Download White Paper: Lean in Human Resources – Streamlining the Hiring Process


As more organizations embrace Lean as part of a culture of continuous improvement they realize the broad applications it has.  All parts of the business can benefit from streamlining.  This white-paper will case-study the application of Lean in the Human Resource department.  Specifically, we will look at how Lean dramatically improved the responsiveness of this Hospital Human Resource department in hiring Nurses.


In hospitals, one of the key performance issues is recruiting and retaining nurses.  There is a national nurse shortage.  The Human Resource Department at this VA Medical Center was not meeting it’s goals in recruiting timeliness.  In the past they blamed their problems on the government bureaucracy and internal customers not providing complete information.

Instead of looking outside, we re-focused on the HR department’s own inefficiencies.  Lean is the identification and elimination of Non-Value-Added steps in a process.  We used the following Lean / Process Improvement tools to improve HR performance:

  • Performance Scorecards
  • 5S Visual Workplace
  • Process Flow Mapping

At the end of this white-paper we will show you the results of our efforts.

The HR Performance Scorecard

The first step of a Lean implementation is to make sure we are linking the project to improving measureable performance.  Lean should not be done to “make the workplace better”, “improve customer satisfaction” or any other number of un-measured slogans.  Therefore, our first step is to make sure the area we are streamlining has a working Performance Measurement System.

At Supply Velocity, we use a variation of the Balance Scorecard, called Performance Scorecards.  Performance Scorecards tend to be simpler than Balanced Scorecards and use fewer measures.  They keep score of a few (always less than 10) non-financial leading performance indicators.

To create your scorecard, start with the purpose, or mission, of the department.  This HR department brainstormed the very elegant statement, “Assure an Effective Workforce.”  Then they came-up with 5 measures that describe if they are achieving that mission.

Purpose: Assure an effective workforce 0% 100% 200%
Measure of Success Description Below Expected Exceed Weighting
% of vacancies that are filled within 90 days. 70 80 90 35%
Achieve % retention rate for employees that were new hires in the previous 36 months 75 80 85 30%
% of supervisors that have completed 20 hours of supervisory training 85 90 95 20%
% of disciplinary and adverse actions issued within 3 weeks of the infraction 85 90 95 10%
% of employees who obtain at least 16 hours of non-mandatory training in the FY 65 75 85 10%

Perhaps the most important part of the Performance Measurement System is the Action Plan.  This is a list of projects that are happening in the department.  This action plan has action item owners and expected completion dates.  We try to limit the number of action items/projects to 5 or fewer.  The fewer actions the department is working on at one time, the more likely they are to get them done.  Below is HR’s Action Item List.  Note, that all action items are linked to specific performance measures.

By having an action item list, you will make the scorecard more than a communication tool.  It will tell associates in the department how they are doing, but more importantly, what the department is doing to improve performance.

Human Resource Department – Performance Action Item List

Vacancies  Disciplines 1 5S HR Offices Lynn Oct-07 Oct-08
Vacancies  Retention 2 Nurse Recruiting Project Lynn when goal is met
Retention 3 Nurse Salary Survey Arlene Jun-08
Vacancies 4 Lean of Recruiting Process Lynn Mar-08 Mar-09
Vacancies  Disciplines  Training 5 Adding 3 new HR Staff Lynn Feb-08 May-08

When one action item is complete, they can add another, so at all times they are working on 5 “performance-improving” projects.

Scorecard results are reviewed with all HR employees monthly at a 15 minute performance review meeting.  This meeting is quick and effective.  It reviews actual performance and an update on action items.  It gives the entire HR department status and performance update.  No one is in the Dark!

The HR staff enjoys knowing what is going on and how the department is doing.  Initially, all measures were in the Red.  This grounded everyone in the reality that they weren’t meeting their goals.  This created the foundation for us to begin using Lean.

5S Visual Workplace

Lean is the identification and elimination of Non-Value-Added steps in processes.  5S Visual Workplace is used to eliminate non-value-added looking around for information, product or supplies.  It seeks to create a standardized workplace where there is “A Place for Everything, and Everything is in its Place.”

5S got its name because it is a five step process.  The five steps are:

  • Sort – remove the clutter
  • Set-In-Order – label or mark where everything belongs
  • Shine – regular housekeeping
  • Standardize – different people doing the same work, the same way, with the same results
  • Sustain – continuously improve, never backslide

We used 5S to make sure every HR associates’ desk was organized so anyone could sit down and work at another associates’ desk.  When someone is travelling, on vacation or out sick a 5S workplace doesn’t stop functioning.  While there is room for individuality, the critical files and information needed to keep the department running is organized per specific standards.

