Facility startups and major hiring expansions are some of the most stressful activities that a Human Resources Manager will face during the course of a career. Other than a mass layoff or facility closing, there is probably not a major Human Resource activity that causes more sleepless nights than a facility startup. Hiring several hundred people over a compressed and ever-shifting timeline can be an incredibly daunting challenge.
Many HR professionals will go through their entire career without managing more than one major facility startup. In the course of a typical year Select International will partner with our clients to manage multiple major hiring events or startups. From my perspective one of the key factors that produce stress in my HR colleagues is the “unknown”, those events/things that can’t be controlled.
I recall working on two manufacturing plant startups in 2008 when the recession hit. After much community outreach and public relation efforts focused on local job seekers had been completed there was a sudden freeze on all startup activities. Thousands of local applicants had to be informed that jobs were on hold. Many of these individuals had already completed a series of competency and skill assessments and interviews. These were very challenging communications to deliver, and all due to market conditions.
I remember another startup where a tornado ripped through the hiring office complex during a critical project period. Thankfully no one was hurt, but a new office location had to be found in a short amount of time, and assessment sessions and interviews had to be rescheduled. The team had to work around the clock to make up lost time. Hiring deadlines did not change because of unlucky, extreme weather. These are just a couple of examples of stress inducing factors that are out of an HR professional’s control.
As an HR Manager you can reduce stress by focusing energy on those things that can be controlled. Below are 3 tips for reducing stress and taking control of your hiring project.
1. Define Goals and Build a Plan
Work closely with Operations to build a hiring schedule. Identify both the volume and timing of hires. Work backward from those goals to build a detailed hiring plan. Identify and define each step of the hiring process. Estimate how long each step will take for an applicant. For example, how long will it take for the average applicant to complete the medical and drug screen step? What is the anticipated pass rate for the medical and drug screen? How many people can we test at one time? What days and times is the medical facility available for screening sessions? These are the types of questions that will need to be answered for each step of the hiring process. By working backward from your hiring goals you should be able to build a plan that has good estimates of the volume of applicants needed and the timing of the hiring activities.
2. Break the Plan up into “Bite Size” Pieces
A plant startup is like climbing a mountain. At the outset it is intimidating. The responsibility of hiring and on-boarding 2,000 quality employees can seem overwhelming to even the most capable and experienced HR professionals. The best way to keep stress levels manageable is to focus on short-term goals that are tied to the overall plan. Focus on your next footstep as you make your way up the mountain trail. It is helpful if your plan has weekly goals. How many assessments need to be conducted by the end of this week? How many interviews need to be completed this week? How many job offers need to be delivered this week? Focusing on measurable short term goals will reduce stress and promote a sense of forward progress and accomplishment amongst the HR staff.
3. Manage with Visuals
Put your plan in a visible format up on a wall where your HR staff and operational leaders can view it. It should be easy to read and interpret. Good visuals would include a gantt chart or visual timeline with key milestones. Weekly goals and daily totals towards those goals should be posted. Project activities and task lists should be posted. Update the visuals at the end or beginning of each day. These visuals will keep everyone focused on the tasks that they can control. The HR team will experience a sense of satisfaction as each task is removed from the list, each milestone is reached, and each weekly goal is met. Additionally, issues are more quickly recognized. If the team is falling behind on a specific goal it will quickly be apparent to anyone that views the visuals. Why are we behind? What adjustments do we need to make to catch up? Problems are more quickly identified when the plan is being charted in a visual format. Necessary adjustments in resource allocation will be identified and applied more quickly.
Facility startups and high volume hiring projects will be stressful due to factors out of your control. The unexpected will happen. There will be unforeseen setbacks. Focus on what you can control and be prepared.