We Found Time for Pipeline Building

Let’s fantasize about what it would be like to take maybe a month off (or, since we are dreaming, maybe even two) just to do succession planning. It would be a time frame when no jobs are assigned, and you have a complete focus on finding candidates for jobs that are not yet open.

At Brown Shoe Company, we have established a program to do this. We call it the “Strategic Month.” Each corporate recruiter doing full-cycle sourcing and candidate-relationship building is able to have two months without any job assignments. The overflow of additional positions that this creates is covered by the other team members and by a relied upon third party named Grapevine Group. In our structure, human resources and recruiting are separate functions that partner together, working with the hiring manager.

The following is a breakdown, based on our experience, of one way you might structure this fantasy month.

Manage Expectations

First off, meet with the HR person and the hiring manager to get insight into the department you are working with. Review the selected department’s organizational charts. Confidentially review every position, and have them share who may leave or be let go, who may be thinking about retiring, what departments may increase or decrease staff, and which stars may be promoted at some point.

Some managers are afraid to discuss these changes for their teams and for themselves so be aware of their fear of this subject. Discuss the issues of the diminishing workforce, along with the fact that top talent can be passive. Explain that the goal is to target the best people, not just for the short-term but also for the long-term, as well as hypothetical opportunities. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss the company’s diversity goals and how their departments can have an impact. With this in mind, make it clear that this conversation is to confidentially talk about the objectives for their divisions and the impact that early recruitment can have.

Ask the hiring manager about networking, training, and other events they and their team attend or know about. Request attendee lists so you can contact those people for your pipeline. Determine if you should attend any events yourself as a candidate resource. Talk to them about alumni lists they may have access to and industry websites they know about for job postings. Discuss any competitors you should target and if they know anyone you should speak to.

Get the Candidates

Now the fun begins. Rank the priority of each potential opening so you can decide where to focus your time. Build a talent-sourcing plan for each position. This includes educating yourself about industry lingo, niche sites, and other resources. Take the time to get out on Craigslist, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendster, Ryze, Eliyon, and others to see how they work and how they can assist you with your networking. Read blogs within the industry you hire for and reach out to bloggers as resources. Locate military sources to consider those entering the workforce who have the experience you look for. Contact schools/instructors to promote your openings and get referrals on good students.

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Use this time to build other possible resources you find. What about investigating local meetings of industry associations, SHRM, the Chamber of Commerce, and others you have been thinking of attending? Do research to discover the diverse organizations in your area that could be a great resource for candidates. Make a list of competitors that have the talent you want, and research them to create a cold-call break-in strategy.

Often, there are times during the Strategic Month when you may talk to candidates without a current job opening available. People don’t always understand why you would be talking to them if you don’t have a position for them today. Since information about retirements and department changes are likely to be confidential, try to remain as general as you can. Have an exploratory conversation over coffee or lunch, or just schedule a phone conversation (that you don’t refer to as an interview). When you find that “wow” candidate, schedule him or her to meet with HR and the hiring manager. It is amazing the direction conversations will go without the focus on job bullet points.

When you have interested exploratory candidates, check in with them over the coming months and beyond. Don’t overdo it by becoming a stalker recruiter, but occasionally touch base to maintain the relationship. You could even place the names of these future hires on the wall in your recruiting department (as we do) to get your company talking and to encourage referrals. We are out hunting for talent, not waiting for talent to find us.

Reap the Benefits

Investing time and money on a proactive strategy pays off in multiple ways. Fill-time and costs can be improved, turnover may decrease, and the talent level is increased. This results in less frustration in departments where workloads are heavier due to vacancies. The recruiting department will also have a boost in morale and reputation. Being allowed this time to focus your recruiting efforts raises the number of diverse candidates and the ability to build relationships that have long-term payback. This process also increases the amount of communication about potential openings, because HR and hiring managers learn to include recruiting in these conversations.

If time off for a month of succession planning is only a fantasy for you and your employer, think about the results even one day a month could provide. With some effort, there are pieces of the dream that you can build into your daily personal strategy.

Tami Retzlaff is the Global Training Strategist for the Talent Acquisition department at Brown Shoe Company. She founded the Madison Recruiters Network and served as president for four years. Throughout her 10-year recruitment career, she has led corporate recruiting functions, developed innovative ideas to improve practices, and designed as well as managed training programs to deliver upon business strategies.