Below are pictures of the before and after of one HR Specialist’s office.

5S Before Picture of an HR Specialist’s Desk

5S After Picture of HR Specialist’s Desk

Note how the desk is personalized, but everything is labeled and a file-holder on the left side of the desk contains quick-lookup files.

File Color Standardization

To make finding files easier, they created a standard for file colors.  All HR employees (Secretaries, Specialists, Managers and the Director) follow this standard.

Current State Process Flow Mapping

Process Flow Mapping is the application of Lean to business processes.  It seeks to identify and eliminate unnecessary or redundant steps.  By mapping the process we enable employees to “see” the non-value-added steps that they perform every day.

The HR Lean Team mapped the process, sorted it into:

  • Green – Value added to internal customers
  • Yellow – Non Value Added but required by government regulations
  • Red – Non Value Added and should be eliminated

Non Value Added Steps

We identified 22 non-value-added steps in the hiring process, that could be easily eliminated.  Note, we not only created action items to eliminate these steps, but we quantified the savings.

# Red Tag Task Issue Idea Area Affected Labor Benefit (Hrs/Yr) Cost to Imp. Action Item Owner Start Date
1 SF52 routed to HR Director to assign Why is Lynn touching this? Secretary provided with rules of assignment. HRD and Admin 4.1 Low Arleen, Kim and Stephanie 05/22/08
2 Update Position Status Already entered this info into HR Tracking Build on the access database (HR Tracking) so that reports (like the Position Status)  can be qued as needed HR Spec and Admin 48.8 Med Amy, Arleen 05/22/08
3 HR Requests checklist Internal customer doesn’t always submit the checklist Amy screens recruit SF52s on receipt for attached checklist – Returns if not included. HR Spec 10.2 Medium Amy, Stephanie 05/22/08
4 Internal customers visit HR to review applications They have to walk to HR Use USAStaffing as a way to get electronic applications Internal Customer 26.0 High Stephanie 05/22/08
5 HR posts hard-copy announcement on basement bulletin board Unnecessary walking when technology will do the job Create vacancy announcement web-site on the HR page Admin 40.7 Med Arleen 05/22/08
6 Nurese Exec contacts HR for seniority date for applicants Nurse Exec doesn’t have access to seniority dates Compile a list of RN seniority dates for work area/location HR Spec 20.3 Low Kim 05/22/08
7 HR Director decides whether to place the ad It sits on the HROs desk and waits for approval Have FCP clerk verify availability of funds HR Spec 2.0 Low Lynn 05/22/08
8 Amy logs in application on paper and in database Duplication of effort Stop using the paper Admin 2.0 Low Amy now
9 Secretary passes LPN/RN app to HR Asst; HR Asst verifies license and school accreditation; passes to HR Spec; HR Spec performs quality check Don’t need to verify license and accreditation for all applicants – only selectee Stop verification until selection is received; Pass RN directly to Specialist HRA and HR Spec 60.0 Low Lynn 05/22/08
10 Documents referral on applicant log More data entry See #4 above HR Spec 8.3
11 Send applications Manual delivery when electronic available; losing track of where applications are; not available to many at one time See #4 above Admin 20.3
12 PSB needs more info on RN applicant and calls HR Why don’t they have all the info they need the first time All RNs submit application in VetPro to ensure all appropriate information is submitted HR Spec 13.0 Med HRO TBD
13 Sends copy of the offer letter to the service Printing, mailing and handling of paper Send electronic copy via e-mail HRA , Mail Clerk and Unit Admin 12.2 Easy So Easy HRO 05/22/08
14 Chief of Staff receives DT results COS is too busy to do this Change MRO designation to another qualified staff member HR Spec 2.0 Low HRO/  MCD TBD
15 Kim checks to see if the DT results are in Why can’t she be notified when results are in? MRO notifies Kim when results are rec’d HR Spec 2.0 Low Kim TBD
16 HR Assistant prepares Forms, letters, labels, etc. Applicant personal data is entered 19 times after the first time (10 of the 19 can be eliminated easily) All data entered into a merge form HRA/  HRS 113.9 Med High Debby 05/22/08
17 HR Director  gets SAC Why does Lynn need to touch this? Amy distributes all SACs directly HRO 8.1 Low Lynn now
18 Spec returns unclassifiable SAC to Amy Why are unclassifiable SACs being passed on to the Specs Educate Amy HR Spec 1.8 Low Lynn now
19 Debby prints VetPro summary page Extra paper Stop doing it HR admin 2.5 Low Debby now
20 Give the reference to the HR Spec for review if there are issues with it Handoff unnecessary Educate credential in dealing with VetPro issues HR admin 2.5 Low Debby now
21 Copy VetPro appt letter and put in the board action folder Extra paper Stop doing it VetPro Coord 5.2 Really Low Amy 05/22/08
22 Print appt screen and put in VetPro folder Extra paper Stop doing it VetPro Coord 5.2 Really Low Amy 05/22/08

Lessons Learned

When we initiated this process we focused on HR.  While internal customers can cause delays, we wanted to focus on what HR could do to improve performance before talking to other departments.  However, in retrospect, it would have been better to include representatives from internal customers, such as Nursing.  We did not make the team cross-functional.  As improvements were rolled out, we realized that we were too HR focused and should have included “internal customers” of the process on the team.

