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Mastering Continuous Improvement: How to apply Lean Six Sigma Principles in TA Ops

Updated: Mar 28

Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a managerial approach aimed at enhancing performance by eliminating resource waste and defects through a team-focused methodology. It combines “Six Sigma” principles with a lean manufacturing/enterprise philosophy, striving to eradicate wasteful use of physical resources, time, effort, and talent while ensuring quality in production and organisational processes.

The adoption of LSS principles first gained momentum back in the 2000s in the automotive sector, when Ford Motors saw substantial improvements in customer experience through its LSS implementation. Since then, major players across various industries, including the banks, Mining, Insurance, and Healthcare, have embraced LSS. If you’ve ever worked in Talent Acquisition Operations (TA Ops), you’ll certainly understand that there is plenty of resource waste that can be tidied up, and we can absolutely apply LSS principles to increase the efficiency of the hiring process. Here’s how.

Navigating Current State vs. Desired Future State

In the realm of TA Ops, activities often operate within a 'current state' environment characterised by repetitive daily tasks within established systems and processes. Often, little time is allocated to evaluating work effort in crucial steps of the recruitment process or applying strategies to eliminate inefficiencies (waste) to enhance the candidate and employee experience.

Examples of this, experienced by many TA functions, is the time spent screening CV’s, scheduling interviews, creating interview guides and generating contracts - with most organisations completing these tasks manually. By reviewing these manual tasks, the TA function and recruiters evolve into a value add service rather than a reactive admin function.

Embracing a 'future state' mindset entails setting realistic improvement objectives, signalling the pivotal moment where organisational evolution takes flight, and magic begins to unfold. Think of it as a horizon: always ahead of us, something we strive towards but never quite reach. A continuous improvement roadmap is essential to ensure that you don’t slip back into that ‘current state’ mindset as soon as your LSS implementation is complete.

The Five Steps of Lean Six Sigma Application

So how do you actually transition to that future state mindset, and start to apply LSS? In order pinpoint problem areas and enhance processes, LSS follows the DMAIC methodology:

DMAIC methodology

  1. Define: Pinpoint the problem or opportunity and clearly outline the ideal future state. This phase encourages a shift in mindset to embrace numerous opportunities for enhancement and positive change. For example, feedback surveys to hiring managers and candidates have a low submission rate which means the Talent team doesn't have a holistic picture of where they are doing well and what areas can be improved (problem). The goal or ideal future state is to have 80% survey participation to assist in the meaningfulness of data across hiring manager and candidate experiences.

  2. Measure: Identify value-adding steps in the process versus those consuming significant time, impacting overall experience and ROI. Think about how your will measure success in your implementation - what are the KPIs you are looking to improve?

  3. Analyse: Thoroughly assess the current state by collecting data, understanding processes, and identifying challenges, laying the groundwork for process improvement. For example, you would obtain the survey participation data over the last 12 months, provide a year on year trend view and benchmark this against industry standard (if available).

  4. Improve: Prioritise and select key changes to implement, ensuring the desired future state is both achievable and conducive to collaboration. For example, utilising brainstorming tools to identify gaps in a process such as a cause and effect diagram. Get in touch with us if you would like a template of a cause & effect diagram.

  5. Control: Continuously monitor results and adjust approaches accordingly, fostering a culture of continuous learning and experimentation. For example, allocate a process owner who will monitor the implemented changes on a regular basis such as monthly or quarterly. This also encourages an iterative, trial and error approach with the opportunity to learn from the journey.

Once you have learned this methodology, you’re ready to start applying LSS in your projects.


What are the Six Sigma Principles?

The core of LSS philosophy centres around the titular Six Sigma principles. Now that you’re in the right mindset and have learned the DMAIC methodology, we can see how the principles apply specifically to TA Ops.

  1. Focus on the Customer: Understanding and meeting customer requirements is paramount. In the case of TA Ops, your customers might be your candidates, your hiring managers, or your recruiters, so understanding exactly what they need and how to make it easier for them is how you’ll apply this principle.

  2. Data-Driven Decision Making: Making decisions based on factual analysis rather than assumptions or guesswork. This is where Talent Analytics platforms such as seeHR will come into play. As the quote goes, “you can’t improve what you don’t measure”, so ensuring that your analytics are sound is a must.

  3. Process Improvement: Continuously striving to improve processes to achieve better outcomes. As mentioned earlier, this is about moving out of that current state mindset into a future state mindset, where you can visualise and plan improvements to your process.

    1. Pro-tip: Organise a process mapping workshop with a dedicated Business Analyst who can map the end to end current state using process mapping tools. This workshop would include team members who have direct involvement in the day to day process which fosters an open, collaborative approach. If a BA is not available, get in touch with Talent Tech Solutions who will be able to assist.

  4. Proactive Problem Solving: Identifying and addressing issues before they escalate. Prevention is always better than a cure. Think about things that are “annoying” or “frustrating” about your systems and processes. Think about what would happen if they scaled, or got worse. Those are the issues you need to fix.

    1. Pro-tip: Think about where your effort is spent mostly throughout the recruitment process. Is it interview scheduling, screening applications, drafting and posting ads, contract generation. Is there an opportunity to introduce automation, where contracts are automatically generated from offer through to digital signing of the contract by the candidate in one streamlined process.

  5. Collaboration: Encouraging teamwork and cooperation to achieve common goals. TA Ops teams often operate inside little bubbles. Break outside of your bubble and collaborate, not just with the rest of the TA function but the entire company. The best feedback will come from those who are outside of the system entirely.

    1. Pro tip: When it comes to reviewing current processes, it’s important you take the “go and see” approach to Lean Six by seeking to understand and showing an interest in team members' roles in the process. We should never assume we know without seeking to understand.

  6. Continuous Improvement: Committing to ongoing improvement and innovation to maintain high standards of quality and efficiency. This is a given, and really should be applied to every corporate function!

    1. Pro tip: Create a Continuous Improvement plan which consists of gathered ideas from the design phase and continue to prioritise these. Create a rating system from lowest to highest importance or impact and use this to prioritise the improvements. For an example roadmap, get in touch with Talent Tech Solutions.


Your Role in Fostering Lean Six Sigma in Projects

Research indicates that continuous improvement initiatives endorsed and led by senior leaders and executives yield greater success. Understanding your role in setting the direction toward the desired future state and establishing meaningful goals and objectives is crucial. By doing so, you cultivate a culture of continuous improvement, empowering your team to adopt a curious mindset in their daily work.


The journey toward continuous improvement is perpetual as organisations strive for operational excellence. Through the adoption of Lean Six Sigma, we not only enhance processes but also instil a mindset where challenges are viewed as opportunities. Talent Tech Solutions stands ready to assist organisations in exploring these possibilities, elevating them from good operational TA functions to exceptional ones!

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