Somewhere between 400,000 (according to Forbes, 4/12/04) and 3.3 million (according to Forrester Research, 2003) jobs have moved from the United States to other countries over the past few years, and it is likely that more will leave despite the possibility of legislation to slow the trend down. Many more millions of jobs have been automated and are now done by computers. What is less often discussed is what kind of jobs are being automated and outsourced. Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane, authors of a recently published book entitled The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market (Russell Sage Foundation, 2004) provide some insight. In 1964, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution sent a memo to President Lyndon Johnson warning that computers would soon create widespread unemployment in the United States. The memo said that computers heralded a new era that would boost productivity to such levels that people would become less and less important to the economy. In some ways they were correct. It’s true that thousands and thousands of jobs have been taken over by computers, but each of these jobs has had similar characteristics: they each relied on a carefully articulated set of rules that governed what was done and how decisions were made. Loan officers used a formula to determine eligibility for loans; certain financial traders relied on standardized practices that needed little judgment. The more a task can be described in step-by-step rules, the more likely it is to be completely replaced by a computer. As tasks move toward recognizing patterns that may vary and that each have different outcomes, computers begin to have more difficulty in completely taking over the decision making, although they can assist us by providing information we might not be able to see ourselves. Computers have affected millions of us by replacing the tasks we used to do completely or by augmenting and assisting us in doing them. In recruiting, it is obvious that over the next few years computers will replace or augment many of the things we currently do. Computers can already examine resumes for missing information, guide a candidate through the application process, schedule interviews, and recommend salary ranges. They augment the screening and assessment process and may, perhaps, become sophisticated enough to completely replace us in selecting people for certain kinds and levels of positions. Yet there are jobs and tasks that remain outside the capability of computers. According to the authors of The New Division of Labor, there are two skill sets that computers will not be able to take over for a very long time, if ever. These skills are expert thinking and complex communications. I believe that recruiting is built on both of these and the recruiters that will thrive in the future are those who can let the rules-based and routine work go to the computers and focus on becoming talent experts and communication gurus. For recruiters to become “outsource proof” and secure in their ability to provide quality service, they need to understand and apply expert thinking and become masters of communication. Expert Thinking Expert thinking takes place when a person has a broad knowledge of an area or field, a large amount of relevant information about that area, and the ability to recognize patterns and relationships that allow him or her to generalize from a specific instance to an entire class of problems. Expert thinking also involved applying analogies from problems they know about to those they do not. For recruiting, expert thinking can only happen when recruiters have a broad knowledge of labor and talent marketplaces ó internal as well as external ó and can use that knowledge to develop talent pipelines, scenarios, and strategies for ensuring a supply of relevant talent. Expert-thinking recruiters will need to come up with creative techniques for ensuring the talent supply and for building a supply when there is a shortage. They will need to learn how shortages have been overcome from other disciplines. They will need to be outward looking, aware, able to anticipate needs, and ready with possible solutions. Complex Communications The authors point out that the ability to communicate effectively requires several separate abilities. The first of these is the ability to build understanding; the second is to gain trust and the third is to negotiate outcomes. Recruiters need these skills in maximum doses. Most of the complaints I hear from recruiters can be identified as problems in communication. For example, poor communication is evident when your management team does not appreciate the kind of talent marketplace you function in or when a hiring manager makes a truly unreasonable request. If we were masters at communication, these would not be problems. We need to be able to teach and explain, provide factual and quantitative data, and build strong business cases for sourcing the right talent. But we also need to gain the trust of management and candidates. This means that recruiters have to be able to treat different managers and candidates in ways that are supportive and trust building, while at the same time honest and effective. I often call this skill the ability to build your own “personal equity” and develop a bond with managers that is synonymous with good results. None of these skills are really effective if we cannot negotiate results that are win-win for all parties. The recruiter who can help people find their common ground in an argument or discussion and then leverage that to achieve a solution that everybody is happy with will be the most successful. Each of these skills ó the ability to apply expert knowledge and the ability to communicate in a sophisticated and effective manner ó are how you will keep your job in a world of outsourcing, and even thrive.
