"One of the things that I have to say about recruiting and in particular recruiting metrics is that whenever I come up with a theory about something and start making measurements... I get a big surprise." Frank McKay
Welcome to Insights: Amplified, a Talent Acquisition Channel podcast featuring interviews with the movers and innovators in talent acquisition, staffing and corporate human resources. This is Peter Clayton reporting. Joining me today is Frank McKay, Recruiting and University Relations Manager, North America, for Schlumberger Limited. Before he became a recruiter, Frank Spent 30 years as a working engineer and takes a very analytical view of what he does. Schlumberger employs over 108,000 people of more than 140 nationalities working in approximately 80 countries
Insights Amplified/TA is a co-production of Riviera Advisors, helping organizations improve, enhance and optimize their corporate recruiting and staffing capabilities through sophisticated levels of expertise in tactical and strategic global talent acquisition and by TotalPicture Radio.
Schlumberger Limited is a global oil field services company supplying technology, information solutions and integrated project management that optimize reservoir performance for customers working in the oil and gas industries. In his current role, Frank directs a campus recruiting organization that is responsible for all of Schlumberger's on-campus recruiting activities in North America. His organization regularly hires over 1,000 engineering and technical graduates per year.
Insights: Amplified Frank McKay Transcript
Welcome to Insights: Amplified, a monthly podcast featuring interviews with the movers and innovators in talent acquisition, staffing and corporate human resources. Insights Amplified is a production of Riviera Advisors, helping organizations improve, enhance and optimize their corporate recruiting and staffing capabilities through sophisticated levels of expertise in tactical and strategic global talent acquisition and by TotalPicture Radio, the voice of career and leadership acceleration.
Diana: This is Diana Meisenhelter, Principal of Riviera Advisors. On this edition of Insights Amplified, Frank McKay, Recruiting and University Relations Manager, North America for Schlumberger Limited joins host Peter Clayton. Why are we interviewing Frank? Before he became a recruiter, Frank Spent 30 years as a working engineer and takes a very analytical view of what he does. Schlumberger employs over 108,000 people of more than 140 nationalities working in approximately 80 countries. We think his insights are valuable for any one task with recruiting high demand professionals on a global basis. I think you'll enjoy Frank's insight as much as we do. Enjoy!
Peter: Thanks Diana. A little background to get started. Schlumberger Limited is a global oil field services company supplying technology, information solutions and integrated project management that optimize reservoir performance for customers working in the oil and gas industries. In his current role, Frank directs a campus recruiting organization that is responsible for all of Schlumberger's on-campus recruiting activities in North America. His organization regularly hires over 1,000 engineering and technical graduates per year.
Frank, thank you for taking time to speak with us today on TotalPicture Radio.
Frank: It's my pleasure. I'm happy to be here.
Peter: Tell us about your background. As Diana mentioned, you spent over 30 years working as an engineer, how did you get into recruiting?
Frank: Our company tends to move people around between domains a lot during their career so in my case, I started as a field engineer working on drilling rigs, doing the job that I recruit folks do today then I became an operations manager, later I was a marketing manager for two large portions of the world. I had a number of years as start-up manager sort of managing the integration of an acquisition that we put together. I was the IT manager for the company worldwide and that sort of led to the recruiting job. I was asked to do a briefing for the personnel folks on IT in fact and the results of that conversation was a discussion around the fact that we were increasing by a large amount, our recruiting over the next few years and you know, I just said, "Look, I'd be interested in doing that." Lo and behold, I ended up in recruiting.
Peter: That brings up an interesting point. From what I understand, virtually every manager in your company worked as a field engineer, is that correct and does that mean that most of your hires are newly minted engineers?
Frank: Yeah, that's pretty much it. We tend to hire folks right out of school as opposed to bringing people in that are already experienced so we do most of our recruiting for our professional positions are people that are coming right out of school. We do interviews on campus. We select people based on a pretty extensive process that we've put together over the years that's designed to identify people that are good fit for the job and then we promote from within, so after about somewhere between three and five years as a field engineer working on a drilling rig providing services to our customers, a young person with an engineering degree could expect to move on into some sort of a management position and that might be an HR management position, a marketing managing position or maybe even a technical position, so we take folks out of school and then put them right back into school, 9 to 12 months with the company and that costs us about $100,000 and all of it's upfront.
