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Recruiters Bear a Bigger Load as Hiring Takes Off

May 24, 2010

KeyBank has slashed its recruiting staff by half since August 2008, when a team of 77 managed all recruiting for the bank-based financial services company. With the recession in full force in February 2009, the company cut the recruiting team to 64. Today, only 39 remain.

But hiring at KeyBank never stopped. The financial services industry shed jobs as the economy deteriorated, but KeyBank signed on 2,155 new external hires in 2009 and hiring levels are rising this year.

“Since January 2010, we’ve seen a lift in requisitions,” says Karen Vilardo, a recruiting team leader and human resources business partner at KeyBank. Recruiters’ requisition loads are rising.

At KeyBank and other companies that have cut their recruiting staff but are now hiring significant numbers of new employees, the need to evaluate requisition loads has become more pressing. With many employers now moving back into hiring mode, skeletal recruiting staffs are facing larger loads.

Evaluating req loads
KeyBank’s recruiters are not the only employees facing heavy workloads. From the first quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2010, U.S. output across all industries increased 3.1 percent while hours fell 3.0 percent, yielding a productivity increase of 6.3 percent, the largest productivity gain since the four-quarter period ending in the first quarter of 1962, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Productivity increases accompanied by falling hours generally reflect higher workloads.

In a March 2010 Right Management survey of 845 employees, 79 percent reported that their workloads have increased as a result of layoffs at their company. Right Management advises employers to acknowledge the new realities of larger workloads and clarify expectations for the employees who survived headcount reductions.

At KeyBank, evaluating requisition loads is an ongoing conversation among recruiting team leaders, human resources directors and human resources business partners. KeyBank is owned by Cleveland-based KeyCorp, which reported assets of $93 billion and revenues of $4.4 billion for 2009. KeyCorp companies employ 17,468 people and provide investment management, retail and commercial banking, consumer finance, and investment banking products and services.

KeyBank includes 1,014 community bank branches that require a steady flow of new hires ranging from bank tellers to wealth management specialists. Requisition loads vary by recruiter and line of business, but the average load is 25 to 30 open positions.

“This can go up to 40, but if you go higher, the recruiter’s ability to be consultative may be diminished,” Vilardo says. As one of three recruiting team leaders, she now keeps a close eye on how recruiters are responding to higher requisition loads.

The largest numbers of new hires are recruited for the Key community banking segment, which includes the brick-and-mortar branches.

“The recruiters understand the Key community bank model and how hires impact customer service,” Vilardo says. “We’re seeing a lift in teller hiring now because we’re building brick and mortars. This year we’re doing more brick and mortars and we may hire five or six tellers for one branch.”

The teller position requires a high school diploma or equivalent business experience.

Analyzing the mix
The KeyBank recruiting function is organized by line of business. Each line has recruiting support, and some recruiters support multiple lines. Business lines include consumer banking, business banking, wealth management, investment services and the mortgage group.

“Recruiters are paired with a line of business so they have a seat at the table for that line,” Vilardo says. “We want them to engage with and understand the line and how each hire impacts shareholder value.”

Recruiters assigned to a line of business are responsible for recruiting for a range of roles. The mix is dependent on the needs of each business and may change frequently. Recruiters may cross over to support other lines based on volume and need.

In KeyBank community banking, recruiters fill positions for tellers, branch managers, area retail leaders, relationship managers and business banking positions.

“No recruiter handles just tellers, or only three job bands,” Vilardo says. In another line of business, such as wealth management, a recruiter may have a mix of higher-level positions.

Discussions about requisition loads at KeyBank begin with a review of the mix.

“We’ve talked about req loads based on the expectations we have for each recruiter,” Vilardo says. “We expect recruiters to be business partners. We look not only at the number of positions but the roles included in the load. We work with the HR partners to keep a handle on recruiter workloads.”

In any industry, evaluating requisition loads hinges on an analysis of the open positions. For high-volume recruiting for low-end positions, a requisition load of 50 open positions may be manageable. For executive openings or highly specialized positions, 10 open requisitions may be a heavy load.

Some companies look at the compensation attached to each requisition to evaluate the load. Under this approach, 50 open requisitions for positions paying an average of $25,000 are comparable to a requisition load of 10 open positions for jobs paying an average of $250,000.

Vilardo does not use average compensation per requisition or total compensation for all requisitions to evaluate loads. “When we look at the roles in the load, we use the job grade and position,” she says. “If we’re hiring for a new position for the first time, we may need heavy work on the sourcing side. Higher-level positions may also require more sourcing work.”

Part of the reduction in recruiting staff at KeyBank derived from lower levels of hiring.

“Because of the downturn, we saw a lower volume of requisitions and a reduction in some lines of business,” Vilardo says. “Also, we’ve worked hard to lower attrition, which produces lower requisition numbers.”

KeyBank uses a virtual work simulation program that helps predict performance and retention for tellers and call center job applicants.

But like most companies, part of the reduction in recruiting staff at KeyBank stems from the drive to lower costs.

“Questions come down from the senior level,” Vilardo says. Leaders will ask, ‘Can you do it more efficiently?’ This is true in any business. It can affect req loads. We have to be adaptable.”

Recruiters at KeyBank can talk with their recruiting team leaders about their requisition loads.

“I need to keep a good pulse on how they are adjusting to a new req load,” Vilardo says. “You have to consistently re-evaluate as changes occur.”

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