Some readers react negatively to testing. They think of testing as a hard-hearted, diabolical attempt to remove humanity from the hiring process. Some even put it in the same class as not washing you hands after going to the bathroom, scratching ones armpits in public, or forgetting to floss. But nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s get a few things straight. Even rational people:
- Argue interviews are not “really” tests ó yet they only hire applicants who give impressive answers to questions.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent new book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, he demonstrates that the power of our unconscious biases is often greater than that of our conscious beliefs. What we believe is frequently overshadowed by assumptions we’re often unaware we’re making. Like it or not, this spills over into almost all of our hiring decisions, and it can affect how we interview and perceive diverse candidates. Why Do We Hate Short People? What if I told you that companies regularly discriminate against short people when they are hiring top executives? That’s ridiculous, right? Yes, some companies may discriminate by race, sex, or ethnicity, but surely our “vertically challenged” friends don’t need protected-class status! Yet some level of bias clearly exists. An excerpt from Blink on the “tall CEO” phenomenon:
I polled about half of the companies on the Fortune 500 list ó the largest corporations in the United States ó asking each company questions about its CEOs. The heads of big companies are, as I’m sure comes as no surprise to anyone, overwhelmingly white men, which undoubtedly reflects some kind of implicit bias. But they are also virtually all tall: In my sample, I found that on average CEOs were just a shade under six feet. Given that the average American male is 5’9″, that means that CEOs, as a group, have about three inches on the rest of their sex. But this statistic actually understates matters. In the U.S. population, about 14.5 percent of all men are six feet or over. Among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that number is 58 percent. Even more strikingly, in the general American population, 3.9 percent of adult men are 6’2″ or taller. Among my CEO sample, 30 percent were 6’2″ or taller.
Around the world, a frequent complaint heard from corporate recruiters is that they fail to get the respect they feel they deserve from line managers. Almost without exception, they wonder out loud why managers don’t return their calls, read the resumes they submit, or find time to conduct interviews they set up. This lack of respect is not based on perception alone. Studies from Watson Wyatt and other management consulting firms demonstrate that while managers feel recruiting is important, they typically rank their organization’s recruiting performance poorly. Why the disconnect between the importance managers place on recruiting and their simultaneous lack of respect for those who do it? The answer is actually quite simple. If you look at recruiting functions ó and recruiters in particular ó through the same lens that managers assess non-HR programs, you see that recruiters routinely operate outside the constraints and conventions that guide other business projects. The isolated dominion that recruiting and HR in general has created for itself is often devoid of metrics, rewards for performance, and accountability. Its continued existence sends a message that recruiting cannot exist in the same competitive business climate that line managers must operate in daily. In short, it demonstrates clearly that recruiting is not a profession of equals, but rather a profession of ineffectual social workers. (Incidentally, external executive search professionals are in direct contrast, and are generally held in high regard by line managers because they operate under a competitive pay-for-performance model.) Smart recruiting managers who want to elevate the level of respect given to their recruiters and their function should examine the factors listed below and use them as a checklist to improve the respect that the recruiting function receives. Factors That Cost Corporate Recruiters Stature and Respect Managers outside the human resource function understand that there are rules ó some of which are unspoken and undocumented ó that govern the approaches they take in leading their team, group, or unit to success. Adhering to these principles gains a manager respect, while ignoring them places him or her at risk of being singled out. Unfortunately, many recruiters seem to feel that they are exempt from these business rules, and they wind up losing the respect of the line managers they work with everyday. Some examples of this include:
- Failure to demonstrate your ROI. Every line manager competes daily in a competitive and unforgiving marketplace. Part of that competitive struggle requires them to consistently calculate and demonstrate their return on investment. In short, to secure additional or ongoing resources, they must provide data to prove that the dollar benefits exceed the dollar cost in whatever they do. While many recruiting functions do look at and track their costs, the majority fail to measure the revenue impact of great recruiting. Without measuring the revenue impact of hiring top people (versus hiring average people), there’s no way to calculate the ROI of recruiting. Other overhead activities like supply chain management and customer relationship management have demonstrated their value in economic terms, while for some reason recruiting and human resources in general has not.
If it wasn’t for hiring managers, recruiting would be so easy. This is one of the conclusions drawn from my annual Recruiting and Hiring Challenges Survey 2005. There’s still time to participate in the survey. A few more respondents will further validate the results. In the meantime, here are some other preliminary conclusions from the survey results:
- 70% of respondents believe they have a good or excellent hiring strategy in place.
