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Hiring well, and keeping track

Given the importance of hiring, it's critical to have a good process. BusinessWeek's Jack and Suzy Welch point the way to one good technique.

I love the Jack and Suzy Welch BusinessWeek column. This week's column on hiring well was no different. A reader asked, "How do I hire well when the volume of hiring goes up exponentially?

The answer was interesting: keep track of your and others' batting average over time, and invest hiring decisions in those who "hit best."

But it's important how you go about it:

Every candidate for a job at your company must be interviewed by at least three people in the organization beyond the hiring manager, and each interviewer must sign off with a "Hire" or "Don't Hire" vote. No maybes allowed. Fast-forward six months. Every new hire gets evaluated by his manager on how he has performed against expectations: below, meets, or exceeds. Soon enough, and with enough critical mass, you can start to compare every interviewer's "Hire" recommendations with actual performance.

For instance, say a manager named Emily has approved 10 candidates and, six months out, eight of them are performing at or above expectations. Emily's HBA would be .800. That impressive score lets you know Emily is a first-rate evaluator of talent, and she should be rewarded accordingly. By contrast, say Emily's colleague John has given the nod to 12 hires and, after six months, only four are working out, for an HBA of .333. Keep John in his day job and away from picking people! [Paragraph separator added.]

As the Welches explain, this not only pushes employees to deeply engage in the hiring process, but it also ensures that employees keep tabs on their "Hire" candidates along the way to provide mentoring and support. After all, if they're going to be compensated in some way for the hire recommendations they make, they're going to ensure their candidates perform well.

It's a good idea, and critical in any company. I believe it's particularly important in an open-source company, where people are really all you have to sell. You can't hide behind a product SKU in an open-source company.

I'm going to give this method a try. I feel very good about the people I've hired so far, but arguably it has been easy to date. Alfresco is still a small company. What happens when we're at 200 people? Or 2,000? The hiring process becomes harder and, hence, more important to get perfect.