Time to Kill the Requisition?

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.58.31 PMMost corporate recruiting teams still rely on requisition-based hiring. In most cases this means they focus on recruiting for openings as they arise using whatever recruiting channels yield the “right” talent readily available. Unfortunately their processes don’t typically yield the best talent as quickly as needed, leaving operational teams frustrated with the results.

The solution is to have a pipeline of talent at the ready when a new position arises.

Unfortunately, few organizations have clearly defined their pipeline expectations for recruiters.  Therefore it becomes an afterthought of recruiters, leaving more pressing, current openings as their priority. What’s left is a mish-mash of pipeline talent that may or may not align with business needs.

This is not the fault of lazy recruiters. Most I know are genuinely hard-working professionals who want to do a good job. What emerges is a management problem.

Proposal — Depth Chart

Instead of recruiting using open requisitions, why not recruit using an expectation of talent needs of the organization? Most companies know at least 80 percent of the positions they will be encountering in a given year — by position type and location. This is where managing to a depth chart for your talent pipeline becomes more important than recruiting against open positions. In our organization we have clearly defined the number of active pipeline candidates for each skill set needed, creating a depth chart.

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For example, a small hospital may typically hire 50 nurses a year. It may not know exactly when in the year, but this has been the historical trend. As a result, the recruiting team should have 3-4 times this number of nurses actively engaged in conversations at any one time. On a monthly basis the team should have 150-200 nurses it is talking to. If 20 of those nurses take a new job that month, then the team is accountable for recruiting 20 more to add to the depth chart. Of course, the 20 who took jobs should move onto another tracking device (like a talent network you push out monthly email communications to).  The same holds true for low volume positions, like a CFO. While this position may only open up every two to four years, the team should be engaging three or four interested candidates at any given time. In all cases, the key is for recruiters to have established relationships with candidates prior to a position opening up. This builds trust with candidates and makes filling openings easier when they arise.

From a tracking perspective, the shift moves away from an “open-positions report” to a “depth-chart-of-talent report,” where open positions become less important and a solid talent pipeline becomes the measure of success.

Once fully implemented, a few things occur. At the most basic, the recruiting process will be much more streamlined for your hiring managers. They’ll learn to trust that their recruiting partner will deliver talent quickly and painlessly. More deeply, the recruiting team will start providing market intelligence to your operations team since they are talking with so many candidates. Lastly, the recruiting team will be able to avoid many of the fire drills that occur with last-minute emergency needs — and I’m sure we’d all be happier to work fewer nights and Saturdays.

Matt Lowney is the CEO of Practice Recruiters and The Recruiting Call Center. He was previously the EVP of talent & operations at The Buntin Group, Tennessee’s largest advertising agency. Prior, he was director of recruiting for HealthSpring and recruiting manager at DaVita. Connect with him at http://www.linkedin.com/in/mattlowney


7 Comments on “Time to Kill the Requisition?

  1. I absolutely agree with building talent pipelines, but it’s not a matter of eliminating the Job Req structure..it’s needed for Finance (approval and spend) and Compliance (OFCCP).

    Reqs and Pipelines can easily co-exist..and should. You use pipelines to fill reqs… a 1 to many relational model. On the req record, you should be able to choose a pipeline(s) that you are going to use to help fill the req. I won’t go into the analytics here but that relationship and the “data joins” will give you all the analytical reporting and ROI you need.

    On a side note, all recruiters create pipeline in the wake of trying to fill a specific req whether it’s sourcing passive talent or screening active applicants…perhaps unknowingly because they typically don’t have place to put them….and spreadsheets don’t count.


  2. Matt,

    Great article and I love the concept. I’ve been working with Talent Acquisition leaders for years and most would be thrilled to take the Depth Chart approach but bandwidth has been a major obstacle.

    It’s challenging to keep 150-200 nurses engaged (for example) and I imagine it’s hard to get the ball rolling when fire-drills are a reality.

    Have you seen the Depth Chart approach put into practice? How do candidates respond to being engaged in a role that may not come open?

  3. While we have not coined the practice as depth charting, we have always used this approach and it has proved highly effective. In mining, there is very little variance in the type of positions to fill and we need a very proactive recruiting strategy to to fill the gaps. We can also rehire the same person more than twice a year if they are working as a contractor for us and so the requisition approach of “wait then fill” would be suicide for us in terms of workforce planning.

    I do agree with Andrew that it is a real challenge to keep a high volume of potentials engaged waiting on the sidelines. I also agree with Sean that the job req structure has its place for keeping order in the process, especially if you fill a couple hundred vacancies in a year.

    “More deeply, the recruiting team will start providing market intelligence to your operations team since they are talking with so many candidates.”

    Right on. Well said. I have found that this is true and if you really are good at this approach, the operations group will depend heavily on that market intel and those insights from the many conversations with stakeholders in the field to improve their own business proposals for new projects.