It has always been my assumption that people want to get better at what they do. If they are good, they want to become great; if they are great, they want to become world class; and so forth. Nearly everyone has the desire to reach his or her potential and achieve some level of hard-fought success. Regrettably, greatness is elusive. Just when we scope out the spot in which it lies and plot a course to attain it, we often see the landscape has shifted. Where perceived greatness once existed, now we see only questionable solutions and partial success, as the fluidity of business makes our plans irrelevant. So we pick ourselves up and start again. This trek towards self improvement is a tricky business, leaving many of us frustrated and doubtful of both the path and, sadly, the purpose. Fortunately, those seeking greatness in any endeavor, and in our case in recruiting, still have principles they can count on to help navigate today’s interesting business conditions. While these are not necessarily a guaranteed delivery of greatness in our recruiting field, I would like to share with you five ideological tenets that might just smooth out the journey. They take guts and imagination to implement, but as with most things, the tougher road is usually more rewarding and in the end, even somewhat easier. 1. Question everything. Being a bit on the defiant side, the saying “I am more concerned about unquestioned answers than about unanswered questions” has never been lost on this writer. I urge you to be weary of anything that you read as it relates to new solutions, startling “everyone’s doing it” ideas, and best-of-breed practices. Though often helpful, experts, thought leaders, and pioneers can be very dangerous people, as advanced degrees and titles are often associated with more credibility than the solutions they claim to deliver. Opinions passed on as facts are rampant, as are studies comprised of data that can be manipulated 18 ways to Sunday. Question everything with the simple words “how” and why” and do not let it go until you have reached a level of comfort that works for you. Be impressed only with sensibility, practical application, proof of concept, and a sound argument. If someone says something that initially strikes you as nonsense, there is a good chance that it is. 2. Utilize different methodologies. With the exception of always hiring the best candidate, there are few holy grails and absolutes that exist to which recruiters need to be anchored. Active or passive candidates, networking or job boards, Coke or Pepsi…the answers to these earth-shaking choices vary from situation to situation and are greatly influenced by such factors as:
- The position to be filled
Much is being written right now about retention. Fears are growing that employees will soon begin leaving in much greater numbers than they have over the past few years. I think that this is largely an unfounded fear. Good people (and bad) tend to stay where they are unless there are rather large reasons to move. These reasons can be simple and easy to fix, such as not being paid enough, or as complex and hard to fix as a bad relationship with co-workers and management. What is more difficult, as a recent article in Workforce magazine points out, is knowing who to focus on keeping and who not to. Good people are never easy to satisfy, and for the best people, employment is more about relationships and opportunities than it is about pay or security. What we often fail to recognize is that individuals have changing needs. As their experience increases, and as their knowledge and intellectual capital accumulates, they need challenges, stimulation, excitement, and change to stay productive and engaged. To maintain the employment relationship, employers have a huge responsibility. First of all, they need to clearly know who their best employees are, keep them informed, help them maintain and develop skills, encourage internal movement and change, and help them to build networks and internal relationships. None of these things costs much when compared to the cost of recruiting and developing new employees, and none of them are really very hard to do. But to put them into place does require a change of mindset and a willingness to break (or at least stretch) the usual policies and rules that exist in many organizations. After all, good HR and good recruiting is all about treating people fairly ó but not necessarily the same. Here are four requirements for building lasting loyalty and a strong employee/employer relationship in your organization. 1. Manage performance, not time. You need to have a performance management system that works. A major reason for employee unease and anger is insecurity over how their performance will be assessed. Employees want to know what good performance looks like, and, more and more, they expect to be rewarded for achieving it. Those whom you rate the highest should always know exactly how they are perceived as performing. They need specific goals to accomplish, deadlines to achieve, or customers to satisfy. Everyone I have ever talked to hates the idea that people get paid simply for showing up on time. Yet this is how most American organizations work. Performance is not managed anywhere near as much as time is managed and accounted for. For the best employees, offer frequent opportunities to move within the company to jobs that either fit their skills and interests better or that challenge them to acquire new skills. HR and recruiters should do their best to reduce or eliminate the bureaucracy that limits or regulates this movement. Employees also want to work on interesting projects, dynamic teams, or for managers who are respected and can teach. Placing your best employees under poorly performing managers or in poorly performing divisions or departments is an open invitation for them to leave. 