When Denise McKay, Director of the Department of Personnel Management, took her new position with the City of Jackson, it took 84 days to get an individual hired. Like many professionals responsible for recruiting and hiring government employees, Director McKay was interested in reducing the number of days it takes to hire a new City of Jackson employee. With a long history in human resources (20+ years in the field, starting with Jackson State University, working for the City of Jackson for 8 years, and returning to the city after Mayor Yarber was elected), Director McKay knew she could tackle this challenge.
What Director McKay enjoys the most about her job is interacting with employees, assisting employees with solving problems, and helping city employees “accomplish their goals.” She finds working for the City of Jackson a very rewarding opportunity to not only improve the City of Jackson, but also its employees. What she doesn’t enjoy about her job is the amount of time it takes to hire a new employee. Director McKay received numerous complaints from her colleagues about the hiring process and applicants. She feared Jackson would lose the strongest candidates if it took too long to hire, and was determined to streamline the hiring process so that it was complete in less than 30 days.
As part of its What Works Cities engagement, the City of Jackson developed JackStat, a biweekly performance management meeting for city leaders to discuss strategies to achieve progress towards its goals, and discuss the city’s challenges. Director McKay used this venue to highlight the deficiencies with the current hiring process and make her case for changing policies around hiring.
To prepare for her JackStat presentation, Director McKay first started by mapping out each step in the hiring process. She identified nine unique steps from when the vacancy is announced to each new employee’s orientation. Once a vacancy is announced, the position is advertised. The City of Jackson currently does not have an online system to manage the process so each application has to be manually entered into the system. The Department of Personnel Management then sends the hiring department the resumes and applications of the most qualified candidates. The onus is on the hiring department to schedule interviews and screen qualified candidates.
Everyone inside and outside of City Hall was generally dissatisfied with the process, but couldn’t identify exactly why it took so long to hire employees. Everything from having to manually enter each application into the system to how long it took to notify applicants that they were selected for the job was blamed.
Director McKay began her analysis by identifying five positions that were filled in January: secretary, maintenance worker, recreation aide, senior legal secretary, and crew leader. The positions represented a variety of positions across city departments. She then measured the number of days it took to complete each step of the process. Director McKay used Excel to conduct her analysis and produce data visualizations for her JackStat presentation. She admitted it was a tedious process, and she hopes her department will one day be able to automatically generate reports of this nature due to new software investments.
After reviewing the data, she noticed that most of the delays happened in the hiring department, rather than the Department of Personnel Management. For example, it took 61 days to hire a secretary. The hiring department spent 29 of those days determining if they wanted to hire the individual after the candidate was interviewed. She observed a similar pattern in the other positions she examined.
In response to her analysis, Director McKay developed a new internal policy on hiring. The goal of the new policy is to guarantee “that recruitment and selection processes are consistent and identify the best qualified candidates for the City of Jackson.” The new policy makes two fundamental changes:
- The hiring department now only has ten days after receiving a certification/referral list to schedule an interview.
- A hiring decision must be made two days after all candidates for a position are interviewed.
After being reviewed by the City Attorney’s office, the policy will be signed by both the Chief Administrative Officer Gus McCoy and Mayor Yarber. The Department of Personnel Management predicts it will cut the time it takes to hire a new employee in half.
When the Mayor’s office first implemented its performance management program and started to hold JackStat meetings, Director McKay felt it “wasn’t clicking at first.” JackStat’s value was not apparent, and it was not clear how the meetings could improve city operations. Now, she finds the process ties her day-to-day operations with the Mayor’s overall vision. The goal-setting process also helped her better measure her progress and allow her to determine whether her department’s work is actually producing the desired results.
Tell us what you think. How have you cut down the time it takes to make a new hire? How did you determine if you were successful? How have you used data to improve another process in your city?