Using effective recruitment to retain competitive advantage
A Cummins case study

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Page 3: The importance of recruitmentand selection

Recruiting staff is a very costly exercise. It is also an essential part of any business and it pays to do it properly. When organisations choose the right people for the job, train them well and treat them appropriately, these people not only produce good results but also tend to stay with the organisation longer. In such circumstances, the organisation's initial and ongoing investment in them is well rewarded.

An organisation may have all of the latest technology and the best physical resources, but if it does not have the right people it will struggle to achieve the results it requires. This is true across the whole spectrum of business activity e.g. schools, hospitals, legal practices, restaurants, airlines, and diesel engine manufacturers.

Cummins is well aware of the importance of 'getting it right'. Poor choices at the recruitment stage can prove expensive. The company needs to be sure of a candidate's technical competence. For example, if an engineer designs a component that fails and has to be re-engineered, the company loses both time and money and may incur penalty charges on any delay in fulfilling particular contracts. Time and money spent in recruiting that particular employee will have proved expensive and wasteful whilst a better candidate may not only have 'got away' but also gone to a competitor.

Cummins was recently first to market with a complete range of engines that met new stringent environmental legislation. Their technical solution to meeting this legislation was completely different to the competitor's approach. Had it turned out to be ineffective or not to be approved by government authorities, it could have led to the downfall of the company. The responsibility of making the correct decision was shared by relatively few individuals.

In addition to technical competence and appropriate experience, an organisation needs to be sure that it can rely on candidates' goodwill, loyalty and commitment towards the organisation and its aims. According to the Chief Executive Officer of the Cummins Group, 'one of the most crucial decisions that a leader will make is the choice of those who will support them.'

In a highly technological competitive market, Cummins requires people who are not only technically competent, well informed, loyal and committed but also capable of showing good judgement, often under pressure. When submitting a written tender for a contract, for example, the team working on it has to decide just what the company can promise to deliver, when and at what price. This can be particularly tricky when offering a new product for the first time e.g. what level of 'after sales service' should the tender include, based on the company's assessment of the risks associated with its new venture?

Advertising the job

Job advertisements form an important part of the recruitment process. Cummins uses various means to communicate job vacancies including:

  • newspapers (local and national) - typical costs £3-10k
  • recruitment consultants (they have expertise in recruitment and will search their databases as well as maybe advertising jobs) - typical costs 20% of successful candidate's salary
  • Job Centres
  • the World Wide Web.

Not all jobs appear in every media form. Junior roles at a particular plant may be advertised within a local newspaper whereas technical posts will be advertised on the web.

The balance of advertising is changing. In 1999 Cummins spent the bulk of its advertising budget on advertising in print. Five years on, virtually all technical and managerial vacancies are via the Internet, reducing the advertising spend by 80 %.Web adverts are more effective for longer than print inserts and can be more closely targeted. It is also easier for the company to keep a record of people who have expressed interest and then automatically e-mail them when similar vacancies emerge.

Using the web helps Cummins to advertise across the world and reach candidates that are more diverse as well as enabling the company to advertise quickly whenever vacancies arise. Cummins' websites include:

Cummins also uses external web portals, from which people can apply directly. As they do this they can learn more about the company and traffic can be monitored.

Each advert emphasises the knowledge, skills and experience individuals require within each post: these are the competences associated with the post. Position profiles identify the critical technical and non-technical competencies required for each job. These feature within the advert and shape the questions that candidates face at interview.

Cummins | Using effective recruitment to retain competitive advantage