What Would the “Perfect” Recruiting Function Look Like? Part 2: Talent Strategy

Last week, I began a series of articles discussing some of the steps you might consider if you wanted to create the “perfect” staffing function. The first article discussed creating a talent philosophy and explained why having an articulated understanding of your organization’s philosophy is necessary if you want to be successful. I’ll try to start each article in this series with a short case study that will illustrate the point that I am making. I ask for your thoughts and comments on the case study, and we can even start a dialogue going on ERE if anyone is interested. I will follow each case with my thoughts and try to derive some general principals that may be helpful to you. Smith and Woodstock Case: Part 2 (continued from last week) After several hours of thought and a few phone calls to some of the hiring managers, Chris decided that Charles was doing a lot of things right for Smith and Woodstock. He was still upset, of course, over what he perceived as Chris’s lack of understanding of the organization’s talent philosophy. But he was also aware that he shared some of the blame for that. While Charles had not gotten to understand the organization’s culture and talent practices as well as he should have, he was making many of the right changes. The company had a fairly good recruiting website and was attracting more candidates than it ever had before. And even the dissention that he was hearing from hiring managers was a good sign, as it meant they were finally focused on recruiting and hiring. All of this was because of Charles. So Chris decided that he would get some of the hiring managers together with himself and Charles and they would try to figure out what the best next steps were to stop the endless complaints and improve the quality of hires. At the meeting, which was held two weeks later, it became clear in the first hour that no one was in agreement as to the overall role of the recruiting department, nor could anyone explain how it should fit into the overall human resources strategy for the company. Some managers felt that the recruiting function should hire whoever they requested, according to whatever requisition was presented. Others felt that the recruiters should be more partners in a process that would look at the job, its requirements, who was available internally, and so forth. Chris impressed Charles at this meeting by asking the hiring managers some tough questions. He asked them who their best employees were and why they were considered the best. He asked them how they determined how many people they needed and what the criteria were for success and excellence in their departments. These issues become so intriguing to a couple of the mangers that they went back and created small internal groups to define the answers to the questions and share those with the larger group. They agreed to get together a couple of weeks later and share what they had learned to draft a final strategy. Questions to ask yourself:

  • How does a talent philosophy get reflected in a strategy?
  • Article Continues Below
  • Is a talent strategy critical?
  • How would you create one?

Thoughts and Comments Many recruiting functions fail to develop an overarching purpose for what they do. Recruiters, as well as hiring managers, seem to make the assumption that the only function of recruiting is to find and hire people. While there is nothing wrong with that general thought, it is way too broad and generic to help guide any useful execution focus. No other function that I can think of has such a broad assumed purpose. My belief is that performance excellence can only be achieved when there is a narrowly defined and carefully thought-out strategy. We put men on the moon successfully not because we had a space program, but because we had a purpose that was precisely expressed by President Kennedy when he challenged us to put a man on the moon by 1969. After that, everything NASA did was focused on achieving that goal. Initiating the planning process is the responsibility of recruiting leadership, but it will have to be done with the help of the business units, as well. Here are a few ideas on how to approach this task. The first move is to step back and ask yourself what you really contribute to the organization that makes a difference. Where does your recruiting pay off the best for your organization? In other words, who are the most valuable people you find and hire? And then ask yourself if these are the same people you spend most of your time finding and recruiting. This process of defining a focus for your work is critical to making the next steps work, so take the time to do it thoroughly. The best way is to get a small group of stakeholders together ó hiring managers, recruiters and HR generalists ó and pose a question that might look like this: “If we had to recruit only one or two particular types of skill sets for our company, what would those be?” Get conversations going that probe into which specific positions you should focus on and which might be less important or best outsourced. Find out if some degrees or skills are critical, or just nice to have. While this is not a pleasant process, because we all think our skills and positions are the most important, by asking people to think about those skills that actually generate products or services or that create new products or services, you can begin to bring people into some sort of consensus. Usually support groups like human resources, legal, finance and IT all find out that they are not in this group. The function most likely to be found in the critical area includes engineers, scientists, inventors, and sales staff although there is great variability from organization to organization. The second step is to create a statement that expresses in writing the purpose for recruiting in your organization. It might read like this: “XYZ Corporation’s recruiting department supplies key experienced technical and R&D staff on a timely basis. We support the development of a pipeline of technical skills through internship programs, scholarships, and attendance at key technical conferences. Recruiting of non-technical and hourly staff is outsourced to carefully chosen partners.” Writing this statement is tough. It is contentious. And it is one of the best things you will ever do. Once this statement has been crafted, it must be thoroughly vetted by each business group and with the leadership team. By having a joint taskforce charted with creating the statement, part of the buy-in process will already be done. Agreement on the specific purpose and reason for your function is critically important to long-term success. The third step is to develop a plan to communicate your strategy widely internally. This means letting everyone know what you do and don’t do, and where your focus will be placed. Email, your organization’s Intranet, and other communication media, such as meetings and memos, can all be used to make sure that employees understand and are able to articulate what you do for the organization. As a fourth step, begin to change your tactics to be able to flawlessly execute this strategy. The tactics, processes, policies, and staff skills that you need should all be aligned to this overarching strategy and purpose. Focus, concentration, clearly expressed purpose and then carefully designed processes are always a formula for success.

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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