Talent-acquisition Departments: Stop Doing Stuff That Doesn’t Matter

The recruiting industry in general likes to poke fun at how corporate talent acquisition departments across the board struggle to do actual recruiting. It’s mostly an unfair comparison between corporate talent acquisition and recruiters who work in an agency or RPO environment. The agency/RPO recruiters only source and recruit. That’s the sole job for which they get paid.

Can you imagine if your own corporate recruiting teams only had to recruit? In many cases, their capacity would easily triple, if not more.

This is the largest problem I see when I go into corporate talent acquisition shops and analyze their operations. Corporate talent acquisition does everything but talent acquisition. They go to meetings where someone believes talent acquisition should be present, but mostly it’s a waste of time. They work on talent acquisition-related projects that are supposed to increase efficiency or increase quality or make interviewing easier or some other improvement. Mostly, these things never come to fruition. TA gets roped into community-related projects, massive organizational projects, and so on.

When I first joined Sparrow Health System in Lansing, Michigan, to run talent acquisition, I immediately could tell my team was in post-and-pray survival mode. Each recruiter was responsible for roughly 100 or more requisitions. We were lucky to get jobs posted and pass on résumés and applications to hiring managers, let alone do anything else.

Something else I noticed was that my entire team was spending about 60 percent of its week in various meetings. Each meeting was vital for us to attend. I mean, we’ve been attending them for years. The departments we support demand we are at these meetings. We even run some of these meetings ourselves.

I find that the larger the organization, the higher the number of meetings you are forced to attend that are worthless. Can you imagine how much time is wasted at Walmart and Amazon? I love the old stories about Jack Welch at GE taking chairs out of conference rooms, forcing employees to stand throughout each meeting. Meetings certainly got much shorter during this experiment.

I blame Microsoft for corporate America’s meeting obsession. Before Outlook calendar, we had much fewer one-hour meetings. But as soon as people could easily, with one click of the button, schedule an hour on your calendar, our schedules got filled with one-hour meetings that really only have about 10 minutes of content. But, if we’re here for an hour, we may as well fill an hour!

At Sparrow, one of the first things I did was cancel all nonessential meetings my team was attending. Every single one. The only meetings we kept were the intake ones with hiring managers to discuss their openings, which were now mandatory for each opening, even openings that were frequent in nature. The team’s full responsibility was now filling positions, only.

Was there fallout? Of course! Right away my team began coming to me with upset meeting owners wondering why talent acquisition and its new asshole leader weren’t coming to their very important meetings. So, I told my team to schedule me in their place. I would attend each of these meetings and determine the importance of our attendance.

At these meetings, I spoke up, I got involved, asked some pointed questions about why I needed to be there, and what the specific purpose of this meeting was and whether it was still appropriate to have on a weekly or monthly basis. I probably ruffled some feathers. No one wants to be called out in their own meetings, but it was critical for the success of my team that I figure this out.

I explained that talent acquisition fails when we do things that are not about finding great talent for the organization. I had a go-to speech that sounded more like a sermon ready for each meeting about how these meetings were killing my team’s ability to support the organization. Others chimed in with the same frustration about their teams and capacity as well.

It wasn’t that we weren’t willing, or wanting, to be a part of these meetings going forward; it was about finding out how we could increase the capacity of our teams, which they needed if we were going to do what our function was supposed to do for the organization.

Sometimes under the disguise of partnership, we do silly stuff like attend meetings that we really have no business being a part of, but leadership business wants to make sure everyone is involved and at the table. Welcome to the downfall of corporate America. I’m only half joking. Sure, we want to be a part of the business and a great partner, but sometimes this entire concept goes way beyond what it was originally designed to do.

Ultimately, we found that about 75 percent of the meetings we were attending wasn’t necessary for us to attend at all or all the time. We came to agreements with many meeting owners that any time they needed talent acquisition in the room, we would drop everything and attend, but as a normal course of business, we would not plan on attending. We kept abreast of what was happening in these meetings by continuing to be a part of the group email that had the meeting notes.

Another practice that I brought from my time at Applebee’s was the fact we would not attend a meeting that didn’t have a formal agenda for each meeting. I found that many of these ongoing weekly and monthly meetings had a standing agenda, which usually consisted of updates that were not worthy of a meeting. My team would not attend a meeting where a specific agenda was not sent out priorly.

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The senior executive team loved this rule, and many instituted it as their own policy as well. If your meeting is important, then you should have an agenda of what’s going to be presented, discussed, and decided upon. That way each of us can decide if it’s critical we attend or not. It’s just good, efficient business practice.

The perfect talent acquisition team is one that can do talent acquisition, not one that happily does everything but talent acquisition. It’s unbelievable how fast you can fill 40 hours a week with stuff, and then at the end of the week, realize none of it led to hiring great talent for your organization.

It’s our job as talent acquisition leaders to eliminate distraction and increase the capacity of our teams to allow them to do what is most important — attracting and hiring talent. This must be your focus as a leader. No CEO ever said, “We have the best talent acquisition team on the planet because of all these great projects!” But, your team can’t fill the openings your organization needs filled.

