Recruiting Gets the Best of the Failing Grades

Recruiting gets the best of the bad news from business leaders, who say a lack of support from human resources is largely to blame for the worsening shortage of talent and skills in their work groups.

Leaders of finance, IT, procurement, and other units of some 145 major global businesses reporting getting such low levels of support from their HR colleagues that few of them say they are satisfied with any of the department’s key talent management services.

Even in recruiting and staffing, where the largest number of leaders report receiving at least some level of service, 65 percent of them say they are dissatisfied.

The study by global business consultants The Hackett Group found HR provided a full range of services only in recruiting and only in 13 percent of the 145 companies surveyed; 47 percent more said HR provided at least some recruiting services.

But in the five other areas studied in Hackett’s most recent HR Book of Numbers research, the service levels dropped precipitously. In retention, for instance, only 17 percent of the respondents said HR provided at least some service. Only 1 percent reported getting a full range of service and expertise.

In no instance, according to the study, did any of the executive express anything close to satisfaction with the help they got from HR. Recruiting and staffing services came out the least bad of the lot, but only by a percent. The worst was in HR’s collaboration and sharing of knowledge where 79 percent of the executives said they were dissatisfied.

The problems stem from both the changing nature of HR as well as the budget cuts human resources has suffered in the last several years, according to the authors of Cracks in the Foundation: Closing the Critical Skills Gap Undermining Business Capabilities:

One key explanation for HR’s inability to effectively support talent management needs of business services is that HR has had a hard time adapting to its changing mission of enabling business performance. At many companies, HR budget and staff cuts made during the recent recession remain in effect, impacting on talent management programs, along with training, career development, and retention programs.

Contributing to HRs lack of collaboration and sharing is that “few HR organizations have a dedicated business partner role responsible for communicating and understanding the talent management needs of business services functions like finance, IT, and others.”

While recruiting is where HR provides the strongest support to business services, the report notes, “it is also the least effective talent management category employed by business services.” Here, some of the fault rides with the leaders of the business units who “must do a better job of defining and prioritizing the skills and characteristics that are truly essential for job candidates to have.”

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The Hackett Group Chief Research Officer Michel Janssen says, “Today’s changing business environment requires that business services organizations retool and radically change their mix of staff to improve their ability to directly impact on business performance. Talent management is key, and business services can’t accomplish this without strong and effective support from HR. Both parties must redouble their efforts to improve their working relationship.”

A laudable goal, and certainly one HR professionals have wrestled with for years. Yet the so-called “seat at the table” is still elusive and beyond the reach of most HR departments.

Speaking to Talent Management, Harry Osle, The Hackett Group’s global HR practice leader, observed that, “For years, HR professionals have been talking about moving up the maturity curve into the talent management arena.”

“This is where HR tends to struggle because attracting and retaining top talent is the key. HR struggles there because they don’t fundamentally understand how to retain some of these individuals.”

The report offers guidance for both HR and the leaders of the services units to improve both their collaboration as well as the overall delivery of HR business support. Besides insisting that unit leaders better detail the skills and competencies they require, the report authors suggest HR place more of an emphasis on developing staff and on candidate relationship management.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


11 Comments on “Recruiting Gets the Best of the Failing Grades

  1. John,
    This is important for recruiters to understand; it’s too bad this comes out when many may be on vacation… Recruitment is very seriously flawed. We can’t really address the problems until we admit that. The primary reason is that recruitment uses old, failed methods – or, sometimes, new often social approaches with no verifiable value. HR people all too often seem afraid of the numbers, the data, the facts. Companies that don’t fail in recruitment use scientific, proven, data-intense processes because they work. Continual denial or ignorance of this immutable fact will keep recruitment among the whipping-boys of experienced, data-comfortable senior managers.

  2. Paul,

    I agree to a apoint. However, some managers don’t care about data. Since I’ve been at my current company the time to fill has gone from an average of six months to less than two months, with lower level positions taking often no more than two weeks from when the REQ is opened to when their butt hits a chair. Quality of hire to the extent we can measure it is up as well, turnover is way down. No one in upper management has heard this more than twice, and last time I brought it up I was screamed at. Literally.

    People with unreasonable demands will ALWAYS be dissatisfied with any level of service you offer. And succeeding with demonstrable data improvements only matters if the people you’re serving actually see that data and acknowledge its relevance. Despite the real and measurable improvements at my company my performance is still largely based on one failed position. After months of searching the owner of the company found someone in the UK who took the job, their ‘dream candidate’ in their own words which I failed to find. Of course, he had to be relocated which they specifically said they wouldn’t do for any of the candidates I found. And he was offered well over 200K when the salary cap I was given was 125K. And, to top it all off, he came from a specific industry and company that I was told not to look in or pull from.