2. Keep employees informed. Silence is the greatest enemy of retention. When management does not update the employees on the financial and business state of the company and when rumors can be counted by the minute, turnover goes up and productivity goes down. While some people (usually the “B” and “C” players) hunker down and hide, the best ones start looking. I can’t tell you how many excellent employees who are highly valued have left their employers because of business uncertainty. No one expects assurances or guarantees, but what most at least hope for is an understanding of trends: Are things better, the same, or worse? Are customers leaving? How is sales volume? Relationships thrive on the exchange of information. The organization also needs conduits for employees to let management know about changes in their development, classes taken, and new skills acquired. Employees want the employers to use this information to help them find promotions or new positions within the organization that will offer them a greater challenge or more financial incentive. Two-way communication between employer and employees is as critical as is performance management. 3. Educate to retain. Education and development are the cheapest retention tools in your arsenal. Survey after survey shows that acquiring new skills rates as high as getting more pay when employees are asked what they are seeking from their employer. Locking promising people into degree or certificate programs is almost a guarantee that they will remain with your firm until they complete the program. Most will be loyal and thankful. All of them will be better-educated and hopefully more productive employees. This is a big plus for large organizations in particular, and if you work for one you should be capitalizing on this right now. But if we think about our own learning, most of us will agree that the really useful stuff has been acquired in an informal way. We learn from peers, bosses, friends, and our own experiences. Formal education may lay the foundation, but we build on it by doing, failing, and trying again. That is why we should encourage people to take on jobs that are “over their heads.” The best will quickly learn on the job and through their informal networks and conversations. Every employer should encourage employees to transfer to different positions frequently and establish rewards for managers who let their people go and who try and develop their staff. Many employees who leave organizations are simply looking for a bigger challenge or the opportunity to use a new skills or degree. Smart organizations will encourage this and motivate managers to source and hire internally whenever possible ó even if it will require a bit of training. 4. Help every employee build a social network. Employees are frequently devoted to fellow employees and feel strong attachments to them. This is what keeps many people from job-hopping. We all know how powerful networks are. Companies that actively promote employee interaction and teamwork have less discontent and less turnover than those that keep employees apart or at odds. I recommend starting clubs and social groups within the company that work and play together. Some companies form college clubs for new college grads that help them become oriented to the firm and meet other new hires. This tends to raise the level of commitment they have to the organization and reduces turnover. Internal networks are powerful binding devices. Encouraging internal blogging, the use of virtual communications tools like SMS or IM, and the use of video conferencing can strengthen networks and extend them globally. Knowledge is a powerful retention tool and naivety and ignorance can best be combated by sharing of ideas and experiences between people from many different firms. There us nothing that I have written here that is new. Employee retention is about applying the Golden Rule ó do unto employees as you would have done unto yourself. It is 90% common sense.
For years now, we have been looking at the economics of talent management and specifically written on the importance of quality in the talent acquisition process. We have looked at the return on staffing, and our quality of hire report has been well read. But often people come back to us and ask us how they can start very simply to measure quality? Rather than focusing on the strategic reasons to prioritize it or make the business case to show its huge impact, this article is around the very specific first steps you have to take on this journey in the world of quality. Measuring the Process Many companies have been completing hiring manager and new candidate satisfaction surveys for years. Those include questions such as “How satisfied are you with the overall service level of your recruiters?” or, “Did the response time of the recruiting team meet your expectation?” or again, “Is the recruiting professional’s knowledge and professionalism up to your need?” All those surveys measure the different components that come into the mix to produce a quality outcome. Yet for most companies, the outcome itself is either very poorly measured or else buried inside 25 other questions, such as, “Were you satisfied with the quality of the candidates you received?” The latter question is a first step towards a qualitative measurement, but it has the limitation of only giving a general direction on the overall quality of the outcome of the process. Therefore, the first lesson is to make sure to distinguish between the measurement of the process itself and the outcome of the process. If we could choose, first measure the outcome (quality). If quality is high, very little modification is needed to the process to improve the outcome itself, so you can keep doing what you are doing. In this albeit unlikely situation, you can then survey the process itself, but after having gained a benchmark to measure where you are starting from. In other words, you ensure that any change you make afterward will bring some positive results, which you can objectively compare to previous data. Measure the Quality This is the key to going forward. Don’t measure too many data points ó such as the satisfaction of the candidate or the level of professionalism of your staffing team ó but measure only the true value driver that matters: the quality of new hires. After this, measure what you believe will impact that result. As simple as this seems, we have observed the following misstep among several large corporations: They look at the satisfaction of the hiring manager with the recruiting department as a whole rather than measuring the satisfaction with the outcome of their department. To the traditional question, “Can’t we measure both?” my recommended answer is no. If you want to measure more, measure the root causes that impact the quality of the outcome. To crystallize the idea here, it’s possible to have an excellent staffing