Ways of Working114

Business Agility and Agile Recruitment in Multinational Healthcare Organisation

Padma Satyamurthy

February 14, 2019


This case study will present the approach taken by a large multinational healthcare organisation in adopting agile practices in the Talent Acquisition team within their Human Resource operations. This decision was made to support an existing agile transformation program within the product development groups as part of a wider business agility assessment. It was realized that unless their non-IT organizations were transformed (including HR, Finance, and Sales and Marketing), they would not be able to make the overall transformation a success.

The Problem

Talent acquisition was taking too long. It took over fifty-five days to hire new talent; the time from the first contact to releasing the offer letter. This meant that they were losing many talented potential employees. During the two-month-long interview and negotiations period, more than 50% of the candidates either received offers from other organizations or were no longer interested in the company.

The Causes

The assessment identified three main causes within the talent acquisition process.

  • The requests were not centralized. While SAP was used for logging requests, most requests came from informal channels like emails and IMs. These were either forgotten or not tracked properly by the team.
  • All requests were addressed in a queue (first come, first served) instead of priority of the requesting business unit.
  • The requests were “Push”ed by business units rather than being “Pull”ed.

The Solution

The solution was to help the Talent Acquisition team to become proactive and agile with the growing number of requests from numerous business units. Kanban was selected as the best approach as it was a simple and visual approach with no timebox limits ensuring a smooth flow of the work. The reasons for choosing Kanban were:

  • No prescribed roles
  • Continuous delivery
  • Single piece flow allows work to be pulled through the system
  • Easy changes to the list
  • Measurement is through cycle time

The Implementation

Step 1 – Value Stream Mapping

The implementation started by studying the current process to document the value stream. This was used to identify the processes and steps that slowed down the process. Once we had the value stream map, it was easier to see which steps were needed and which ones could be eliminated. Like any other large organization, there were multiple processes, steps, and approvals which had existed for many years and were being followed blindly.

Step 2 – Refined Talent Acquisition Approach

Once the old approach had been cleansed, the refined approach looked good. The reason for refining, rather than entirely replacing, the old approach was to help the Talent Acquisition team to get on with the work as early as possible.

Step 3 – Learn the new approach

The Talent Acquisition team was trained on the refined, simpler approach. Starting with the key principles;

  • Visualize the workflow
    • What does the demand look like from various business units?
    • Is there any negotiation or prioritization needed to address urgent requests quickly?
  • Limit WIP
    • WIP limit five—At any given time, the team will work on the top five requests and the next one will be pulled only after one of the five issues has been completed. This is to ensure the priorities are addressed as soon as possible and the teams don’t have a high volume of incomplete work; bringing down team morale and frustrating business units.
  • Manage Flow
    • Alternate day stand-ups—Although we followed Kanban which doesn’t have any prescribed ceremony like stand up, having seen the benefit of stand ups in product development teams, we decided to meet on alternate days as a team to discuss priorities, any reprioritization that needs to be done to accommodate more urgent issues, pipeline etc., to update each other to ensure that there is no duplication of work between team members, and confirm that we’re working on the highest priorities.
  • Make process policies explicit
    • Business Units needed to understand the new talent acquisition process and WIP concepts. It was not enough for the Talent Acquisition team to understand the refined approach; it was also important for the rest of the organization to understand to ensure good collaboration. Small workshops and awareness sessions were held with the business functions to facilitate understanding.
  • Improve collaboratively
    • Cycle time was our key measure. We wanted to keep the metrics simple so we selected cycle time; from the time of the request to onboarding. The picture below shows the five-step approach described above that was rolled out:

The refined process was designed to ensure that candidates weren’t waiting to hear from the organization. Rather, staff proactively finished the interviews and rolled out the offer letter at the earliest opportunity. The stated goal was to reduce the cycle time and control the skilled talent being lost during the long waiting process.

Candidates would be called to the organization for one full day, so they wouldn’t have to take time off for interviews more than once. As soon as the candidate arrived, they would first be taken for an office tour. A panel of interviews would be set up as the candidate proceeded to the next rounds. The calendars of the interviewing leaders would be blocked out well in advance so that they would be available for the interviews.

After all the interviews, the feedback would be consolidated from all the panel members within a week and a decision would be made not more than three weeks later.

The Challenges

Like any new transformation, there were many challenges. The most prominent challenges were:

  1. Getting people to accept the current process had flaws and needed a revamp. There were many in the team who were part of the rollout of the existing process and didn’t want to accept that it needed a change. However, the value stream mapping showed the current delays clearly which helped the teams to accept and understand the revised process.
  2. The other business units were not cooperative in the revised approach. Most business units felt that their request would be delayed with the new approach. During the awareness sessions, when the Talent Acquisition team explained the prioritization techniques, the business units bought into the new approach.
  3. SAP as a single tool for requests. Neither the HR team nor the business units were using SAP consistently and most requests were randomly flowing through emails, IMs and other informal methods. However, when SAP was made mandatory, which made tracking easy, the teams gradually started using SAP.

The Outcome

The outcome was very satisfying for the organization as they saw both tangible and intangible benefits in the transformation.

Tangible Benefits

  1. Cycle time to hire candidates reduced from 55+ days to fewer than twenty days
  2. No-show or candidates rejecting an offer due to delays reduced by over 40%

Intangible benefits

  1. A structured and disciplined way of working through visualization and WIP tracking
  2. Frequent communication within the team as well as between other business units through stand-ups and updates
  3. Reduced duplication efforts on the same request
  4. “Pull” requests based on priority rather than business units “push”ing the requests

About the Author

Padma Satyamurthy is an enthusiastic IT professional with 15+ years of experience in the IT Industry with expertise in Coaching & Consulting, Product Development Mentoring, and Training and Solution Design. This experience is coupled with strong leadership, communication, analytical, problem-solving, and customer service skills.

Padma has rich hands-on experience in implementing agile software development methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean, SAFe, FDD, and TDD among other methods across different domains and business establishments.

She also brings in expertise in Lean Startup and Design Thinking which she uses effectively with agile flavors to help organizations achieve their goals of faster-to-market with high quality. She has been instrumental in setting up agile practice offices with practice capabilities of distributed agile methods, setting up agile COEs as part of her consulting assignment.

Padma also has working knowledge of tools including Rally, TFS, and JIRA.

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