Are You Going Blind?

Getting things done is essential to both business and recruiting success. The popularity of books like Execution by Larry Bossidy has raised the idea of achieving goals and acting decisively to godlike levels. But, Americans have always been particularly good at accomplishing things, even though they frequently aren’t sure why they are doing it. We often seem to act as if we are blind to the longer-term reason for what we do.

We make more cars, produce more food, and have one of the highest productivity levels in the world. Our employees work longer hours than those of any other country in the world (even more than the Japanese, who come in second), but we are not really sure why we do this.

We rarely have an overarching purpose for what we do that we can express in simple terms. It is amazing that we buy books on execution, time management, project management, process improvement, and efficiency, but the handful of good books on strategy never make the bestseller list. Most of us relegate strategic planning to a special and separate function within our organizations and then forget all about it. This is particularly true of recruiting.

Recruiters, as well as hiring managers, seem to make the assumption that the only function of recruiting is to find and hire people. While there is nothing wrong with that general thought, it is way too broad, vague, and generic to help guide any useful execution focus. No other function that I can think of has such a broad assumed purpose. My belief is that performance excellence can only be achieved when there is a narrowly defined and carefully thought out strategy. We put men on the moon successfully not because we had a space program. We did it because we had a purpose that was precisely expressed by President Kennedy when he challenged us to put a man on the moon by 1969. After that, everything NASA did was focused on achieving that goal.

For many of us, this is the time of year to plan, assess, and get ready for the coming year. Here are a few ideas on how to approach this task of more carefully defining the purpose of recruiting in your organization.

The first step is to stand back and ask yourself what you really contribute to the organization that makes a difference. Where does your recruiting pay off the best for your organization? In other words, who are the most valuable people you find and hire? And then ask yourself if these are the same people you spend most of your time finding and recruiting. This process of defining a focus for your work is critical to making the next steps work, so take the time to do it thoroughly.

The best way is to get a small group of stakeholders together, such as hiring managers, recruiters, and HR generalists, and pose a question like the following: “If we had to recruit only one or two particular types of skill sets for our company, what would those be?” For example, start a conversation that probes into which specific positions you should focus on and which might be less important or best outsourced. Find out if some degrees, skills, or competencies are critical or just nice to have. While this is not a pleasant process because we all think our skills and positions are the most important, by asking people to think about those positions that actually generate revenue, create products or services, or that deeply impact a customer, you can begin to bring people into some sort of consensus. Usually support groups like human resources, legal, finance, and IT all find out that they are not in this group. The function most likely to be found in the critical area include engineers, scientists, inventors, and sales staff, although there is great variability from organization to organization.

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The second step is to create a statement that expresses in writing the purpose for recruiting in your organization. It might read like this: “XYZ Corporation’s recruiting department supplies key experienced technical and R&D staff on a timely basis. We support the development of a pipeline of technical skills through internship programs, scholarships, and attendance at key technical conferences. Recruiting of nontechnical and hourly staff is outsourced to carefully chosen partners.”

Writing this statement is tough. It is contentious. And, it is one of the best things you will ever do. Once this statement has been crafted, it must be thoroughly vetted with each business group and with the leadership team. By having a joint taskforce charted with creating the statement, part of the buy-in process will already be done. Agreement on the specific purpose and reason for your function is critically important to long-term success.

The third step is to develop a plan to widely communicate your strategy internally. This means letting everyone know what you do and don’t do and where your focus will be placed. Email, your organization’s intranet, and other communication media such as meetings and memos can be used to make sure that all employees understand and are able to articulate what you do for the organization.

Finally, as the fourth step, begin to change your tactics to be able to flawlessly execute this strategy. The tactics, processes, policies, and staff skills that you need should all be aligned to this overarching strategy and purpose.

Focus, concentration, a clearly expressed purpose, and carefully designed processes are always a formula for success.

Note: Can you help? How much global recruiting is really happening? What are the trends? What are the greatest challenges? Which sourcing and retention tactics work? How are corporate recruiting web sites addressing a global audience? How important is the “cultural competence” of recruiters? We are conducting a survey of global recruiting practices, a summary of which will be made available to all ERE readers at no cost. Please click on or paste this link into your browser to take the survey: http://www.glrsurveys.com/globaltrends2008/ . It just takes a few minutes! Thanks.

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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3 Comments on “Are You Going Blind?

  1. The article are you going blind is in my humble opinion, so much fluff that I was left wondering if the two minutes of my life that I spent reading could ever be recovered???? First of all, step one determining your value is normally done by others …i.e. your boss, that person who hired you to accomplish what they pay you for. Secondly, most of my colleagues are entirely too busy or just don’t give a flying rat’s butt about my mission statement – see Jerry McGuire if you want more detail on that. And finally, execute on the statement is what is expected of every recruiter. It is the one and only step that makes any sense and it is what I do daily, so it would have been nice to just focus on that and I could have saved that extra minute and 45 seconds of my valued life. At least then I could spend that time replying to this article and making a few people smile or laugh. Carpe Diem!!!!!

  2. Smile? Laugh? Steve, I wanted to cry. If you don’t get the importance of a well articulated mission statement you are clearly missing something. Something important. It’s fundamental to business communication AND success. Companies that don’t have one begin to flounder, as do those people who show up for work not fully understanding where they fit in. i.e. their individual mission statement (or their department’s). And sadly this happens a lot.

    I have had many in-house assignments, and although every one has had the same common denominator I would venture to say no two were exactly alike. So simply thinking, and saying, I am here to recruit would have wasted the opportunity to have the people I was working with fully understand what I was there to do. Among other things it helps to define who has the ball at each step of the recruitment/hiring process. Admittedly that level of detail should not, and would not be contained in the mission statement itself, but it should come from that nevertheless.

    Carpe diem? Great bar in Barcelona. Too bad I can’t buy you a beer there after work and tell you about the hugely successful Wall Street investor whose number one criterion for investing was how well employees understood their mission statement.

  3. The problem is not with Mission Statements per se.

    The problem is that they have become a source of cynicism and mockery. I worked for an IT Consultancy in Austin and they has a mission statement that included the line ‘X company will be the best company its employees have ever worked for’. As a former contractor, I have worked for a LOT of companies (having held a job since I was 14) and they were actually the very worst company I every worked for.

    How sad is that?

    Mission Statements are nice, and it’s great to promote all sorts of lofty ideals, but until you can prioritize them in a cogent manner, I don’t think they are very helpful:

    ‘Our goal is to to dominate the internet browser market no matter how much our employees home lives suffer and no matter how many FTC investigations we have to endure.’

    Now THAT is a great mission statement. At least, going into a company like that, you know you are going to work long hours and be subject to subpoena at any time.

    My point is that for many companies, the mission statement is more about image than execution.

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