department, meaning that it provides the best candidates any manager can even imagine, even though your staffing professionals may not be rated as the friendliest. In that case, keep doing what you are doing! Of course it would be better to be seen as friendly as well, but this is only a “nice to have.” Historically speaking, we have been very good at measuring our friendliness, without even asking if it matters. Clearly then, separating completely what should be included in a quality survey is critical. We are focusing on the quality of the outcome only. We can follow up with questions to understand the drivers of this quality, but let’s not dilute our quest. To guarantee that, ask yourself, after every question you pose, how does it impact the measurement of quality? One Question One question remains. Now that we are sure you will keep your focus on quality, how do you start? We have outlined several examples of surveys that can be used to measure quality in our quality of hire report but the one we prefer ó and one of the simplest ó is the probability that you would rehire the individual in question. Companies that linked detailed skill requirements agreed upon by recruiters and managers to their quality survey have not wasted their efforts. For instance, if you sourced a candidate with intellectual property expertise (preferably from within your industry), it is good to understand at the granular level if you delivered that well. In other words, a specific feedback at the level of the skills and qualifications requested for the job is a good practice. Nonetheless, this can make the process cumbersome and also have many managers look at the questionnaire with glazed eyes, muttering to themselves about another long, useless form to fill out. To make the process less painful and still gain 80% of the benefit, we recommend starting very simply. The question to ask is, “Would you hire this employee again?” Make use of a grading scale in your responses, so you can have an overall gradation of your different answers and base level by manager. That answer to that one question will put you a long way towards assessing the quality of your hires.
article by Dr. John Sullivan & Master Burnett Rants can be useful when they bring to light archaic, idiotic practices that do more harm than good ó so be prepared, a rant is about to ensue. For world-class recruiters who understand business principles, let this article be your war cry. For all the administrative types who are in HR because they like people, be forewarned, you are not going to like what you are about to read! Your Issues Are No Different As corporate advisors, one of the most common things we hear when an organization is explaining their emerging issues is “we’re different.” It doesn’t matter what country the company is headquartered in, or who you’re talking to, undoubtedly at some point in the conversation the statement will emerge. You could be talking about almost any issue, and someone will volunteer why all of the best practices in the world are irrelevant for their organization, simply because “we’re different.” After working with more than 250 organizations in 23 countries, we can attest that while the companies themselves may be different, the issues they face are not. “We’re different” has become nothing more than an empty excuse for recruiters and other HR professionals to hide behind when they recognize the business logic behind some practice or approach but personally don’t want to do it. Greatness Comes Through Differentiation As huge evangelists for employment branding, we recognize that great companies often rise to their level of greatness by building a differentiated environment through management practices, workplace programs, and entrepreneurial vision. Some might call the unique interaction of all these elements organizational culture, but we prefer to recognize them individually, because doing so eliminates the opportunity to use culture as an excuse for shying away from something that makes sense for the business. Nothing is more infuriation for a corporate advisor than to be brought in to identify major areas of weakness and then told that the weaknesses can not be addressed because it is part of the culture. This perspective paints culture as some highly rigid, static element, which it is not. Like many things, culture is a ubiquitous element of an organization that is largely driven by perception. Two people may work for the same organization, yet define the culture in two dramatically different ways. Because it can be so many things to so many people, culture has become the easy excuse. Ethics, the Backup Excuse If culture doesn’t emerge as an excuse following the “we’re different” proclamation, you can be sure that ethics will. Somehow, it seems that every modern day business practice from functions other than HR generates an ethics violation when applied inside HR. We can’t apply the same marketing principles inside the organization that marketers use externally to attract and retain customers, because that would be manipulation! We can’t hire to hurt the competition, because that wouldn’t be fair! We can’t apply analytics to human performance, because that would be dehumanizing! No matter what you want to do, someone in HR will find a reason why it is unethical. The Time Has Come Using ethics and culture as excuses for not acting in the best interests of the organization must stop. Letting your guard down during a war is tantamount to surrendering. As the second iteration of the war for talent picks up pace worldwide, it is asinine not to do everything in your power to attract new top talent and protect/retain existing top talent. Failing to do everything possible will result in your organization being decimated by the competition. No company large or small will be exempt from fighting. As demand exceeds supply, the enemy will raid your house, taking anyone of value. Most salespeople spend a majority of their time trying to “steal customers” away from their competitors. Great recruiters also realize that the best hire a firm can make is a hire from their direct competitors’ top talent. Only socialist recruiters fight this notion by throwing up cultural and ethical concerns around poaching. There is no room for socialism in business; your responsibility is to the shareholders, not the greater public. So why hire a competitor’s talent?
