can be used concurrently to assist in the selection, there may need to be further examinations to ensure the applicant can meet job requirements. One such practice is the use of medical examinations which may be necessary in determining whether an applicant is physically fit to perform a job (Irwin, 2003, p.40). Failing to perform suitable examinations may result in an employee suffering injuries or harm other staff members and subject the organization to workers compensation and Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) laws (Stone, 2002, p.237). However, any examinations undertaken must be done only for a legitimate job requirement otherwise the organization may be violating EEO legislation.

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In further substantiating an employee’s ability to perform their task once selected, thorough reference checking must be undertaken and it is critical to perform this before making a job offer (Stone, 2002, p.236). Failure to conduct an adequate background check can be expensive, embarrassing and certainly dangerous. Assaults or harassment towards staff or clients as a result of an employee’s behaviour may result in an organization becoming liable for negligence by not undertaking thorough background checks (Greengard, 1995, pp.85-90). Organizations must undertake relevent reference audits to obtain as much relevant information about an applicant as possible without violating their privacy (Irwin, 2003, pp.40-41).

CONCLUSION Organizations are experiencing major environmental upheavals such as increased globalization, deregulated industrial relation system, competition and technological advances. These economic, social and political contexts have in turn triggered a complex multiplicity of overlapping, concurrent initiatives that are radically altering existing structures, cultures and job requirements. In response to this dynamic change, HR managers must approach the recruitment and selection process from a strategic perspective. Recruitment and selection strategies and policies must integrate within both HR and organizational strategies.

In turn, HR and line managers must successfully source and attract potential employees in a highly competitive environment as well as abiding by legislation relating to equal employment, workplace relations and privacy legislation. Additionally, the integrating of recruitment tools such as job analysis and design as well as an understanding of the organization’s culture are necessary to establish selection criteria in selecting potential employees.

This will ensure validity and reliability for selection methods including interviews and psychological testing. Finally, HR management must finalize the selection process with legitimate medical examinations and reference audits in accordance with any privacy laws.

REFERENCES ACCIRT, 1999, Australia at Work: Just Managing?, Prentice Hall, Sydney, pp.10-34.

Allan, C. 2000, ‘Hidden organizational costs of using non-standard forms of employment’, Personnel Review, vol. 29, no. 2.

Callander, P. 1999, ‘Shrinking the recruiting cycle’, HR Monthly, October, pp.32-33.

Compton, R.L., Morrissey, W.J. & Nankervis, A.R. 2002, Effective Recruitment and Selection Practices, 3rd edn., CCH Australia Pty Ltd., Australia.

Doyle, M. 2002,’Selecting managers for transformational change’, HRM Journal, vol 12, issue 1, pp3-16.(online database) [accessed Apr. 2, 2003] Drucker, P. 2001, ‘Will the corporation survive?’,, Nov. 1, (online)

Greengard, S. 1995, ‘Avoid negligent hiring: are you well armed to screen applicants?’, Personnel Journal, Dec., pp.84-85.

Hollings, S. 1998, ‘New options drive facelift for basic recruiting tool’, HR Monthly, May, pp.32-33.

HR Focus, 2000, ‘Online Recruiting: What works, what doesn’t’, March, Issue 00-3, pp1-14.

Huo, Huang & Napier. 2002, ‘Divergance or Convergance: A cross-national comparison of personnel selection practices’, Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, vol. 40, No. 1.

Irwin, R. 2003, Study Guide: Staff Selection and Appraisal, Southern Cross University, Lismore.

Levy, H. 1998, ‘Recruitment marketing sells your worth as an employer’, HR Monthly, May, p.42.

Milla, D. & Smith, P. 1997, ‘Australian management selection practices: why does the interview remain popular?’, Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, vol. 35, no.3,pp.99.

Nankervis, A.R., Compton, R.L., McCarthy, T.E. 1999, Strategic Human Resource Management, 3rd edn., Nelson Australia.

Stone, R.J. 2002, Human Resource Management, 4th edn. Wiley, Australia (author unknown), 2000, ‘Talent War: Finding and keeping staff is testing management everywhere as demand for good people goes global’, Business Review Weekly, Aug. 18, pp.66-70.

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