What To Do When You’re Now the Boss: Startup Panic

Just a few days ago you were a recruiter, an HR generalist, or in some other role where you performed as an individual contributor. Just a few days ago you were full of criticisms and ideas on how you would do things “if you ever got the chance.” And just a few days ago it all seemed simpler than it does now. Now you’ve got what you always wanted – the chance to build your own recruiting function. And as in all things the first few days are the most challenging and yet will set the tone for the future. I often get emails and phone calls from newly minted recruiting managers who want some advice on first steps. And, while each case is different and the answers often depend on the size and scope of the position, there are a few steps that anyone can take to maximize the chances of success. Building strong foundations are as important for a recruiting function as they are for buildings. Here are a few suggestions on what to do to get started. The first step is particularly critical: determine a philosophy and general approach that will underline and define your recruiting function. As a new employee yourself, you will need to work with the management team or the CEO or the VP of HR to create this. In the ideal situation, you will be able to take some time with a few people and as a team come up with a written statement of philosophy and of the guiding principles for your function. Some of this comes from answering a few tough questions: What is most important to you and your boss about recruiting? Is it finding quality candidates or is it finding a lot of candidates? Is it taking time to filter numerous candidates against a predetermined matrix of competencies, or is it just finding “good” people and getting the positions filled? Are you going to look at resumes and make decisions or are you going to determine competency by interview or by testing or by both? The list of questions can go on and on and you will have to come up with your own set. The most important thing is to enter into a dialogue with management and get a consensus on your organization’s philosophy. I have seen many recruiting managers who could not answer these basic questions. Yet the answers always exist, whether they are articulated or not. They are fundamental to forging a strategy that will lead to management acceptance and success. Many organizations have very clear philosophies and they are usually the most successful at recruiting. Hewlett Packard is an example of a firm whose corporate values and philosophy – the HP Way – permeate everything it does, including recruiting. People are treated with respect and everyone has a fair and thorough screening. People received feedback and are given information on their status. The philosophy is reflected in advertising and in how managers talk to candidates. Hand and hand with this philosophy comes a vision for what the recruiting function will look like when it is mature. This can take the form of a story. And, it needs to be told from both the candidate’s perspective and the hiring manager’s. It might start out something life this: “Candidates primarily learn about our company from our web site which contains interactive and entertaining information about the position we have open. They are encouraged to submit their personal information to us through a profiler that captures the key information we need to know to help them find the best job in our firm…” and so forth. This vision is not easy to construct, but along with the philosophy, tells recruiters, managers and candidates a great deal about your organization. It guides decision-making and serves, itself, as a recruiting tool by demonstrating how that vision becomes real. Sometimes, rather than a story, firms construct descriptions of the vision or even create graphic and pictorial visions which can be put on the wall and discussed with other employees. The next step is to establish the things by which you will be measured. These are your success criteria and usually are a set of metrics. Some recruiting managers seem to prefer to work with little more than number of people hired or number of candidates screened as measures of their worth to the firm. I would prefer something a little more significant. For example, one measure could be the number of people who are attracted to the web site that you then hire. This tells you if your web site is working and it also tells you how productive you (or your recruiters) are in selling your company and in making good offers. Another measure might be the quality of the hires as measured by retention and involuntary turnover. The organization called Staffing.Org (www.staffing.org) has been set up to suggest more sophisticated and useful metrics than are usually found for recruiting. They publish benchmarks and formulas, and I highly recommend participating in their work and in a dialogue about what should be measured. All of this needs to be followed by an overall strategy for your recruiting function. The “whys” should have been answered in your philosophy, so now is the time to figure out what you want to do. This is where you can focus on whether you are going to recruit for every position or just for certain ones and outsource the rest. This is when you can begin to make decisions about the kinds of recruiters you want to hire and what methods and processes you will use to bring people in. The strategy should evolve smoothly from the philosophy and visioning and can be written almost as a road map to the future. It requires discussion around resources and capabilities and speed. It also requires trade offs and compromises. And, only after the philosophy, vision, metrics and strategy are in place can you safely move to the tactical: the staffing plans, the computer systems, the web site design and the other many elements that are needed for success. This advice is based on experience and on working with a lot of organizations. I sometimes think I shouldn’t let new managers know about this – as it almost ensures some level of success, and really cuts down on my consulting and troubleshooting business. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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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 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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