- Your talent pool goes up immediately.
We’re now in the midst of my annual recruiting and hiring challenges 2005 survey. You might want to take it. You’ll be doing yourself a favor by participating in an important industry study. It will be especially important to you if you’re not hiring enough top candidates right now. The survey will show you what you need to do to break this bottleneck. The preliminary results so far are quite revealing. Two big findings stand out:
- Few corporate recruiters are actually cold calling passive candidates. The survey shows that less than 30% of corporate recruiters do it, and few of them are any good at it. This is a big issue if you want to compete effectively with external search firms. It’s one way to hire more top people without paying agency fees.
In my last article I went and kicked poor defenseless little requisitions all over the staffing beach, accusing them of being the cause of everything from world hunger and pestilence to the expansion of my waistline. As anticipated, lots of people wrote to me and said, “You missed the point. What about communication, workforce planning, compliance, and posting for active candidates?” In this article, we will review some of those uses of requisitions, the underlying causes for the requisition’s place in this process, and some possible alternatives. First, I would like to clarify the main point of the previous article: my problem is not with requisitions. My problem is with what requisitions mean to most internal corporate staffing organizations, and with how they are used. To reiterate: Requisitions are bad because they are used as a way to control cost and risk. In this role, they are redundant to the offer approval process and they pigeonhole recruiters into a “wait until finance tells us its okay to do our jobs” sort of role. Recruiters are not administrators (or they won’t be for long, since administration is non-strategic and will get outsourced ó but that’s for another article), and the requisition as we know it now is typically used as an administrative control device. There may in fact be legitimate uses for the requisitions (like EEO/OFCCP compliance), but then we should all recognize that the staffing department is not trying to solve a sales or talent problem; it is trying to solve an administration problem. In order to make a closer inspection of this concept, let’s review some of the most common reasons people stick with using requisitions and examine other possible alternatives, as well as instances when a requisition may be appropriate: Communication Initiation “How are you supposed to know there is a need if you don’t get official communication of the need in the form of a requisition?” That question is indicative of how all too often the requisition becomes an excuse for the initiation of a conversation between the recruiter and the hiring authority. If this is always the case in your organization, then you are letting the use of requisitions prove to senior management that your staffing organization is nothing more than a tactical, administrative, transaction-based service which is more than likely too expensive for the results it gets. As strategic sales professionals in the talent arena, recruiters must constantly be in conversation with their internal buyer (hiring authorities). The recruiting professional must be at the table when the business plan is developed so that they know what business problems the hiring authorities are attempting to solve, and how the application of talent helps solves those problems. This ongoing information exchange will be the true communication backbone needed to develop sourcing and recruiting strategies. If done right, the requisition is nothing more than an affirmation of information that has been exchanged on a consistent and regular basis. Here at Electronic Arts, talent and HR management is involved in the business planning process right from the beginning. While we know that plans change, we tend to have a pretty clear view of what types of positions are needed to drive our business, and we source for those positions constantly, whether there is an open requisition or not. When a requisition does open, we understand it as a financial control necessity, not the go-ahead to do our jobs. So, in short, a requisition is a HORRIBLE excuse to start communication. If you have to wait to that point before you know your organization’s talent needs, you are probably already behind. Process Initiation and Time Saving “Why would I be spending my time on something that may or may not be a real need? Requisitions force hiring authorities to define their needs before they get to me.” As a sales professional, you must constantly evaluate how you spend your time (just like any other sales professional). You need to ensure that you aren’t chasing phantom needs and opportunities. So there may be specific cases where you’d want to use the requisition as a way to bludgeon the hiring manager into a place where they have to clarify what hiring needs they really have. If this is the case, however, what you are saying is that you don’t understand your client’s needs well enough to be able to stop them from wasting your time. For instance, if a hiring authority says, “Go find me a java engineer,” and you know for a fact that they are just sending you on a wild goose chase, which is the best response?