All Lean Teams should be cross functional in departments and management levels (individual contributors to executives).

Impact on People

It was difficult for some of the HR staff to make the transition.  Many had been doing it the “old way” for decades.  For these people, it took more work for the HR Director to sell the improvements we made.  Her consistency, in applying these tools, eventually brought everyone on-board.


We improved the “Recruiting completed within 90 days of application” measure from 33% to 56%… still below our minimum expectation of performance, but definitely better.  The Process Flow Mapping portion of the project eliminated 411 hours per year of wasted time in the HR department.

This department has undergone dramatic changes, from being chaotic, to being an example of discipline in business processes.

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“We engaged with Supply Velocity to help us embed process improvement at all levels of the business. Our team learned from Mitch to let the data drive decisions, to use Lean tools to help us see our processes critically and objectively, and to create a control plan to manage all of the tasks that were the outcome of the data study.

The project turned out to be very significant to the company and most importantly, our customers. We reduced our customer wait times by 40%, and cut in half the labor cost to fulfill customer orders.

Some results are not able to be measured. However, as a result of this project, we have started to build a Lean mindset and culture, which is part of our strategic mission to save our customers money. Supply Velocity has been a valued partner in this mission.”

Dionne Dumitru, COO, Weekends Only

“Supply Velocity gave us the tools to analyze our business and processes based on the facts and numbers versus our perceptions. Our common quote was “Let the numbers lead us”. The key for our organization was how quickly we moved from classroom to actual project initiation. We were able to jump in, start using the tools and see a difference right away.

The get-into-action approach was good for our culture.”

Ned Lane, President, CeeKay Supply
“Supply Velocity’s Lean Six Sigma System has given us new tools to help improve our sales performance. We have learned new ways to analyze our business which makes problem solving more accurate and has made us better leaders.”
Rachel Andreasson, Executive Vice President – Marketing, Wallis Companies
“C&R was struggling with labor productivity. The construction crews were often missing materials that they needed to do their work. This caused significant idle time. Supply Velocity, Inc. and C&R used value stream mapping and visual management tools to make dramatic improvements in operations. Most importantly, two years later C&R is sustaining and improving on the implementation. C&R’s return on investment was 11:1. C&R had a record year last year in both sales and profits and would not have been able to pull it off without the changes Supply Velocity, Inc. helped us make.”
Tom Kuthe, V.P. Construction Operations, C&R Mechanical
“In 2015 we began working with Dr. Mitch Millstein to optimize our inventory locations supporting e-commerce and in-store inventory needs. From this work we developed a new omni-channel warehousing and inventory plan that entirely redefined our approach to warehousing, inventory management, store distribution and fulfillment. As a result of the analyses by Dr. Millstein we have begun the move to an improved omni-channel design by reassigning MSAs to new warehouses, greater leveraging of in-store inventories to satisfy e-commerce demands, and exploring acquisitions of new warehousing space in strategic locations. We have already seen an improvement of $300,000 from both more efficient shipping strategies due to better inventory management.”
Rob Bowers, Vice President of Strategy, Total Hockey
“We used Supply Velocity on our Warehouse optimization project. One of the key characteristics of Supply Velocity is that they listened to our requirements and provided a clear path for our Warehouse processes using lean tools and our future sales growth as objectives.”
Haris Tokalic, President, Grand Rock, Inc.
“In the spring of 2003, the St. Louis Area Chapter of the American Red Cross engaged Supply Velocity, Inc. to perform a study and make recommendations to streamline office processes, maximize cash flow in purchasing and warehousing and restructure and enhance our maintenance department. Supply Velocity, Inc.’s process was methodical, flexible, staff-oriented, inclusive and, above all, trackable.

In the last six months, our Chapter has realized expense savings of over $380,000 annually, and significant improvement in intra-company service levels has been attained. Supply Velocity, Inc. will return to the Chapter periodically throughout the next 18 months to audit our newly implemented processes. We have been pleased with our results and Supply Velocity, Inc.’s professionalism.”

