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Project Example: Lean Six Sigma Reduces Hiring Time by 37% at Kern County -

Project Summary

  • The Challenge: The hiring process took over a month which impacted child services
  • The Discovery: Lots of waiting for information and unclear communication
  • The Improvements: Instituting pre-scheduling and a single point of contact for hirees
  • The Results: 37% Lead Time reduction and $686,400 in savings
  • What’s Next: Keep using Lean Six Sigma to fulfill their “Kids Come First” motto

The Challenge

If Child Support Services of Kern County were going to live up to their slogan—“Kids Come First”—then things were going to have to change. They needed new employees and they needed them fast.

They were good at hiring, they simply were not good at hiring quickly. The new employee hiring process took over a month which impacted key services within the child care support system.

Green Belt Stacey Wuertz saw the gap and took on the challenge of reducing that lead time. She assembled a Lean Six Sigma team and worked to apply the DMAIC process.

Their first task was to define the lead time to hire—when did it start? When did it stop? They came up with Operational Definition for hiring: “Time from receipt of the Hire List from the county HR department until the new employee’s first day at the office.”

Their process map detailed what happened during the hiring process.

The Discovery

With their measurement defined, the team investigated the current process by collecting lead time data. They plotted the lead time for the last nineteen hires on a Run Chart which revealed an average of 42.4 days. They set the goal at a 20% reduction which would bring it down to 33.92 days.

They mapped out the process and documented the details of the process which helped them understand all the steps involved. That set them up to discuss where they uncovered the 8 Wastes within the system.

Mind Map showing the root causes of the long hiring lead times.

Based on their analysis of the process they identified a number of contributors to long lead time. This is typically done with a Fishbone Diagram, but Stacey’s team chose to use a Mind Map, which was more familiar to them and equally applicable. The structure of the Mind Map allowed them to explore how the 8 Wastes contributed to the long lead times.

Potential Root Causes

After reviewing potential causes in detail, the team selected three leading candidates:

  1. Waiting for panel members information
  2. Unclear communication between team members
  3. Long time to schedule interviews

Confirming Root Causes

These root causes were only theories until they confirmed them. The team reviewed the data to find evidence to support or refute each of their theories.

  • Waiting: They confirmed waiting as a root cause when they found that that long waits happened routinely—sometimes as long as two weeks.
  • Unclear Communications: The team confirmed this as a root cause when they investigated the handoffs between process steps. They observed that team members were often unsure of what the “next action” should be. Some team members waited for others to return before proceeding with work. In the confusion, team members needlessly duplicated tasks.
  • Long Time to Schedule Interviews: The team confirmed this as a root cause after examining phone logs which showed multiple calls and lost time due to “phone tag.”

The Improvements

Once they confirmed the root causes, the team worked on solutions to either eliminate or neutralize them. They met and brainstormed a variety of related ideas. They grouped and consolidated their list until selecting final solutions for validation.

  • Waiting: They reduced the wait time by scheduling panel members in advance—even before receiving the Hiring List. Testing confirmed that “pre-scheduling” saved time since the panels were ready when they needed them.
  • Unclear Communications: They addressed this issue by having each team member work the process from start to finish. They eliminated all handoffs along with the time lost because of them.
  • Long Time to Schedule Interviews: They tackled this one by standardizing email, which eliminated “phone tag.” This change alone reduced the time to schedule interviews from 45 minutes down to 3.

With proven solutions, implementation was relatively easy. The process participants were already familiar with the details of the solutions which greatly smoothed the transition.

The Results

The team was able to sustain the solutions by updating the process procedure documents and cross-training all team members. When they were done, each team member could conduct the entire process from start to finish.

The results were impressive:

Other results:

  • They were able to fill vacant positions quicker—increasing needed child support services to customers
  • They lost fewer candidates due to no shows or dropouts

What’s Next

Stacey and the team were excited by the new process and their success. They almost doubled their goal of a 20% reduction in lead time and they completed the project in under 6 months. Bolstered by their success they continued to identify and implement further improvements—the culture of problem-solving was palpable.

Child Support Services was better able to fulfill their Kids Come First slogan by making the most of their resources—thanks to Lean Six Sigma and the Human Resources team!

For over 20 years, Stacey Wuertz has served in a variety of positions within the Kern County Department of Child Support Services in California. Currently, she is a Program Manager of the Performance Management and Analysis division where she manages the Performance Management Team, Staff Development Team, Document Processing Support Team, and the Ridgecrest Branch Office. As a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, she has really enjoyed working with teams to be innovative in finding efficient and effective solutions to provide greater customer service.

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Get the inside scoop on many other successful Lean Six Sigma projects at our Super Stories of Success page. Do you have a story to tell? We’d love to hear about your own project success! Please contact us.

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