- “Sure, once you get me an approved req I’ll start working on that. (Jerk.)”
For as long as I can remember, recruiters have focused on cost as a primary measure of their effectiveness and value to the organization. The most popular recruiting metric has been cost-per-hire, and recruiting functions have justified their existence by showing how much less expensive they are than an outsourced solution. But this has begun to change. Highly skilled talent is harder and harder to find, and demographic projections still indicate a long-term swing toward a candidate-driven market. Positions are open longer, and hiring managers are frustrated at the seeming inability of their internal recruiters to find good talent. The emerging, more important metrics are those of speed and quality, where recruiters are measured on how quickly they present candidates and on the quality of those candidates. In many organizations, outsourcing decisions are being made based on these metrics, and not on cost. Managers are finding that having a good employee when they need one is much more important than how much it costs to get him or her. But one hurdle still looms over all of this: defining what we mean when we say that one candidate is “better” than another. How do recruiters and hiring managers define quality? Who defines it? How can it be tracked? These are the tough questions that need answers. Here are a few ideas on how your organization can develop an effective definition of quality. 1. Establish a definition of quality and use it to select people. Most hiring managers do not have any definition of a “quality employee,” nor do they even have a performance management system that is much more than a popularity contest. Some managers will say that they know a quality employee when they have one, but they struggle with a firm definition. What recruiters need to be better equipped to do is to help managers develop that more firm, more quantified definition. The way to start is to unravel the characteristics of the best performers. It may also be very useful to look at the worst performers and see what it is they don’t have. By listing the characteristics that are common to both the best and the worst employees in a function, you will begin to develop a profile that can eventually be used for selection, performance management and development. These characteristics could be traits such as willingness to compromise, an open attitude toward new ideas, or frugality in business dealings. Or they could be competencies, such as the ability to create spreadsheets in a certain time or the ability to edit complex documents. They can also include a level of knowledge, such as expert-level knowledge of Unix or of a manufacturing process. Most likely, any definitions of quality would include elements from each of these categories. Notice that these are all output-based measures, i.e. measures that can be seen or demonstrated in the work an employee does. They are the opposite of input-based measures, such as length of experience or level of education. These types of measures tell you very little about the quality of a person’s performance. You may need to partner with your internal organizational development group or with your training department to do this. It does take time, and it takes willingness on the part of managers to partner with you in the process. The result, though, will be a much clearer understanding of what kinds of people need to be sourced and hired. 2. Educate hiring managers. Very few hiring managers know much about selection or about what it takes to assess a candidate. Even though you may have put all your managers through some sort of interview training, I am sure they have forgotten most of it and have used even less. Most of us are not very disciplined ourselves, and we cannot expect the typical manager to put in the time it takes to become an expert with these techniques. One area where recruiters can add value is in pre-screening and evaluating candidates against the criteria that you developed above. These criteria, remember, should have been determined in partnership with the managers. You can use lists of these and behavioral interview questions, or a variety of tests can be developed and used to measure these traits, competencies and knowledge. Managers can help you determine how to weight the criteria, and they should be well aware of the consequences of using the criteria. You can spend small amounts of time over a few weeks presenting bits of this information and moving the managers to understanding and acceptance. If possible, you could also hold seminars and use case studies and examples from your own organization to help managers understand how important it is to select people with the right skills and the right organizational fit and attitude. 3. Investigate and experiment with new tools for screening and selection. It is still a bit surprising to me that very few firms are taking advantage of the many online tools that are emerging to help screen candidates before investing a large amount of time in interviews. By using the Internet and your corporate website, you can ask candidates to engage in a dialogue and mutual assessment process. While you are looking at candidates’ skills and fit, managers can be looking at your organization and decide whether or not they like what they see. Many candidates I have spoken with have seen one side of an organization while interviewing, and another, less attractive, one after they are hired. There is still value in letting candidates email other employees for information about the company and its work life. There is also a need for job previews and better job descriptions that are based on reality, not on what we wish were true. By defining upfront what constitutes a quality candidate, you can remove much of the present frustration candidates have over why they were not chosen for an interview. You can also reduce the number of unqualified candidates who apply. Many do so because they do not know or understand your definition of quality. By working with hiring managers, by getting them to write down and define for you the competencies and traits of successful employees, and by putting those to use in your screening and interviewing processes, you can improve candidate quality in a measurable way.