    You can’t satisfy the demands of some people. Perhaps someone should do the reciprocal study and determine just was HR and recruiting departments think of their management.

  3. As long as workforce planning, management and acquisition fall under the traditional HR function, recruiting will continue to get bad marks from business leaders. HR is critical for developing, implementing and overseeing a host of policies, procedures and initiatives to keep a company’s existing workforce motivated and productive, but Recruiting is about attracting future talent, and is no more of an HR function than is Marketing. It should be put elsewhere in an organization—-ideally with a direct line to executive leadership where its performance will be measured and driven by the analytics, metrics and data that, as Paul points out, HR generally shuns.

  4. “It should be put elsewhere in an organization—-ideally with a direct line to executive leadership where its performance will be measured and driven by the analytics, metrics and data that, as Paul points out, HR generally shuns.” – Connie Gruen

    Couldn’t agree more. But it’s important to remember to include non metric driven approaches too. Metrics don’t matter to some companies because they’re not metric driven, just as some entrepreneurs manage to make profits while not being profit oriented. And marketing departments, in my experience, are also notoriously hostile to metrics.

  5. I think Connie hit the nail on the head. Its funny, because I could tell you who, within my firm, is happy with the Recruiting Dept and who isn’t. There are those with unreasonable expectations while there are those who are simply picky. Obviously, the latter is just fine while it is difficult to change the mindset of the prior.

    While I’d love to blame the Hiring Managers and Exec’s (and surely some blame falls on them), I’m sure there are plenty of what I would consider “HR Recruiters”. That said, its so dependent on each specific company, it would be extremely difficult to blame one segment or the other.

  6. Good marks, bad marks, seat at the table? To hell with it- as long as we continue to get paid in full and on time….BTW, much of recruiting (particularly lower-level contingency recruiting and corporate board-scrapers and post-and-prayers) is based on the inefficiencies, irrationalities, and ignorance of companies and hiring managers. To do things thougtfully and sensibly would put many recruiters out of work….



  7. Good marks, bad marks, seat at the table? To hell with it- as long as we continue to get paid in full and on time.
    BTW, much of recruiting is based on the irrationalities, inefficiencies, and ignorance of companies and their hiring managers. To do things sensibly and thoughtfully would put many recruiters out of work….

    Keith “Still Working” Halperin

  8. Connie is absolutely right. HR is “Process” oriented and should be seen as a back-office service while Recruiting is the frontward facing part of the organization tasked with procuring qualified talent who are a cultural fit for the organization. HR winds up spending too much time protecting turf while being unsure what that “turf” actually is. Recruiting needs to be about understanding organizational needs as well as position requirements, sourcing for those needs, attracting talent, qualifying and SELLING to the candidates … Recruiting is NOT an HR function but when judged within the corporate milieu, recruiting gets lumped into HR because the rest of the organization is ignorant of the distinction between HR and Recruiting.

  9. Interesting comments from everyone. We are all victims of working in an arena where we are expected to find the un-findable. As we begin our processing of research, sourcing to identify candidates we are often given unreasonable parameters. I agree with Richard Araujo, most hiring managers don’t care about data, they just want the Req. filled. I cannot count how many times I have identified and “brought a candidate to the table” that was “dead on” in the beginning of a search and the organization/hiring manager wanted to see others; only after months, wanted to go back to that same candidate and make an offer. Of course, the candidate was no longer on the market and we were back at square one. I have worked for firms that produce the most detailed reports; identifying each and every candidate, their experience level for each competency required, compensation etc. The clients usually say the same thing, “just close the search!” I have worked within an organization, where we utilized pre-interview and pre-employment assessment to identify candidates that were an ideal match for our position, company culture, etc and the results were basically the same. I do not believe that there is a “silver bullet” for this issue. Realistic expecations need to be set at the beginning of a search and execution and follow up needs to take place throughout. You can never please all of the people all of the time, but you can please most of the hiring managers most of the time if a clear and concise recruitment plan is put in place to execute the search and communicate with the hiring managers.

  10. Corporate HR/Staffing could start earning a little respect from the business by deciding to…and doing…the following:

    1) Break the addiction to job boards/postings and start recruiting. Direct engagement by a recruiter should be the #1 “source of hire.”

    2) Stop using the “transactional” recruiting model and start using a “relationship” model.

    3) Stop logging data with spreadsheets and start developing data in a CRM.

    4) Act like your department is its own business by setting real goals and measuring against them…weekly.

    5) Deliver information to your business leaders like they are the board members in your business.

    Do this for 6 months and you won’t get a seat at the table, but you will start getting some respect.

    “Win a battle before you start a war.” ~ Omar Little

    ~ Sean Rehder

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