Joe White, CEO, American Red Cross – Saint Louis Chapter
“Our experience with Supply Velocity was one of the best values we have ever had from a consulting project. Cyril Narishkin brought a structured lean methodology, invaluable experience and engaging facilitation skills to help us streamline a very complex and disjointed sales order process. Just as importantly, our team now has the knowledge and process competencies to address other business improvement opportunities going forward.”
Mike Howard, CEO, Aspeq
“Mitch Millstein and his team helped guide our shop fabrication division in the re-layout of our custom pipe and steel fabrication facility when we moved into a new building. It is not only the results but how he helped. We were involved in every step. I personally did time studies and was able to see the non-value added steps required to manufacture in our old layout. When we created our new layout, everyone was involved, from the executive team to our direct labor force. With Mitch’s help we increased our throughput by a 3x multiple, while providing more competitive prices to our clients as a result of the efficiency improvements.

This has enabled us to not only make more money but also to expand our commercial reach and serve more, and larger customers. I would recommend Supply Velocity to any company that wants to make improvement in supply chain and operations.”

Geoff Gross, President, Gross Mechanical

“Your process encourages this group to work together, better communicate and have fun doing it.”

George Edinger, President, C&R Mechanical
“For several years we have worked with Supply Velocity to support us with their expertise on Lean Operations and Supply Chain Management. Supply Velocity has helped us implement Lean, improve our inventory systems, and educate our people. They are professionals who are always available to help us as needed.”
Lorenza Pasetti, CEO, Volpi Foods

“I am thrilled to provide this testimonial for Supply Velocity and their outstanding work in implementing Lean Warehouses and processes at Crescent Parts & Equipment through the COVID pandemic. With their data-first focus and Mitch’s exceptional coaching and experience, they transformed our business into a more supply chain-oriented organization, enabling us to grow while prioritizing employee safety and creating a better work environment. Supply Velocity’s expertise in Lean methodologies and their comprehensive evaluation of our customers have been instrumental in optimizing our operations and increasing customer satisfaction. We highly recommend Supply Velocity to any company seeking to implement Lean processes and enhance their supply chain efficiency.”

Josh Cole, Director of Supply Chain, Crescent Parts & Equipment
“Isolating a problem, finding short, and long term solutions with measurable results is what was promised and results is what was delivered by Supply Velocity. Upon launch of the Lean Six Sigma Selling System, we knew more about our customers, our products, and were able to create a solid plan to increase sales of our most profitable products. Within months of implementation, our booked sales jumped 60% and our most valued customers were getting direct, active, and calculable attention.”
Mark A. Presker, General Manager, Architectural Millwork of St. Louis
“Supply Velocity has provided the technical expertise and political capital to move our project forward. They have just the right amount of push and the right amount of support. Supply Velocity has helped us make real changes to improve efficiencies in logistics without jeopardizing our performance. We’re happy and our customers are happy.”
David Walters, President, Hy-C
“Anheuser-Busch Precision Printing had been implementing Lean Operations on our own for the past two years. We needed to move faster and partnered with Supply Velocity, Inc. Through Supply Velocity, Inc.’s mathematical workflow balancing and visual management tools, dramatic improvements were achieved. The entire converting operation was rearranged based on Lean principles. The result is a 20.6% productivity improvement, enabling us to operate with 23 fewer people in production.”
Rich Lavosky, General Manager, Anheuser-Busch Precision Printing
“In thirty years of hiring consultants, Supply Velocity, Inc. was the first to tell me what they were going to do, set a price they stuck to and substantially exceed my expectations. I have recommended them to friends and acquaintances. They were true partners in assisting with the turnaround of an acquisition we had been struggling with for two years.

Their math-based technology, solid down-to-earth facilitation skills, and positive, patient and enthusiastic attitude combined to make our implementation of Lean a very rewarding experience.

We increased our production by 50% in the first month of implementation and continue to see improvements. Improvements have not only been realized in productivity, but also in quality and morale. We have increased profitability by $2M on flat sales of $10M.

Based on Supply Velocity, Inc.’s integrity and our results, I will continue to refer them to others and utilize them in the future as we expand our company through acquisitions.”

Bill Gilbert, President, Fusion Coatings
“The role of the Erie Insurance Marketing Department has been evolving over the past several years – from a support role to a more critical role of driving growth in our organization. Because of our increased workload and desire to prioritize the most critical projects, we hired Supply Velocity to teach us the skills of Lean Six Sigma.

Participants included the Promotions, Market Research and Agency Licensing sections of the Marketing Department.

We learned valuable tools to help us to prioritize based on the voice of the customer.

