Strategy Is Important

Getting things done is essential to both business and recruiting success. The popularity of books like Execution, by Larry Bossidy, have raised the idea of achieving goals and acting decisively to god-like levels. But Americans have always been particularly good at accomplishing things, even though they frequently aren’t sure why they are doing it. 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 ó even more than the Japanese, who come in second. But if there is one thing we don’t do well, it is to create an overarching purpose for what we do. It’s 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, but 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. This recruiting “downtime” may prove to be the perfect opportunity to begin the process of more carefully defining the purpose of recruiting in your organization. Initiating the change process is the responsibility of recruiting leadership, but it will have to be done with the help of other business units as well. Here are a few ideas on how to approach this task. How Do You Make a Difference? The first move is to step 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? 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 ó hiring managers, recruiters and HR generalists ó and pose a question that might look like this: “If we had to recruit only one or two particular types of skill sets for our company, what would those be?” For example, get a conversation going that probes into which specific positions you should focus on and which might be less important or best outsourced. Find out if some degrees or skills 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 skills that actually generate products or services or that create new products or services 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. Statement of Purpose 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 and 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 non-technical 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. Communicate Your Strategy The third step is to develop a plan to communicate your strategy widely 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 all be used to make sure that all employees understand and are able to articulate what you do for the organization. You’ll need to 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, clearly expressed purpose, and carefully designed processes are always a formula for success.

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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, 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


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