Redefining Recruitment (Part 1 of a 5-part Series on Upping the Ante on Talent Acquisition)

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CEOs aren’t sleeping.

Consider this, from PwC:

  • 63 percent of CEOs in the U.S. worry that the availability of key skills will undermine their strategies and plans for growth
  • 93 percent of CEOs say that they recognize the need to change their strategy for attracting and retaining talent.

Before outlining recommendations on how to alleviate these concerns, let’s look back at the historical way in which recruitment has evolved.

A couple of decades ago, HR (or the personnel office) handled everything: benefits, employee relations, the company holiday party, firing people … and hiring.

Today, the world has changed: HR has been bifurcated in larger organizations to include recruiting/staffing and what is becoming more commonly known now as talent acquisition or TA. Within each area of HR, there are typically several centers of expertise. In large companies, HR often now houses specialists who only handle HRIS, benefits, employee relations, diversity, compensation, labor law, or recruitment. Within recruitment (or TA, as we now call it) we are seeing centers of expertise composed of specialized sourcers, executive recruiters, recruitment branding/marketers, and researchers.

As the HR function has been splintered over time, a new problem has been created that, frankly, continues to worsen: Both “sides” have become too specialized. On the TA side, individuals who may have started out as generalist recruiters have now been shoehorned into specialties — not because they want to be but simply because they are, for instance, good at sourcing. As a result, recruiters skilled in managing client relationships have lost their close connection to the business, thereby hurting their ability to create relationships both with internal customers (including hiring managers and the C-suite) as well as with external candidates they seek to hire.

All of this specialization has made it more difficult for recruiters to do their job. Their focus now is more about managing specializations rather than managing relationships. Even more importantly, that means they have even less time to really understand the business and the businesses’ talent needs. This has escalated into a huge problem at many organizations that need to get the right talent sourced, hired, and properly onboarded. It’s also the root cause for why CEOs are questioning (as indicated at the beginning) the core value of their current recruitment strategy.

Now, I don’t have a problem with specialization per se, but most organizations cannot afford to bifurcate the recruiting role. They hire general recruiters and expect them to be great at everything, which is impossible. In an effort to save money, ingenious TA leaders within their organizations randomly split tasks or, worse yet, expect one person to do it all! You can’t be good enough at everything to deliver the results that the CEOs expect. Focus is an absolute necessity.

Therefore, organizations must protect the principle role of the recruiter in their organization. Ideally, the recruiter is someone who:

  • Knows the business; speaks its language and conveys the needs of the organization to prospective candidates.
  • Knows how to help management assess candidates. Beyond behavioral assessments, this means the recruiter understands and is able to assess the expertise required to do the job well.
  • Is able to work with hiring managers and hold them accountable for a good candidate experience while also managing their expectations on who, what, and when a successful hire will be delivered.

All of this requires that the recruiter spends a lot of time close to the business — attending meetings, interviewing candidates, working with hiring managers to ensure that they are not biased in their decisions, pragmatically advising hiring managers on what they can expect and, all along the way, treating the candidate like a customer or (better yet) like a future colleague!

If this sounds like a full time job to you, that’s exactly the point! Yet most organizations now expect that a single individual can be an expert sourcer, a wiz at technology, a super sleuth in finding passive candidates, as well as someone who uses and understands social media and content distributions. No wonder so many recruiters find themselves with too much on their plates and are therefore reduced to taking orders for the next new hire.

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Recent data from another renowned consulting firm, Deloitte, supports this thesis with data indicating that the typical recruitment function has become a group of “order takers.” The research conducted by Bersin by Deloitte puts developing strong relationships between recruiters and hiring managers at the top of the list of key drivers for talent acquisition performance. In a recently published study, organizations with higher levels of maturity demonstrated stronger relationships between recruiters and hiring managers and, in turn, the performance outcomes were greater.

Talent acquisition leaders need to seriously embrace the following four steps as they proceed to redefine recruitment. Each of these will be elaborated upon in future articles in this series.

  1. Stop being an order taker. Don’t be content to please hiring managers … and don’t be complacent about your role. Remind yourself that the work that you do is absolutely critical to the success of the organization: people run the place; you find those people.
  2. Stop being tactical; add value beyond the task at hand; aim to be strategic.
  3. Embrace measurement and metrics. Follow through on what you learn — whether it’s good, bad, or ugly — to improve your processes.
  4. Resist the temptation to be good at everything. Be excellent at one or two things and build your personal brand. Delegate or outsource tasks that others can do better and/or more efficiently and less expensively.

Watch for more soon.

About the Author

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For more than 25 years, Jim O'Malley has developed talent acquisition solutions to ensure that leadership talent aligns with changing business needs. At TalentRISE, he focuses on clients’ executive leadership challenges by leveraging his passions for executive search, on-demand recruiting, workforce planning and analytics, and executive coaching. 

Before TalentRISE, he was senior vice president in the human resource function of Fifth Third Bancorp. He also served for five years as managing director and leader of the talent acquisition function for Huron Consulting Group, a global professional services firm, was the vice president of human resources with Edward Don and Company, the nation’s largest foodservice supply and equipment distributor, and held various leadership roles with Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, and Internet consultancy Lante.

He serves on the board of directors for Sheila Greco & Associates, Staffing Management Association of Chicago, and Mount Assisi Academy. He is also an active member of the Society of Human Resources Professionals, Human Resource Management Association of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Club of Chicago. 

  • Jim D’Amico

    Excellent article!