Recruiters are by and large some of the hardest working people I know. They toil away at finding candidates, scheduling interviews, meeting with hiring managers, inputting data into the applicant tracking system, posting jobs on job boards and corporate websites, and assessing candidates for fit. They never seem to have time to do the stuff that ERE writers, including myself, are always suggesting they do. Over the past few weeks we have suggested they focus on sourcing passive candidates, developing better metrics, recruiting college students virtually, and being more ethical. Yet, as I talk with recruiters, I realize they rarely feel they have the opportunity or time to implement any of the suggestions or ideas we give them. What we really have is the classic struggle between doing day-to-day tactical work and thinking longer term and strategically. Most of us struggle with the proper balance, and most of us err in favor of the tactical. We do this because we are more comfortable doing the day-to-day things and find more immediate reward from doing them. Strategic things take time, and the reward is much further away. Rarely are compensation schemes at most organizations based on the long term ó except perhaps for senior executives ó and we all ask ourselves if we’ll even be at the same company when the fruit of any strategic effort start to ripen. Is there any way to break this cycle? Is it really that we are so tactically focused that we cannot see the strategy? I would suggest that tactics are always just the methods we use to carry out a strategy. Whether or not the strategy is explicit ó written down and communicated widely ó it is exemplified and carried out by the tactics you are applying to your work. Most recruiters are, therefore, following an implicit strategy that says filling requisitions and responding to the organization’s hierarchy without question is the right thing to do. This is how recruiters have learned to respond to a 20th century strategy that worked reasonably well when we had a plentiful talent supply. But with a smaller talent supply, both the strategy and tactics will have to change. This is already underway, albeit slowly. Most of us who write for ERE are working with organizations that are attempting some of these changes. From this experience come a few success strategies that actually do work. 1. Set aside a day a month. Start by taking one day each month and using that day as a planning and discussion day or as a communication day. Use the time to meet with your team (or bring in an outside expert) and discuss a vision or broad strategy for what you would like to be doing. The process will allow you to explore new approaches and give you an opportunity to broach innovation and change with your staff. Most likely there will be some resistance to change, but the discussions you have with your team will be a valuable educational experience for you and set the stage for future change. Subsequent days can be used to further discuss specific actions, communicate your intentions and ideas to management, or develop tactics to make the ideas real. 2. Set the stage with your boss and stakeholders. Acting without support and understanding from those you work with will usually result in failure. Find opportunities to discuss your ideas with your boss and with hiring managers. Stress the benefits and advantages this will bring to them. You will have to lay out a business-oriented case for making these changes. It is critical to identify and explain what benefits they will get from supporting your efforts, and also talk them through some of the consequences that might result from implementing these changes. 3. Experiment a lot. The next step is to actually begin doing things differently, even on a small scale. Find an ally on your team and introduce a change or two. Some argue that big, quickly introduced changes are the best way to make things happen. If you are in a culture that is supportive of that approach, go for it. However, in my experience it is often more practical and more acceptable to move in incremental ways. By introducing small changes over time you can get more lasting and better accepted results than by making big changes and moving quickly. 4. Reward those who move forward often. Rather than punish those who do not support your change efforts, reward those who do. The rewards don’t have to be bonuses or salary increases, although those are fine. You can offer time off, a dinner, or some other small tangible reward. You can also simply make sure they get recognized publicly and often for their contribution. We are all eager to be liked and recognized for what we do. The organizations that lead are those that have employees who do these things on a regular basis. They are always experimenting, trying small changes, and tweaking what they do. Incremental change is something you can do no matter what resources you have. All you need is the commitment to do things differently.
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