Peter: You know, that brings up some very interesting issues, so you spend $100 grand training these people and then you send them out to these remote places around the world, how do you know a new engineer you've trained is going to be a good fit for this role?
Frank: That is, in fact, the $64,000 question. We have a very extensive interview process. I'll just walk through it quickly but on campus we do a face-to-face interview and then for the folks that we believe have a reasonable fit and we're looking for a lot of things that are not easy to identify, so we're looking for an interest in taking responsibility very early because they're going to be put in charge of a crew and that might be anywhere from two to as many as 15 people. They'll have several million dollars worth of equipment and they may be providing services on a drilling rig that costs $500,000 a day, so every hour of time that delayed because the engineer can't get their job done for one reason or another is a great deal of money to customers, so there's a lot of responsibility involved. We try to mimic that in our interview process. We keep them up very long hours. We try to simulate situations where they have to make decisions. We try to observe how they behave when they're tired when they've been up for 20 hours and try to understand who the leaders are. We have a lot of sort of role playing games that we do to try to understand who the leaders are, who the followers are, who will jump in and take responsibility, who gets frustrated by the process. So our second interview process is in the field. They visit with field engineers that are doing the job today. They go to a drilling rig and see a field engineer working on the rig. The culmination of all that is that we try to make a subjective decision about who believe is a good fit.
Peter: I've watched a video of a presentation you made and you said, "We are looking for a set of skills that are not in a résumé." Back to what you've been talking about, this is really challenging, finding those people that really fit into your culture and the kind of work that is demanded as a field engineer.
Frank: Yes, that's right. Let's just talk about that a little bit. What are the things that are on a résumé? You typically see the degree, the grade point average, any summer jobs they may have had, some of the things that are their activities, so some of those things do help us. For example, let's just take the normal, I guess, filter for new graduates which would be grade point average.
We typically hire folks with a reasonably good grade point average. A 2.75 is the minimum so that's not as high as some companies might set their threshold, but what we find is the engineers that are successful, the engineers that get fired and the engineers that resign from the company all have exactly the same grade point average. Grade point average within the window that we recruit does not seem to make a big difference. Activities help us to understand is this a person who is enthusiastic about being outside. Now, most people would say, "Yeah, of course I love to work outside," but for a lot of people what that means is 'on a nice, cool fall day with clear blue skies, I like to be outdoors.' Unfortunately, the oil industry works 365 days a year everywhere from Siberia to Equatorial Guinea to the jungles of Brazil and so that entails lots of different sorts of weather and outdoor conditions. We're looking for folks that just have a propensity of want to be out there. They don't care if it's raining or snowing, they like to be outside, so those are some of the sorts of things that we're looking for.
We're also looking for folks that take responsibility. When the Schlumberger crew goes to a location on a rig, they literally may be 500 or 1,000 miles from the next Schlumberger employee, from their manager. They may be connected by a radio, they may not even have that, so that engineer has got to get the job done. our interview process is designed to try to figure out which of our candidates are willing to sort of step up to the plate and make it happen versus folks who want someone to tell them what to do every day.
Peter: Another aspect of this whole thing that I think is very interesting is Schlumberger has an extensive internship program, so how have you been able to evaluate that program's costs and effectiveness and has it really contributed to the ability of the organization to identify those candidates that are going to successful out in the field?
Frank: Conventional wisdom is that an intern program is your best way to recruit. It allows you a long look at the candidate to see whether they fit your company culture, if they go back to campus and hopefully help you recruit other people as well. The premise that we started our program is based on that and every career services director in the country will tell you that and practically every recruiting manager in the country will tell you exactly the same thing. We've been looking at our program over the last five years and that's 500 or so interns and we look at it in a lot of different ways. We try to understand of course, how many people that go through the program actually end up going to work for us. We try to understand the difference between the people that go to work for us via the intern program versus the people that go to work for us just recruited off a campus through the normal interview process and we try to make comparisons between those two.