    This really is a great opportunity for recruitment leaders to make a massive impact on business performance.

  4. “Most companies know at least 80 percent of the positions they will be encountering in a given year”

    Any data to back this up? Most companies I’ve seen and worked with are nearly 100% reactive, have little to no planning of any kind, much less workforce planning. The only positions they know they’ll have to fill come from turnover numbers in departments with reliable turnover and larger employee numbers. Most companies in the US are small to medium sized employers without much HR infrastructure, often times keeping financials and plans so close to their chests that they let no information out in terms of growth plans, and have departments staffed with smaller numbers of people making it more likely that turnover will fluctuate more broadly due to individual circumstances rather than industry or economic trends. It’s a fairly well known statistical effect; smaller populations will tend to demonstrate more extremes because smaller numbers of people influence the trends in those populations. For a small engineering department, one person leaving could massively spike turnover for the year, and not be predictable using BI methods.

    Nor does the pipeline approach for corporate address opportunity cost. Historical hiring trends do not always hold, and less so in smaller to medium sized businesses due to the above issue mentioned. This seems to me just one more attempt to apply agency methods to corporate. The reality check is when you show your CFO or other C level exec the wonderful pipeline you have developed for positions W, X, and Y, when they need position Z filled yesterday. At an agency you can ‘manufacture’ positions for your W, X, and Y candidates to a greater extent. At an agency it’s your job to develop a pipeline because the ROI on time invested is much higher; the effort is rewarded far more often in the context of an agency. If, in corporate, it turns out you have developed a pipeline of candidates for positions you don’t even need filled, it is a loss to the company in a much more immediate sense, and to a much greater degree than if the same thing happened at an agency.

    You need to the have backing from higher ups to do this, and they need to agree to give you resources to build pipelines for every conceivable need. If they do not do that, then you need to concentrate your pipeline activity on certain positions, and they need to know in advance which ones, and they need to understand that if a position comes up for which there is no pipeline it may mean a longer time to fill. And the unfortunate reality is for most companies the opportunity cost will be too high. They will need position Z filled and see your team – if you’re lucky enough to have a team, many recruiters work in isolation or as a part of a larger, more compliance oriented HR department – has spend the last several months getting ready to fill positions W, X, and Y, they’ll likely cut off your pipeline attempts at the knees so you can focus on filling needs as they arise, with your pipeline activity focused only on those areas with consistent turnover and replacement needs.

    Recruiters need to choose their battles when applying these methods. And more critically, they need to get at least one higher up with influence to get behind implementing these practices or they will simply be seen as a loss instead of an investment. With the mix of wanna-be corporate types pushing for quarterly gains at all costs, and out of control chaos pit mom and pop small amd mid sized businesses making up the majority of employers in this country, and perhaps the world, I don’t see many recruiting departments being able to sustain this approach for very long. The majority of business are severely reactive as opposed to proactive, and this dictates the culture down the line, and changing that is next to impossible in most situations.

    I agree it would be an effective practice, but the logistics/politics of making it happen are far more complicated than this article lets on. So long as employers are primarily reactive, view employees as disposable and as costs rather than revenue generators, and see no incentive to even pay them market rates, much less engage them for potential future opportunities that may never surface, you’re not going to see this happening a lot.

  5. This makes no sense on any level…

    A requisition is a budget control document that does not have to effect sourcing. In a hospital environment the requisition is tied to position control and is therefore a redundant process.

    In all other environments it further reinforces HR as a transaction department (not strategic folks) in that HR polices the requ process yet has no control over someone else’s budget.

    Now, let’s repeat the ’90’s… if the average tenure of a nurse is 23 months, and you hired a bunch of nurses 19 months ago, and it takes 4 months to attract new nurses, then start looking now. The average tenure of a position is more indicative of sourcing needs than following the requ ever will be…

    By the way, the term requisition harkens back to the military which also gave us the term personnel. Which is a transactional function.

    1. Mot HR/Recruiting people want to be more strategic, but rarely seem to get into aspects of strategy like ROI, opportunity cost, or business cases. It’s still a soft, fluffy, ‘people’ centric discipline that’s way more compliance oriented than anything else.

      The focus of this article shouldn’t have been to eliminate requisitions, which as you note are just transactions. It should have been advice on how to determine just how many requisitions you’re going to have, and when, for specific positions. And then, building pipelines of candidates for those roles where you’re reasonably sure requisitions will be issued, and potentially arguing for the ROI for pipelines in areas where you’re not so sure about needs at the moment.

  6. In a company that does workforce planning HR is already involved from the talent aspect of planning. Once that process is done HR hires to those plans —- when, where and what. And Finance/each business unit/division already have budget approved for these positions. So depth charts are just another term for the same thing.

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