The Uneasy Triumvirate: 5 Ways to Make it Work Better

There is an uneasy triumvirate in today’s organizations: human resources professionals, recruiters and hiring managers. Managers complain that recruiters aren’t responsive. I also hear human resources professionals complain they are not consulted and that recruiters often don’t really understand the hiring manager’s needs. In some organizations, hiring managers simply bypass both and go directly to third party recruiters who are outside the firm. They do this because these agency recruiters meet three requirements:

  1. They are perceived as experts who have access to the right candidates.
  2. They are able to immediately respond to hiring managers’ needs.
  3. They are free of corporate politics and bureaucracy.

While this problem has existed for decades and is probably a normal part of corporate life, things could be different. Part of the problem is that HR is in the midst of changing from being administrative and transaction-centered to being value-centered. HRIS systems have automated many of the administrative tasks of HR. Intranets and self-service philosophies have taken over some of their service elements. This has led to a need for fewer people within most HR functions and to an identity crisis for HR professionals, who now have to re-establish a value-adding role for themselves. Many see recruiting, or finding the right talent, as one of these and want to be part of the process. Recruiters are faced with daunting challenges as well. They can no longer rely on volume to meet demands. For some positions, few people, if any, apply. For others, there are hundreds of applicants. The recruiter has to source people for the tough positions and screen them for the others. And they have to do the screening and assessing in a deeper manner than before. At the same time, they are held to tighter quality standards. To be successful, recruiters, too, have had to adopt technology that removes much of the clerical side of their work. They find that it is critical to know who the best performers are and what their competencies and skills are. But HR professionals often either won’t facilitate an interaction or can’t identify the best performers, and they frequently throw up procedural blocks to prevent recruiters from doing it themselves. Hiring managers don’t care about any of this ó they just want good people fast. Because HR professionals most often have the relationship with the hiring manager, they should be able to act as a broker between the hiring manager and the recruiter. But the two often work at odds with one another. Many HR people feel threatened by their own systems (including recruiting technologies) and easily fall back into their more familiar administrative roles of regulator and policeman. Here are five things that those of us in HR and recruiting can do to help improve the fragile and difficult relationship between HR, hiring managers, and recruiters.

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  1. Be responsive. Hiring managers want (and should get) attention and focus on the positions they have open. HR professionals are in a perfect position to facilitate the communication process between hiring managers and recruiters. In one organization, the HR professional acted as a team leader for a group comprised of hiring managers, recruiters, and a few technical experts. Together they identified competencies, developed interview guides, and even made referrals.
  2. Educate. Make sure that hiring managers understand the market and appreciate how easy or difficult a particular placement may be. Agencies do this by negotiation and price. Internally, HR professionals and recruiters have to do more explaining. Recruiters need to know and explain the talent marketplace. HR professionals need to facilitate and broker relationships, gather and share information about people, and make sure that the talent of the organization is “managed” in a way that maximizes productivity and minimizes turnover.
  3. Reduce bureaucracy and employ technology. Make sure that the recruiting process is clearly understood by all the parties involved. Be sure that roles and responsibilities are well defined. Whenever possible, develop a service level agreement to actually spell out what each party will do (or not do) and when they will do it. Remove administrative responsibilities from the hiring manager, and from recruiters and HR professionals, by employing technology more effectively. Make sure whatever you want a manager to do with technology works flawlessly, quicker than it did before, and yields better quality. Would you use an ATM if it were twice as complicated and took more time than to go inside to the teller?
  4. Measure what you do. Just because HR professionals and recruiters have taught hiring managers about the market or redesigned their roles, that does not mean that hiring managers understand the impact those changes have had. Both HR professionals and recruiters need to gather data, test hypotheses, establish metrics, and make the recruiting process as empirical as possible. Managers will understand and respond to hard data. Show them the costs, the time saved, and the value added.
  5. Use an evolutionary approach. Take things one step at a time. Don’t expect hiring managers to become recruiters ó at least not right away. Likewise, don’t expect HR professionals to give up all their recruiting tasks ó those tasks will eventually disappear anyway. Don’t expect recruiters to become completely versed in all the rules and politics of the organization either. Make people want to use the new approaches because they are faster, better, or cheaper. Remember to start by giving hiring managers what they want and need: good talent as fast as possible.

None of this is rocket science, just some very basic things that are often overlooked. Change is difficult for both HR and line management. Become the change you want to see. Guide and teach managers about how to recruit, while you continuously figure out how you can support their effort from a behind-the-scenes, value-added approach.

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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1 Comment on “The Uneasy Triumvirate: 5 Ways to Make it Work Better

  1. I read this article with great interest.

    I have over 15 years in the recruiting business as a corporate recruiter, contract recruiter and agency recruiter.

    I can honestly say that most corporate HR needs to make themselves more Customer Service focused. So many times have I heard a manager tell me that he needs to go ‘outside his system’ becaus of the paperwork that is involved to just getting the hiring process started. Then when he does take the time to fill out the proper forms…all he gets is internet and newspaper ads posted with a pile of resumes laid on his desk! That is NOT service.

    Corporate recruiters need to get more active. Start to think like an agency recruiter and the Manager is your client. I used to make a quick 5-10 minute appointment with each hiring manger to determine exactly what they are looking for in a ‘quality’ candidate and why those skills are important to the position.

    I’d then start the recruiting process on my own and through valued 3rd party vendor/partners and begin to screen candidates for the targeted skills.

    Then I’d contact the manager with the ‘5 best’ candidates and review the resumes with him along with the notes from my conversation with the candidate or vendor.

    We’d arrange the interviews and I’d meet with the candidate and explain to them our company, history, benefits (whatever was appropriate) so the manager could get right down to focus on what he is looking during his meeting with the candidate.

    After the interviews were completed, I’d meet with the manager briefly in his office and discuss the merits of each candidate.

    This hands on approach, shows the manager your value and you then become a ‘partner’ in the hiring process, to both the manager and the vendor – not just a ‘paper pusher’.

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