After 500 interns over a five-year period, what we can say is that attrition is a little bit lower, about 20% lower than it would be for someone we recruited off a campus, which in fact was pretty disappointing to us. We expected that attrition would be dramatically lower for the interns; after all, they spent 10 weeks traveling with a field engineer, working at well sites doing exactly the same thing without maybe the responsibility but doing exactly the same thing that they do after they're hired and yet for whatever reason, they don't have dramatically lower attrition.
We decided that you know what, it may not be worth it to, on a large scale, continue to put hundreds of interns through the program if the main indicator of success is lower attrition and we're not really seeing it. We're actually right now looking for sort of other extended evaluation programs that might work better for us or at least be more cost-effective because from our point of view, an intern costs us for each hire that we've made over the last several years has cost us about $30,000 whereas if I recruit off a campus, it's only about $15,000.
Peter: Again, that defies the conventional wisdom, right? I mean you would expect of somebody who was out there for 10 weeks doing or at least observing the job that they were going to be doing, that would be a pretty good indication whether it was a good fit for them or not.
Frank: One of the things that I have to say about recruiting and in particular recruiting metrics is that whenever I come up with a theory about something and start making measurements - metrics in recruiting, particularly fresh-out recruiting, is something that has to be tracked over not just months but years because the amount of time it takes to gather enough data to come to some sort of a meaningful conclusion is several recruiting season and then the time that it takes for those candidates to be successful or not successful in the company. So every time I start making a measurement on something, I get a big surprise.
I found it with female engineers, for example. Diversity is one of our big priorities and we have a very active program to attract female engineers to this rough-and-ready job on a drilling rig, steel-toe boots, hard hats, working 24 hours a day, sometimes working long stretches and we thought well, our female engineers or candidates would not be accepting that job in the same percentages as the male. Lo and behold, when we started measuring, it turned out that our female candidates accept the job at exactly the same percentage as our male candidates.
Every time I make a measurement about something, I get a big surprise and I learn something to help us do the job better.
Peter: Stay tuned after this short break. Frank will be back to talk about employee attrition at Schlumberger.
Jeremy: This is Jeremy Eskenazi, Managing Principal of Riviera Advisors. I'm working on a new post for our blog Insights from the Riviera called Recruit/Consult: Elevate Recruiting to True Consulting.
Recruit/Consult is a philosophy I've coined. It's simple common sense that I've learned over my 25+ years experience in recruiting and staffing and is the subject of my new book called Recruit/Consult Leadership coming out later this summer. Today, great recruiting and corporate staffing is not focused just on the finding of candidates but on the fact that great recruiting is about great consulting by the HR professional.
I hope you visit our blog at RivieraAdvisors.com/blog and share your feedback and ideas with our growing community of HR and recruiting practitioners. Thanks, enjoy the rest of the podcast.
Peter: Frank, let's talk a little bit about attrition because as you said you're not sending these folks to London or Paris or Monaco. You're sending them to Siberia so do you have a high attrition rate?
Frank: We do and we have historically had a high attrition rate, so let me talk about two pieces of the company. One are the folks that we recruit to work in our technology centers they have normal office environment but they have all the same benefits, it's the same company, the same culture; it just doesn't have that lifestyle component that a field engineer has. The attrition for those folks is just like industry averages, less than 5%.
Field engineers on the other hand have historically; although, it is entrée into management in our company, it's our management development program, field engineers have very high attrition particularly the first year, but even after the first year, it's pretty high by sort of normal standards of engineering companies. But the first year is typically twice what it is in the latter years and it can vary - I mean this is like the Navy Seal program, lots of people fail out for a variety of reasons but after the first year, it drops by about 50%, but even after that people decide that they're not willing to stick it out for an entire five years in order to move on to that management position.
Just to give you some numbers, historically I'd say over the last three or four years, it was about 30% more or less, we've dropped it down to about 20% now through a variety of different initiatives that we've taken and we think we can kind of get lower than that but not dramatically lower because it's a tough lifestyle.
Peter: That brings up a good question then. What kind of metrics have you been able to develop and how have you been able to use these to assess potential candidates and the success of your recruiting programs?
