[IPAC-List] Does time to staff REALLY matter, and if so, when?

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Wed May 20 09:58:22 EDT 2009

I think the principal difference between the contexts is that YOU know you're going to have to live with that person for a long time. If they are obnoxious in departmental committee meetings, that might make for a *very* long 20 years. Anyone hired for your department is also not going to decide one day that it would be more interesting or a shorter commute to work for the Engineering Faculty, and then maybe move back to your department for a promotion. As such, selection in the academic context shares more in common with pondering an offer of marriage, while selection in the corporate sector has more in common with pondering the offer of a date in college. Ethologists will tell you that mate selection is far more involved when there is much to risk.

The other elephant in the room is that academic hiring presumes availability and need according to an academic calendar. Courses and sections to be mounted for the year are pretty much set in stone midsummer, with no need to augment full-time faculty before the next summer. So, you *can* take your time. Even if you poach, that person cannot in all likelihood just say "I know it's February, folks, but Ohio State just made me an offer I can't refuse, so find someone to finish teaching the graduate proseminar for the rest of the year." I contrast this with the corporate, not-for-profit and public-service world where no similar calendar constraints tend to exist. We obsess about time because there will always by something for the person to do when they arrive and because people are always leaving. Academic hiring shares more in common with a small-town bus-station or train-station where one bus or train passes through daily, and in between pretty much nothing is going on at the station.

Personally, I think the *real* study to conduct is the (current) relationship between speed and stringency of staffing, and payoff at the back end. In other words, how many years (or months) of actual service (i.e., time after you've been trained up) do I get out of you before you leave me? Our own survey work here used to involve a fairly substantial gap between when the staffing action took place and when we contacted the hiring manager to find out about that action. While that would have provided opportunity for managers to at least tell us if the hire left within 3 years or not, unfortunately the overall methodology did not provide the sort of timely information about the state of the public service staffing system that senior officials wanted, and it also ate up much of our team's time because it was unwieldy. We have since switched to a different way of reaching people which is less onerous and more timely, but unfortunately it precludes being able to ask "So, is the person you hired via this staffing action still there?", since people are answering the question a mere 4 months after the point of hire in many cases.

That's sort of the paradox that exists in many instances, I think. If you want to know about the particulars of how someone was hired, you have to ask right away. But if you ask right away, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to find out if the hire truly worked out. The ideal, I suppose, is to contact managers shortly after the staffing action, and then contact them again a few years later to find out if a) the hire is still there or has moved on, and b) what their impression of the hire's performance is after observing them for a longer period. Regrettably, that means identifying the hire by name so that when you re-contact the manager, you can ask about that particular hire. And that sort of breaches the promise of confidentiality provided to both managers and candidates contacted for the survey.


>>> "Dr. Dennis Doverspike" <dd1 at uakron.edu> 2009/05/19 8:50 pm >>>

Thanks Bryan & Mark

Some very interesting thoughts and arguments.

When I start thinking about this issue, I start to contrast two very
different approaches. The two approaches are the 1) corporate - we need
someone yesterday approach and the 2) academic - it takes us a year to fill
a position approach.

So, I thought I would reflect on the academic approach. The very people who
do writing and research on hr - somehow we now take more than a year to hire
someone and bring them into the organization. And sometimes even longer than
a year. Now I realize, that is partially because the offer and acceptance is
sometimes made 6 - 9 months ahead of time, but it sill often takes us a long
time between posting and offer. Why? I have no idea, which is why I guess I
am ruminating on this particular issue. Why does it take academics so long
to recruit and select faculty? Any ideas? Should it take so long?

Dennis Doverspike, Ph.D., ABPP

Professor of Psychology

Director, Center for Organizational Research Senior Fellow of the Institute
for Life-Span Development and Gerontology Licensed Psychologist, #3539
(OHIO) Psychology Department University of Akron Akron, Ohio 44325-4301

330-972-8372 (Office)

330-972-5174 (Office Fax)

ddoverspike at uakron.edu

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