Where in @#$%& are You Going? Do You Have a Strategy for Success?

More and more I am convinced that recruiters and recruiting departments do not have a strategy for what they doing. They operate in a reactionary mode. “All I do is get a bunch of reqs. and fill them,” says one recruiter I work with. “I don’t really know why the reqs. are open or much about any long term plans for the positions.” I’m sure most of us have had (or have) the same experience. But what IS a strategy for recruiting? And how can you have a strategy for anything in this crazy, fast-paced world? First of all, a FLEXIBLE strategy is simply a plan of action for some period of time. It could be for just a month or it could be for a few years. Time is not the critical determining factor in strategic planning. Vision is what’s key. When you have some overarching goal or vision, then you can constantly adjust the day-to-day activities you engage in to stay on course. I look at strategy a little like a compass point. If you know you are heading North, for example, it’s relatively easy to keep generally heading that way. There may be deviations, but those are acceptable if you know that eventually you will get back onto the North heading. A recruiting strategy can be as simple as to fill key positions within a certain number of days with people who are judged to be of appropriate quality after a period of time. Then you can align your sourcing, your metrics and your feedback to reflect that general strategy. We usually make strategy too complex and focus it too much on minor accomplishments and insignificant metrics. Again, it would be analogous to taking hourly readings of compass direction and then punishing or rewarding the navigator on the deviations. Reward or punishment are only appropriate after a day or several days of travel. Hourly readings may be very off base due to necessary course deviations for ease of travel or for speed. But without a broad vision or strategy you cannot do any competent workforce planning, you cannot spend advertising dollars wisely, and you cannot measure success. Companies with successful recruiting efforts are almost always those that have taken the time to create a simple strategy. Cisco gets mentioned all the time for good recruiting. Part of the reason is that Cisco has a strategy that they are articulate. Cisco goes after the top ten percent of IT workers and ruthlessly competes for them. But, they have defined their “rules of engagement” and only offer what they consider to be reasonable offers. They do not “buy” candidates, but work carefully to entice and market to candidates who are likely to be a good fit with Cisco. With this kind of strategy, it becomes clear that marketing will be a key to success, that being able to define “top 10 percent” will be critical, and that developing a competitive total compensation package will also be vital. With this strategy they do not waste time on going after marginal candidates, on broad-based advertising, or on trying to convince management to let them make inflated job offers. I often advise my clients to take a day out of their busy schedules and follow this simple process:

  1. Get a few line managers to participate in a one day offsite. Poll a number of other managers on what kind of people they would ideally like to have working for them. Use any performance data you may have from performance reviews or managers? opinion about the best people you have in the company. Develop a profile of this top performer.
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  3. At the offsite, present the data you have gathered and share the profile of the “top performer.” Get agreement on this from all the managers. Strive for consensus. Develop a profile.
  4. Then, discuss what it would take to hire more people like this and discuss whether or not there are gaps in what you are currently doing. Try to focus on identifying gaps and prioritizing them by their potential impact on the performance of your firm. While you may not have the resources to close every gap, you can probably reduce or eliminate many of them.
  5. From all of this, try to come up with a broad vision/goal for your recruiting function that is REALISTIC and ACTIONABLE. Don’t just pipe-dream. Make sure you can put into action all the things you are planning. Don’t worry too much on time frame — it might only be a vision good for a few weeks or months.
  6. Devise some way to measure your success. Without measures that the management teams agrees to, nothing important has happened! Rigorously measure and report on your progress. Reporting to a line management team serves two purposes: it keeps you on you toes and, hopefully, honest. It also makes the management part of your recruiting process. They can share in your success and offer suggestions to help overcome problems. Trends become apparent and that is also important as that is really how you know if you are achieving anything or not. Remember the compass journey above?
  7. Begin to change all of your activities to achieve that vision or goal. Adjust advertising, sourcing, your web page, your job posting scheme, your interviews, and your hiring criteria to reflect this new, manager-approved, focused approach.

You will be surprised how easy it is to become better at what you do when you know clearly where the @#$%^ you are going.

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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