Frank: We look at a lot of things. We already spoke about grade point average. For us, and the data that I'm talking about is over about five years just to give you some rough numbers, 2,000 engineering hires into this field engineer position and roughly 350 or so attrition during that period of time, so the numbers are big enough that the statistics are meaningful, right?
Frank: Let's just talk about schools first. That was the first thing we looked at. Are there some schools that are better than other schools for our job and the first thing that we figured out was that yes, there is a dramatic difference between schools. We have schools where attrition 100%. Literally every single person we've hired over the last five years did not make it. We have other schools where attrition is as low as 6% over that same period of time, so there seems to be a fit. Now, there is a pretty strong correlation between quality of the school - and when I say quality of the school, I really am just talking about a gross metric that you would get out of US News and World Report.
So if we look at tier one schools and tier two schools in North America, more or less 100 engineering schools out of the 400 that are out there, those schools would have for us about 50% lower attrition than the lower rank schools.
What that told us was oh my goodness, we need to look a little more carefully at school because they're not all created equal for our job.
Now, we do have high-rank schools that have high attrition as well. So it's not just the school, but there seem to be some schools have a better personality, so to speak, for our kind of a rough-and-ready sort of a job than others, so we have a selection process and we choose about 40 schools that we pick by looking at six different metrics related to the school, but then if you look at for example majors. Our job, we are going to spend $100,000 training a graduate engineer, so that person could be any engineering discipline and in fact, we absolutely love diversity so we like to hire from a lot of different engineering disciplines, but we know that some engineering disciplines have a significantly higher attrition rate, so as we started to look more carefully at which disciplines had hire attrition, we found that there are five or six that really seem to be well suited to our job and there are a whole bunch of disciplines and art.
For example, we might very well hire a biomechanical engineer to come into program. They've got the engineering background that we need. They could be a successful Schlumberger engineer but as it turns out, we have very, very high attrition in those ranks, so it doesn't mean that we don't go out and hire a particular discipline. It just means that we advise our recruiters that this is a risk.
So if you're going to hire someone from one of these disciplines that we have high attrition, then we want you to be a lot more careful. Be sure that everything else around that individual is a good fit for the company, so those are just a couple.
Recruiters make a huge difference. We track our attrition to each individual recruiter, because the recruiter makes us subjective decision, and in our company and our recruiting process, the recruiters actually are making the hiring decision. There's no hiring manager involved, so we know that some recruiters have virtually no attrition at all and some recruiters have as much as 48% attrition over a fairly long period of time. So we have to be very careful who we put into the job because some people just seem to be better suited to doing the recruiting job than others. Those are just a few of the metrics that we routinely track.
Again, we're looking for a lot of diversity. These field engineers will be our managers of the future and so we don't want them all to come out of the same mold, so whether it's the school they went to, whether it's the majors that they took, whether it's their background, their ethnicity, we love diversity of all shapes and forms and so we're not trying to find people in one mold. We're looking for a lot of diversity but at the same time, we have to take into consideration the fact that some components are meaningful in terms of figuring out who's going to be successful and who's not.
Peter: That's really fascinating especially the statistics around the successful recruiters within your organization. Now, are all of these internal recruiters? Do you use third-party recruiters or RPOs or how do you go about the recruiting process?
Frank: We start with a face-to-face discussion at a career fair followed by a behavioral interview followed by a very extensive second interview. We sometimes use third parties to replace the career fair, okay so we sometimes use third parties to source candidates that we will then put through our entire process. The only step that would be eliminated is the initial meeting at the career fair. What we find is that it takes a fair amount of skill and I guess experience to be able to identify these folks as well as our people can do it at a career fair. We have used probably as many as 20 different third parties to recruit field engineers. We're down to one or two right now because looking at the results over the years, the attrition levels, the efficiency - in other words the number of people that they referred compared to the number of people that were actually hired - the numbers just aren't there to support continuing with the others. We have one or two that have kind of gone through our process with us. They've gone to the second interview. They've gone out to the field with the crew and seen what the lifestyle is like and a couple of those folks actually do quite - almost as good a job at identifying talent as our own recruiters do.