I firmly believe these skills made a difference in how we work every day. We are moving new projects forward, eliminating or changing ineffective processes, and we are a much stronger department. We continue to use the tools to help us with our highly-complex and time-consuming projects. Supply Velocity helped us to accomplish our goals.”

Karen Rugare, Director of Marketing, Erie Insurance
“Supply Velocity is driving instrumental change in our inventory management processes. This is critical for us to be competitive in a supply chain environment with numerous disruptions. They are making change happen, which can be challenging in a 182 year old organization.”
Jim Carroll, Executive Vice President Operations, Schaeffer Manufacturing
“Closure Medical recently completed a major reorganization in order to enhance our ability to rapidly create innovative medical devices. We hired Supply Velocity to help us map out the process and service flows of the new organization that would maximize our product development process (PDP). In four weeks, Supply Velocity helped us envision a new PDP structure, develop measures and accountability for each step, and gain consensus within the organization. Supply Velocity’s focus on speed and accountability helped us complete a critical project in a timely fashion.”
Gabe Szabo, Vice President, Product Development, Closure Medical – A Division of Johnson & Johnson

“In a time of volatile supply chain disruption, Supply Velocity is helping us develop Demand and Supply Planning processes to proactively tackle these new challenges. They are genuine partners, working with our team, facilitating and teaching.”

Jane Thrasher, Vice President of Supply Chain, Horizon Hobby
“Supply Velocity has helped Clean succeed in a number of ways. First, they provided the education that kicked off our Lean Process Improvement journey. They also facilitated a number of large supply chain and process improvement projects including: 1) building quality into our direct-labor productivity incentive program, 2) designing the layout of our garment warehouse, and 3) streamlining our route service process.

We have integrated the methods that Supply Velocity taught us into our management and strategic planning. In the process our quality measurement has improved 22% from 2013 to 2015, we have reduced required annual labor by 2200 hours from the garment facility layout project and we’ve seen 50% decrease in error rate. Obviously the numbers speak for themselves, but just as important, Supply Velocity has been fun to work and have become true partners. They have “taught us how to fish” so our internal teams are able to implement change on their own, with the skills we learned from Supply Velocity. This relationship has been invaluable.”

Jeff Lazaroff, Senior Vice President, Clean Uniform
“Many thanks to all three Supply Velocity presenters. I think you guys took a very difficult time for learning and capitalized on everyone’s time and training needs. I truly hope this helps your business as this was a considerable undertaking on the part of Supply Velocity. Outstanding!!”
Mark Holdinghausen, VP of Operations, DEMA Engineering
“We are pleased that Essex selected Supply Velocity, Inc. as our Lean Implementation Partner. At one facility, we have saved over $350,000 in work-in-process inventory, reduced throughput time from 2 weeks to minutes and increased inventory turns 3 to 8 times per year. All these results are in just 6 months. Our return of investment is very high.”
Terry Etter, Vice President of Operations , Essex Medical Systems
“We used Supply Velocity to rethink our sales process. By analyzing the entire process we found wasted time in our Sales, Admin and Operations departments. Streamlining this process created extra time for each Sales Rep, allowing them to spend more time with Customers and increase the value we add. Gross profit margins are up 40%!

We are now using Supply Velocity to help us rethink our entire Strategic Plan.”

Jeff Reitz, Vice President, Central States Bus
“Myerson engaged Supply Velocity, specifically Ray Davis to visit our plant in Trinidad to conduct a two day assessment of our production procedures and provide us feedback on areas for improvement and where applicable, areas for future analysis.

Put simply, we got everything we paid for and in addition to more in depth analysis, we got specific tasks that were immediately actionable. Our local management team found Ray to be engaging, highly credible and insightful based on his wide experience. In other words the cultural differences and lack of specific industry knowledge weren’t impediments to things we could implement immediately and on our own. In a nutshell it was money well spent and will pay itself back many times over.”

Lee Hartwell CPA, Plant Manager, Myerson Tooth

“Supply Velocity created visibility within our Assurance Services Group… visibility of performance, Client-service, employee satisfaction and processing time. Using the Supply Velocity System, Audit Report Cycle time is down over 50%. We are using his strategies to create greater Client loyalty.”

Fred Kostecki, Partner-In-Charge, Assurance Services, Rubin Brown
“We are using Supply Velocity’s Lean Six Sigma methods to analyze a variety of processes including rationalizing SKUs (stock-keeping-units). By using math to evaluate SKUs we took some of the emotion out of our decisions. We expect significant increases in sales and productivity from reducing poor performing SKUs.”
Mark Kelso, Director of Process Improvement, Save-A-Lot