Recruiting Circa 2010: Critical Hiring Trends You Must Watch

Web 2.0 has resulted in a rapid change in how hiring top talent could be conducted. But from what I can tell, very few companies are moving rapidly enough to take full advantage of this great opportunity.

A recent Business Week article (March 12, 2007) referred to Harvard B-school professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s Innovation Pyramid. The basic concept is that successful companies innovate based on a variety of risk from simple and safe to placing major strategic bets.

Those that lose their competitive edge emphasize safety and short-term results. Maybe a little more risk is in order for the recruiting department. Here are some ideas to consider if you want to increase your market share of top talent:

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  • Implement a top-to-bottom consumer marketing approach to sourcing. In general, the best people don’t post their resumes or hunt for jobs on the big boards. And even if they do, it’s a low-yield process at best. The big shift in the next few years will be to adopt aggressive consumer-based marketing approaches to attract top active and passive talent. Good people, even those actively looking, want to first know something about the company, its growth prospect, and the importance of the work they do to the company’s overall business. Yet few companies provide this type of interim or warm-up step; instead, they force candidates to look for a specific job at a specific level in a certain geographical area. This is counterintuitive. The big new trend here is the use of talent hubs that can be easily found using search-engine optimization techniques. From these micro sites, interested people can search directly for open jobs or input their resumes into a nurturing pool powered by a CRM engine like salesforce.com. Recruiters can then contact and network with these top people as needed.
  • Implement staffing requirements planning (SRP). This is also known as workforce planning on steroids. If you think about the old days, around 1970, computer-based sales forecasting was just emerging. This led to automated production planning, which led to Material Requirements Planning and soon thereafter, Enterprise Requirements Planning. Collectively, these tools allowed companies to manage all of their resources, especially inventory, more effectively. Workforce planning has been around for about the same length of time, but I’m surprised that only companies who have rapidly changing labor needs (e.g., retail, hospitality) or those who watch their costs like hawks (e.g., manufacturing) really do it well. SRP takes workforce planning up a few notches using multiple tools to predict worldwide workforce needs on an ongoing basis. This way, changes in economic conditions or business strategies can be acted upon immediately. Using SRP-type tools will allow a recruiting department to reallocate resources and change priorities within days to meet their company’s new hiring needs.
  • Link business strategy directly to recruiting and sourcing. This is part of a strong SRP effort. The idea here is that changes in business strategy need to be instantaneously reflected in a company’s recruiting efforts. For example, in the same Business Week edition mentioned above, there was a story on how Symbol Technologies (the bar-code company) had to reinvigorate its R&D efforts after seeing its stock price drop dramatically. Part of this was a major increase in hiring a new breed of technologists while cutting back in other business functions. This required a major redeployment in recruiting resources to pull it off. As companies expand globally, this same shift is necessary to find the people who can operate effectively on a global scale. More than likely it’s not the same people or the team onboard right now. These strategic business changes also require different approaches to sourcing and recruiting, a constant barrage of advanced training and new recruiters who are willing and able to use new tools, techniques, and technologies.
  • Systematize the entire hiring process. In most companies, sourcing, interviewing, assessment, selection, and closing are more art than science. Managers tend to use their own interviewing methods, recruiters are an independent breed among themselves, and recruiting and negotiating is problematic and unpredictable. Hiring can become a systematic and scalable business process, but it won’t be if recruiters and hiring managers aren’t true partners all using the best tools and technologies in the right way. You’ll soon be seeing some form of Performance-based Hiring serving as this foundational business process. The key here is that each phase in the process (sourcing, interviewing, recruiting) is coordinated, connected, and reinforcing, not contradictory and counterproductive.
  • Increase specialization of the recruiting team. A generalist recruiter handling the process from the beginning to the end is not possible in a high-volume corporate environment. Given the increase in workforce mobility, changing demographics, and the insatiable demand for top talent, recruiting in general is undergoing rapid transformation. Sourcing is a great example, as it becomes a specialty by itself. Developing pools of top talent requires the use of every networking site available, personal knowledge of functional and industry trends, the ability to deliver candidates Just-in-Time using the latest technology, attending industry events, and personal acquaintance with the movers and shakers. Recruiters must act as counselors to their candidates and advisors to their clients. This means they must know the intimate details of the job and be able to present the situation as a long-term career opportunity, not just another job. This requires strong solution and consultative selling skills with a corresponding shift away from a transactional processing mentality.
  • Integrate the hiring process with all aspects of management. Hiring, onboarding, performance management, and motivation/retention are not independent activities. Each step needs to integrate with each subsequent step in order to optimize the end result: hiring highly motivated top people who become highly motivated long-term performers with your company. This doesn’t happen by accident. The key here is to hire people who are highly motivated and competent to do the work you want done. Some type of performance profile can help establish this common link and can be used as both an onboarding and performance management tool. Onboarding is getting more sophisticated by establishing the foundation for each new employee to succeed. This includes establishing networks of associates and mentors, clarifying expectations upfront, and providing advanced training. The role of the hiring manager is the critical catalyst here and will require more involvement at every step. This means being held accountable for hiring, retention, and developing staff as part of their performance management review process.

These six ideas aren’t really too extreme. They’re just an extrapolation of what has happened to every other business function in the past 10 to 20 years.

You might want to use the Innovation Pyramid concept to categorize your current recruiting initiatives into one of these four groups to see your strategic progress versus your competition:

  1. Safe, incremental quick wins. These types of changes, while important, are not significant enough to allow a company to keep up with the rapid changes taking place in the global employment marketplace. If you’re doing what everyone else is doing, you’re falling behind.
  2. Significant changes that takes months to implement. Changes here include a major ATS upgrade, rebuilding your career website, or some type of recruiting or interview training. These are essential if you want to maintain your current position in the marketplace.
  3. Major changes and opportunities designed to increase a company’s market share of top talent. This requires a complete rethinking of everything currently being done, including the ideas above, a humongous employer re-branding effort, and probably a complete reorganization of the recruiting department.
  4. Huge strategic changes allowing the company to own its market of the best talent. If you’re not already there, this requires a complete overhaul of the underlying business before you even begin thinking about the recruiting process.

While you need to be implementing lots of level 1 and level 2 changes, you’re not going to see any real improvements unless you move to level 3 on the Innovation Pyramid. This is where the action is. Staying busy in level 1 and level 2 might seem satisfying, but it won’t get you anywhere fast.

Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).

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