Peter: One thing that's been very interesting about our conversation and considering where you're doing most of your recruiting. Like you've said, you recruit about 1000 engineers a year from universities and colleges that you've identified, we haven't mentioned social media once in this conversation. You haven't said, "we've got this Facebook thing that we're doing or this Twitter feed..." are you using social media at all in your recruiting and is this something that you're even considering?
Frank: I believe that there are companies out there that are leveraging social media very well for their population and so for us it's more - yes, so we've had Facebook pages, all of our interns for example we set up a Facebook page for them to communicate amongst themselves but we're not using it heavily as a recruiting tool and it's kind of one end of the spectrum.
Let's suppose that the first interview we do is a phone interview. We know for a fact that the chances of a candidate successfully making it through and being hired are only half as good, in other words us being able to identify the right person are only half as good if the first interview started over the phone as opposed to that face-to-face interview. The efficiency of our process is improved dramatically if we start from a point of with a recruiter who by the way was a field engineer and that person has the opportunity and sort of assess the candidate right up front person to person as opposed to trying to do that assessment over a phone. We believe that maybe video conferencing would be a way to do it better, we're not there yet.
Peter: One last question for you and I really appreciate your time today, Frank. How do you measure success within your recruiting operation?
Frank: Let's talk about short-term and long-term, short-term fresh out recruiting, let's take our example. We recruit people, by and large we try to find, it's going to be the top half of the class. It would be our population that we're interested in from the top 50 or so universities or maybe as many as 60 in the country, engineering universities. We recruit them in let's say November. It's about when we do most of our recruiting. They come to work in June, July, or August after they graduate and then for us, if they're going to make it through that hurdle, it's about another year before we know for sure.
Short-term success is did that candidate that we hired in November make it through and become a successful field engineer about a year and a half later. Attrition is the number one priority. Every time they walk out the door or we have to release someone, it costs us a bunch of money; so we're looking at attrition as a first and foremost measure of success.
Then longer term, our real objective when we hire a field engineer is there are two objectives. One is folks that do services for our customers for the first three or four years of their career and second is does that person going to be a successful manager later because we never hire a field engineer that we don't believe can be a successful manager.
If we look five years down the road, what percentage of the people that we hired make it into management and then are ranked both high-potential and high-performance and we measure both of those things every year for every individual.
My long-term objective in recruiting is to hire folks as field engineers that five years later will be first-line managers and will also be top rated and high potential for the company so that they can go on to be executive managers later.
Peter: Of course, one thing we haven't mentioned in this interview that is very important for your company is that the field engineers are the ones who are making all the money.
Frank: Absolutely. Every single dime, they pay my salary, they pay all my recruiters' salaries. The company doesn't make a dollar that doesn't come through the hands of a field engineer and the toil of a field engineer.
Peter: Frank again, thank you so much for speaking with us today on TotalPicture Radio. Is there anything that you'd like to share with the audience that we haven't discussed?
Frank: I think that for me particularly for young engineers out there that might be considering a job with Schlumberger or any other company, it's just as important for you as it is for the company that you be a good fit. We believe one of our biggest problems are candidates that even after we've shown them all of the negatives of the job that will because either they get excited about the prospects of working in Siberia or they get excited about the amount of money that they might make or they get excited just to have a job offer, will take the job even though they're not a good fit for it. Our recruiting process is actually designed to give a very clear picture of the difficulties of the job in the hopes that the candidates that aren't really a good fit, that in their heart know they're not a good fit for this job will choose not to accept it.
We're actually pretty happy with a relatively high decline rate because we know those are folks that in their heart knew this wasn't for them and so they've saved us a lot of money by not taking the job in the first place, so be honest. Candidates need to be honest with themselves and honest with the company they're interviewing with.
Peter: I think that's some great advice and again Frank, thank you very much for speaking with us on TotalPicture Radio.
Frank: It's been my pleasure. Thank you Peter.
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About Jeremy Eskenazi
Jeremy Eskenazi, Managing Principal, Jeremy draws on his more than 20 years of experience and expertise in helping companies assess and enhance their talent management systems and processes.
About Peter Clayton
Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.