The evolution of a business requires continuous refinement of practices. At HEPCO, we found ourselves in the midst of such an evolution as we assessed our workflow, examining areas of inefficiencies and pondering ways we could enhance our interactions with both candidates and clients. In our quest for improvement, we found ourselves drawn to a distinct yet common tool – the checklist. We quickly decided we were looking for something more and began a journey to develop operating principles for enhanced business efficiency.
Checklists have long been instrumental in a myriad of high-stakes situations – healthcare, aviation, project management, engineering, to name a few. Their precise, step-by-step nature ensures that no detail is overlooked. As veterans of the Army, our CEO and COO were no stranger to the omnipresent checklist.
However, our COO’s perspective on checklists underwent a significant transformation quite a few years ago during his time in the Department of Military Instruction at West Point, under the leadership of Colonel Casey Haskins. Haskins introduced a new approach called outcomes-based training. It was a shift away from a prescriptive process to focus on the ultimate goal and emphasis on the principles required for achieving those goals.
Coffee by checklist
Haskins’ example was a simple, relatable daily task – making a pot of coffee. In the checklist-oriented Army world, brewing coffee would have a detailed procedure. Step one would be to fill the carafe with water, followed by placing a filter in the machine, adding coffee grounds to the filter, pouring water into the machine, and finally, activating it. If evaluated, one would be expected to strictly adhere to these steps in sequence.
But let us consider an alternative scenario. What if you poured the water into the machine before handling the coffee grounds and filter? What if you put the coffee grounds into the filter first, before placing it into the machine? According to the checklist, you would have failed. But ultimately, you’d still end up with a pot of coffee. The person evaluated would achieve the desired outcome, albeit not in the prescribed sequence. Because you understood the principle of water flowing through coffee grounds to make coffee, you would succeed.
The need for operating principles
This illustration profoundly influenced our approach at HEPCO. We decided to focus more on operating principles for business efficiency as opposed to trying to develop a step-by-step process to address every situation. While we recognize the value of processes, understanding the desired outcome allows us to implement them with a sense of purpose.
At HEPCO, our assets are people and information. The engagements are fluid and personal. It is challenging for a recruiter or salesperson to be fully present in their conversations and at the same time follow a checklist. It is the outcome and the continued interactions we have with people that is most important. What principles could we formulate to set the conditions for us to successfully take care of people?
Inspired by this philosophy, we created and refined three guiding principles – the HEPCO Operating Principles, or HOPs. We designed these three principles to lead us to our desired outcomes while providing an adaptable framework for execution. When one understands the principles and the capabilities of our systems and tools, we can achieve our outcomes and be efficient in the way we execute operations.
HOP #1, Information 360
HOP #1, formally known as Information 360, forms the bedrock of our knowledge and information management strategy at HEPCO. This principle, informally described as “Job Diva knows, what the client knows, what the candidate knows,” encapsulates our dedication to transparency.
Job Diva, our central Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), is the key tool we leverage to operationalize this principle. It is our comprehensive hub for all communications, record-keeping, sales pipeline tracking, resume database, and application viewing. It is invaluable in helping us find answers, gain insights, and further the goals of HOP #2.
This principle underlines the need for a seamless flow of information amongst all involved parties – our internal team, clients, and candidates. By ensuring everyone has access to the same vital information, we eliminate any potential ambiguity and foster a harmonious approach to operations. The primary goal is to maintain clarity and consistency in all our interactions and ensure everyone is working collaboratively towards the same objectives.
HOP #2, Economy of Effort
HOP #2, formally known as Economy of Effort, is the guiding principle in our approach to task delegation and resource management at HEPCO. In simpler terms, we summarize it as “Don’t have two people do a one-person job.” This principle emphasizes the importance of fully understanding the capabilities of our systems and the roles of each team member.
The application of HOP #2 is facilitated by the robust practice of HOP #1. Our recruiters keep appropriate notes on every interaction they have, which means that supervisors can effectively carry out their responsibilities without interrupting a recruiter’s workflow. Take, for instance, the scenario where we receive a negative review on GreatRecruiters.com, which is rare. With the available comprehensive notes in Job Diva, the supervisor can research the candidate’s profile, understand the context, and then reach out to address the reviewer’s concerns without needing to disturb the recruiter.
This interaction typically clears up misunderstandings and regardless of the outcome, it emphasizes to the candidate that we have heard them. It allows the supervisor to provide them with a clear path forward, all while maintaining the flow of the recruiter’s work. After all, our aim is to have our recruiters focused on fostering relationships and aligning talented individuals with our client’s needs.
At its core, this principle champions the efficient use of resources and personal responsibility. By avoiding unnecessary distribution of tasks among multiple individuals, we reduce redundancies, conserve resources, and foster a culture of accountability. It is about maintaining operational efficiency while making sure each team member is able to focus on their key responsibilities.
HOP #3, Build the Communication Circle
HOP #3, known formally as Build the Communication Circle, is a critical principle guiding our communication flow at HEPCO. This principle, which we informally call ‘no ghosting,’ revolves around four key stages: ‘Initiation, Research/Examination, Decision/Update, and Delivery.’
Take the example of a job application. The process starts, or is ‘initiated,’ when someone applies for a job. We build upon this by examining their skills and making decisions on whether to contact them for an interview, encompassing the ‘Research/Examination’ and ‘Decision/Update’ stages. If our recruiters determine that the candidate is not the right fit, they will complete the ‘Delivery’ stage by reaching out and informing the candidate of the decision.
HOP #3, illustrates its principle in the context of the negative review scenario from HOP #2. The candidate initiates the circle by expressing their concerns through the review on GreatRecruiters.com. The supervisor then leverages the information captured in the ATS to research the candidate’s interactions with the recruiter. Based on this research, the supervisor determines how and what to communicate to address the candidate’s concerns, ensuring the completion of the communication circle.
This principle is not limited to external communications but is also applied internally. Whether it is a team member or a vendor posing a question, we prioritize research to inform our next steps and ensure a comprehensive and appropriate response.
Fundamentally, HOP #3 emphasizes the importance of full-cycle communication and follow-ups, ensuring no one is left in the dark or ‘ghosted.’ It cultivates a culture of respect and commitment to seeing every interaction through to its conclusion, assuring all stakeholders that their inquiries or tasks will be fully addressed and resolved.
Our three HOPs at HEPCO – Information 360, Economy of Effort, and Build the Communication Circle – intertwine to shape a unique approach for operating principles to enhance business efficiency. They are more than mere guidelines; they embody our commitment to transparent and efficient information management, judicious resource allocation, and respectful, full-circle communication. For our clients and candidates, this translates into an experience characterized by clarity, effectiveness, and genuine engagement. Our operating principles enhance business efficiency and create an environment where every individual feels heard, valued, and confident in our services. They ensure that every interaction with us is enriched with accurate information, optimized processes, and respectful closure. With the HOPs as our compass, we navigate our daily operations, always aiming to deliver the best outcomes for our clients and candidates.
Read more about a related topic, check out this blog post: