Conflicting policies

A software services firm once asked us, “How come we are not able to staff projects quickly, even though we have a lot of people on the bench?”

There were a bunch of reasons, but among those, we found something interesting. They were implementing two policies that were logical on their own, but disastrous together.

(The bench is where programmers sit when they are not on a project.)

Here’s how they work. When a project starts, the project manager requests resources (people) for the project. HR passes on matching CVs to the project manager, who approves or rejects them, in consultation with the client.

They had two principles. Firtly, all matching CVs that are available are sent to the project manager. This is a good policy because it gives the project manager and the client a lot of options.

Secondly, while a PM is considering a CV, it is not double-submitted to someone else. Again, sensible, because you don’t want two clients asking for the same person at the same time.

But together, these policies killed staffing.

Every CV that is proposed is effectively “out of circulation” until it is accepted or rejected. Yet, the person is still on the bench, and very much “in circulation”. So he can’t be staffed, even though he’s available.

On average, 2.4 CVs were sent for every request. On average, a manager would hold the CV for 10 days. So, every request enforces 24 person-days of compulsary bench-time.

On a typical day, 75% of CVs were locked up this way. For example, on 22 Dec 2003, 291 CVs out of 384 were proposed for resumes. So a new request would have less than a quarter of the available bench to pick from.

No wonder they were complaining they couldn’t staff quickly enough, even though they had a large bench.

  1. Pradeep Atraya says:

    I would probably handle things a little differently here. I would ask the HR manager to group CV’s into two categories– 1) High Skills (Something that most PM’s love on their team) and 2) Low Skills (People whom the company hired but has difficulty placing). The High skill CV’s would follow the same procedure as before,i.e the CV gets blocked once a PM chooses it. The low skill CV can be given to 4-5 PM’s at the same time. When the PM and client interview for a position or couple positions they get to choose a couple (or 4) candidates, one of whom would get placed. Chances are that a High skill person is chosen and placed first and low skill CV’s get greater exposure as they are with multiple PM’s. The advantage of this approach is that PM’s get greater choice, spend less time interviewing (as they don’t need to narrow the search to just one candidate) and low skill CV’s, the ones which the staffing firm has maximum trouble placing get greater exposure and would need to spend less time on the bench. The disadvantage is that PM may not always get the person for the job if the PM falls in love with a low skilled CV’s. The probability of this happening is small as the HR manager would know his job.

  2. Madhu says:

    How did u solve this problem?

  3. S Anand says:

    We told them to reduce the number of days a manager could keep the CV down to 5 days. And we changed the rules of CV selection in fairly deep ways — the net impact being that fewer CVs were submitted per request. In all, about two-thirds of these blocked CVs would have been freed.

  4. Jayant says:

    How about approaching the problem by eliminating the role of HR manager? Let it be webbased. So employees put their skills on web. Managers look at that and pitch it to clients. Once in project, it is removed from database. Also, the hiring manager’s cost centre picks up cost once removed from database

  5. S Anand says:

    The HR manager IS required — to prevent managers from hoarding good people (they don’t mark them as available at the end of the project.) The risk of not having a resource is higher than losing a bit of margin, since skills are scarce. Also, the HR manager is someone the employee can pester if they’re not staffed. Gives the employee some visibility into what’s happening to them. I’ve seen a few places were this “market-based” system is implemented. It requires a lot of habits to be embedded in the managers and employees for it to work well. I wouldn’t have recommended it to this client.

  6. Jayant says:

    Thanks Anand. Point on margins vs. cost of not having inventory is important.

  7. Krishnan says:

    Any thoughts on allowing CVs to get socialised with multiple clients with an explicit disclaimer to that effect. That might put pressure on clients to lock CVs faster to avoid losing them and thereby reduce bench time (change management will be critical here to avoid losing clients)

  8. Saurabh says:

    You need HR manager to push for freshers’ CVs