A great exercise to do with your team is list out everything you do individually and as a team, weekly and monthly within your roles, even the smallest details. Then, as a group, force a certain percentage of this stuff to stop.

We will no longer set up interviews for hiring managers. Period.

What will happen? You will send out a notice to all the managers saying, Going forward, talent acquisition will no longer play the third party to setting up interviews with candidates. It will now be the responsibility of the managers and their teams to do this task. We’ve found the process of being a go-between inefficient and it actually slows the process of bringing in candidates quickly.

About 3 percent of your managers will be completely pissed off by this memo, about 10 percent will applaud this change, and the rest won’t care and have no issue either way.

Great talent acquisition happens when your team can do the actual recruiting they are hired to do. Another crazy thing will happen when you go on your capacity crusade. You’re going to find out who on your team wants to recruit and who doesn’t. As it turns out, some folks on your team don’t really want to recruit. They love working in talent acquisition and they love getting paid and the benefits, but they don’t really like doing the hard work of recruiting, which is one reason you have this capacity issue to begin with.

Reprinted with permission from The Talent Fix: A Leader’s Guide to Recruiting Great Talent.

image from bigstock

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


12 Comments on “Talent-acquisition Departments: Stop Doing Stuff That Doesn’t Matter

  1. Very good article, Tim. You’ve encountered just what I have seen for many years both as a corporate T/A leader and as a recruiting process improvement consultant. It’s tough to scale a recruiting function when the members of the function are enmeshed in continual meetings to talk about everything under the sun. The impetus for HR and T/A people to get a ‘seat at the table’ has pushed people into many meetings that are unrelated to the business of recruiting. I also like the idea of the T/A leader going to the meetings in place of the recruiter on the line- I did that quite a bit (got to travel a lot, but was able to keep my team focused on recruiting!) And scheduling interviews- talk about a waste of resources! I remember an expression used commonly a few years ago was KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid!). Many organizations would benefit by that becoming a mantra. I also like the meeting without chairs- it works great. I could hold one of them and keep the meeting to 15 minutes. It is all about looking at what works and what doesn’t for both the team and your organization. Congratulations on your new book!

    1. John, Thanks!

      I don’t want a seat at the table. I want to run an awesome function that has a direct line to the c-suite when I need it. Don’t get me wrong, doing this stuff is hard work, because it mostly involves leaders being great at performance management, and we mostly suck at that as leaders! All of us!


      1. Agree completely. I have had the direct line in the past, and only enlisted the C-Suite strategically. I tried to build deep bonds and trust, and they left me alone to do my thing. When there are too many cooks in the kitchen, dinner can get burned!!

  2. Very interesting article. Would love to hear how you tell people at these meetings that you don’t need to be there and they are in fact a waste of time. I do agree that many meetings are a waste of time and I like the idea of Recruiting just recruit. But what about the talk of Recruiters being Talent Advisors, working with hiring managers, gathering data, sharing with hiring teams, etc. Is that OK or not? Also, regarding scheduling interviews. How do you convince Hiring Managers to do it themselves? Are you OK sharing contact information with all your hiring managers with each candidate? Do candidates go back to hiring managers asking for feedback, next steps, why they didn’t get the job, etc.? Love a lot of what is said, but curious how to see it all through.

    1. Joe – Sent you a direct message on LinkedIn on how I would do this!

      For those who don’t have access to Joe’s private LI messages – I basically said a couple of things – 1. It works best when you’re new in a role to set ground rules like this. When you’re new, people tend to listen to you more and you make more sense. Once you’ve been around a while, you’re just another idiot in the company. 2. In regards to interviews – I don’t talk hiring managers into anything. I find a hiring manager who actually wants to make these calls on their own (yes, you have them), and I do a test with them. That test works great, and the hiring manager will share their experience. So, we will do another test, with another manager, which will work great. Eventually the decision is made that ‘this’ process works great, so we are now all doing it. If they want to hire, they’ll figure it out in their departments. Now, if you’re large and have recruiting ops, this isn’t a worry. But, I could argue recruiting ops setting up interviews is again a waste of time and resources, unless you’ve got really good technology not making this an ‘in the middle’ nightmare.

  3. Great article and I’m struggling with these same issues. Been on the job here at North Mississippi Health Services for 50 days, one recruiter went out on maternity leave a week after I got here. ATS is awful (postings and applicant tracking are not connected – I don’t know how the place has functioned in any reasonable manner) it’s not optimized for mobile, 500+ job postings divided between 2.5 recruiters and a recruiting manager…..I could go on and on and on. Will definitely take some of these tips and put them into action.

  4. I love this article! A couple of years ago we had a “manager” who constantly called meetings with EVERYONE in our small office, that accomplished little to nothing except for him to listen to himself talk, brag, and humiliate my team. We started calling them “beatings” instead of meetings…such a waste of time…demoralizing to EVERYONE except him, and kept my Recruiters “off the phones”. It took us about 6 months to rid ourselves of this horrible management style after he left. Things are so much smoother and productive now without all the useless meetings!

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