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5 Comments on “We Found Time for Pipeline Building

  1. Tami, this article presents a lot of great ideas. May I suggest though that all these things can be accomplished by bringing on a dedicated sourcer or a researcher? Recruiters at most companies already have more on their plates than they can handle, so to most staffing managers, the idea of taking even one off their current jobs is frightening as most are already stretched too thin! It might be more cost efficient to budget for a person who specializes in these types of activities. Reading through the list of suggestions you make, almost all of those activities are things that I currently do at my company, and almost all the sourcers and researchers that I know do for their companies. The benefit of having one person (or more, depending on your needs) on staff doing these types of strategic outreach is that they can build that pipleline for the entire recruiting practice, and do so on an ongoing basis. There are two of us at Waggener; our research and sourcing styles differ a little and as a result we both do very well with our networking outreach. This covers our entire team’s needs and develops the talent pool you speak of, but not just one month at a time! Of course I may be biased, but I think budgeting for a sourcer or researcher to be a permanent part of your recruiting team is a good investment.

    I do appreciate you putting this idea out there. I would be impressed by and applaud any company bold enough to allow its recruiters time away from their open positions to fully pursue this strategy! 🙂 As you state that you have found the ability to do so at Brown Shoe Co., I offer my congrats and admiration to you!

  2. Great article Tami! I am relatively new to recruiting but our company is a focused RPO organization- with over 25 years in the staffing industry. The first thing I do every morning is to just spend 5 minutes looking at the articles- and seeing how these postings can assist me in my daily pursuit of this industry. I am also grateful to have two mentors who I can bounce ideas and problems on- and they were the ones who recommended this site- so in addition to the training/mentoring I receive from them and some of the people who write artilces on ERE this is invaluable to me.

    I look forward to reading all the articles and discussion points and one day being able to post a response to others who may just be starting out! Again, I want to thank each of you for your help.

  3. I would be very interested in hearing how recruiters go about keeping passive candidates warm (especially Executive-level talent)… sometimes for months at a time.

  4. Nicely done Tami. Your team has been able to internalize a necessary function for recruiting that has been lost over the past few years.

    I outlined a couple of tips below on this topic, but first a little background so everyone can starts from the same place:

    Over the past 2 years we have developed an outsourced model for this activity (called Talent Stream) and do monthly pipelining for a myriad of companies. Each usually get about 10 – 15 prospects a month per function that meet a pretty rigorous requirement, and about 60 – 80 that do not meet the spec. Our clients limit us to only passive prospects (can’t be on the boards)

    Because we are obviously performin an outsourced service, we have rigorous standards to keep thigns going – here are a couple tips for the people wanting to build this internally and keep it up long term:

    1. Assign and Train Recruiting Champions. Have recruiting champions in the business or functional areas – these folks are NOT part of the recruiting staff, but leaders in the org. Passive or entrenched prospects need a connection with someone internally longer term in the space they are in.

    2. Upper Mgmt Oversight. Have upper management have exposure to the process regularly. Our clients have a monthly review of progress, including reviewing the prospects. They assign mid level managers to reach out to the prospects, develop relationships AND meet with them in person.

    3. Passive Recruiting 401. This method is not for everyone, and it can be complex and advanced. Like you said, some prospects don’t understand how it works, and some managers also give the puppy dog look. Develop tools, training, and guides for how to recruit passive candidates. We have developed a guide for each client, that is unique to the client, that maps back to their overall strategy, their growth plan, and how to get a prospect excited about a role 18 months from now.

    4. Get a PTS. A prospect tracking system. Keep it separate from your ATS. Use excel spreadsheets at the low end, or a system like Jobster if you need something more organized. We don’t recommend individual LinkedIn membership (everyone relax – we still think its a great tool) because its actually tied to the login user in many cases. Whatever system you use, make sure if a recruiter leaves, the company’s pipeline does not go with them (good rule of thumb in general).

    5. Link to Succession. We use tools and special programs to actually do ‘external succession planning’, but at minimum companies should make the pipelining directly linked to succession, and talent management. How is this tool going to merge with annual and semi-annual reviews? How does management use this tool to make changes to the organization?

    Again – nicely done Tami, and good luck to all that take it on.

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