Human Resource Management (HRM) plays a crucial role in the success of any business. In the same time HR professionals under big pressure.

On one hand the business needs more and more talented people that are difficult to find. On the other hand, HR professionals are more people focused, leaving lots of opportunities on the table for HR process improvement. This causes high workload and stress in many HR teams.

It does not have to be like this.

If you are responsible for a HR team, in particular for Recruitment, or just want to reduce your workload to enjoy the better part of your job more, in this article you will find practical tips to change your situation today.

Why Increase Efficiency of Recruitment?

Every process, HR processes included, delivers a certain result in a certain time against certain costs. If you take recruitment as an example, the process delivers…

y1: a certain number of candidates

y2: a certain quality of candidates – some are better fit to the job than others

X1: in a certain time period – time between posting a job vacancy until you close it

X2: against costs – number of recruitment hours, plus ad costs, maybe external agency costs

Efficiency is defined as “making the best possible use of resources”. When trying to increase the efficiency of your recruitment process, you want to increase output (the “y”’s like above) holding your resources (the “x’s”) constant or even lowering it.

With other words, you want to increase the number and/or quality of candidates you attracted in the same recruitment period and with the same recruitment costs.

If you do that, you increase the recruitment capacity of your HR team, therefore your contributing to the financial health of your organization.

Is Lean Six Sigma applicable to HR processes?

You may wonder if Lean Six Sigma, an improvement method from mass production, applicable to HR processes. The short answer is: Yes. Here is why.

In order to apply Lean Six Sigma successfully, these are the minimum requirements:

  1. Process – there is a process in place
  2. Team – there is more than 1 person involved in the process
  3. Customer – there is a customer, a receiver of the output of the process

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As you can see, this holds definitely for HR processes, also for the Recruitment process.

  1. In recruitment you follow certain steps, whether you know it or not. Just think about like
    1. A manager has a job opening
    1. HR creates an ad for the vacancy
    1. Ad is published
    1. HR receive applications
    1. HR selects suitable candidates
  2. There are different functions involved like manager, HR recruiter, copy writer, etc.
  3. There are internal and external “customers”, receivers of the output. Just think about the manager having the need to fill the vacant position, but also the candidates and even the HR team has certain requirements concerning the output and the process itself.

Lean Six Sigma helps to increase efficiency of the recruitment process. Here is how.

6 Steps To Improve Recruitment Process Efficiency

STEP #1: you need a project team from those who are involved and knowledgeable about the current recruitment process. Think about all those that are involved and invite them to join your improvement project team.

HR Recruiter, a Manager, maybe an HR Admin person, and a recently employed colleague should form the project team.  

Tell them why you want to work with them, your objective and agree on a weekly (or at least a bi-weekly) meeting schedule for about 12 sessions.

STEP #2: During your meeting apply the Lean Six Sigma tools, following the DMAIC steps (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control).

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This means, you decide with your team, what is exactly you want to improve because there are several possibilities:

  • Increase number of suitable candidates, keeping time and costs constant
  • Increase quality of candidates, keeping their number, time and costs constant
  • Reducing recruitment time and costs, while delivering the same number and quality of candidates

What you choose with your team depends on your situation. In one of my Lean Six Sigma Recruitment project, we were targeting to reduce the lead time of recruitment.

STEP #3: Collect data on the current situation. You need to establish your base line in order to

  • Objectively describe the current performance
  • Understanding reasons behind the current performance

If your Lean Six Sigma project team has decided to focus on lead time reduction, you need to collect recent data on

  • Lead time of recruitment in Number of workdays per candidate/job vacancy
  • Which job was vacant
  • Which business unit had the vacancy
  • Date of issuing vacancy
  • Date of closing
  • And any significant data in between…

You would need at least 6-10 data points to dot your baseline in this way:

After analyzing your baseline data, you may find out which part of the process consumes most of the lead time. In my earlier example, we found out: if we wanted to reduce the total recruitment lead time, we must first reduce the time between issuing a vacant position and the moment the job description is published on the intranet. In this example it took on average 21 calendar days to complete this first part of the recruitment process.

STEP #4: Analyze and investigate the causes of this current performance in relation to your target performance. This is a crucial step in your project.

This is best done with your team, using a flip over to collect your combined knowledge on what possible reasons are for the current – long – recruitment process.

At the end of your brainstorming you should have a consensus about the most important causes that you are going to attack in your next step.

STEP #5: Based on your analysis and priorities of causes, your team should come up with countermeasures, improvement activities related to your causes.

For example, if your team concludes that the current approval process to publish a vacancy is too long due to several participants and managers who do not exactly know the approval process, your team should come up with…

  • A shorter approval process
  • With less participants
  • And an easy video training to train all those involved

In this phase (also called the Improve phase of Lean Six Sigma) you try to find the low hanging fruits: try to avoid high costs/investments, try to avoid new software applications and external experts because all these will tremendously increase your project costs, your project lead times and you lose part of your control of the outcome.

That’s why I advise to use available resources when trying to improve any processes.

STEP #6: Collect new data to provide evidence of your success. Only when your data shows improvement – in our example a reduction of lead time – you know for sure that you were right with your cause-and-effect analysis and with your countermeasure.

Display data in the following way:

Celebrate with your team because you succeeded in improving the efficiency of your recruitment process.

Create a Control Plan to sum up your actions that led to improvement, and what needs to be done, by who to guarantee improved performance in the future.


  • Create your team
  • Define and scope problem with Recruitment
  • Measure the baseline lead time
  • Complete a cause-and-effect analysis
  • Focus on the root-cause to formulate your countermeasures
  • Execute those countermeasures
  • Collect 2nd data to proof improvements
  • Celebrate and hand over
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