You know, I always wanted to be a super hero. I grew up, of course, with Superman, Spider Man, and Wonder Woman, but my favorite was always Ultra Man. He had that classic super hero mythology, a normal person who was virtually killed and the only way he could come back to life was if he were given these extraordinary powers to turn into a giant. But like all super heroes, he had an Achilles heel. For him, it was that, once he pulled the trigger and became a giant to battle some horrible genetic-mutant monster that came from nearby polluted waters, he could only stand earth’s sun for like 15 minutes. Well, it turns out I’m not a super hero. I’m just the mad scientist who has the formula for someone else to become a super hero. I’m looking to create a staffing super hero. We shall call you “The Human Resourcer.” My secret lies in not only helping you create a high-quality, effective recruiting function, but doing it on a zero-cost basis. Would I be wrong in saying this is the key to mythic status in your company? Though there’s no doubt the most important thing is to create a high quality, effective staffing function, one can’t ignore the cost of such and endeavor and how it’s funded. Actually, there’s even more to it than that. As it turns out, the way a staffing organization is funded can create a certain dynamic between staffing professionals and their clients, which can make for a healthier recruiting environment and help you do your job better. So yes, the intro to my formula is that you can actually get your staffing organization funded by someone else and, in doing so, be more effective. As I’ve referred to in the past, it’s all about your value to the company. Except this time we’re going talk about it in cold, hard, glorious cash as well as effectiveness. I know, I know, you’re saying to yourself, “Dude, this is great! Crack open the kimono and let us par-take…” Okay, but a few caveats (as Dr. Franken-shteen said to the monster). First among these is that most of what I have to say applies to internal staffing organizations of large companies. The reason for this is that, in large companies, even though there’s more money available to fund staffing, the trick is not to expose it. This is where my secrets lie. What about small companies, you ask? Good question. Let’s start with how small companies fund internal and external recruiting as a way to ease into what I hope won’t lull you (and me) to sleep. (This is my other caveat: I’ll try not to get too technical and boring. Problem is, when you’re talking about money and that line down at the bottom, it’s hard to make it sexy). Small companies usually fund recruiting in a very straightforward way. There isn’t much money, so everybody’s neck is on the line. Thus they usually go the simple and traditional route: All recruiting costs, including outside, third party search, fall under HR. This includes the permanent, fixed costs of recruiter salaries, job postings, advertising, recruitment advertising, and job fairs and costs associated with technology, such as applicant tracking systems. Typically, this also includes the cost of third-party outside recruiters (or this cost falls in an outside line item called “unbudgeted cost” that gets absorbed by HR). Occasionally, small companies will have third-party recruiters paid by the business areas who hired them. But in general, with small companies, all costs are owned by human resources. In big companies, by contrast, not only is it not always the case that all staffing activities are funded by HR, it’s not even smart for HR to own all the recruiting costs. In this instance, money does not translate into power. However, as in every instance, value does. Here’s the problem. In large companies, even though there is in theory more money and resources available to fund staffing, the idea of large costs showing up on the “general and administrative” (G&A) budget line is not attractive. In these environments, if you have a big pot of money sitting on a line item like that, where do you think the company’s going to turn the minute they need to cut costs? This is just on one level ó the crass, pure dollar amount level. But there’s another downside to subsidizing your company’s recruiting that’s more fundamental and linked to your effectiveness as a valued partner. Assuming your goal is to be a respected and valued strategic consultant (and that should be everybody’s goal), if you fund all the recruiting through your HR department, the service you provide your clients will, to them, essentially be free. And we all know how we value something that’s free versus something we have to pay for. So to create a healthy recruiter-client dynamic, it’s important that each side be vested in the process, that each has “skin in the game.” Thus there are several reasons why it’s important to know how to fund a corporate staffing organization outside the traditional structure in a way that reflects a true cost-value relationship, without having to expose external costs on the G&A line. “Okay, so how?” you ask. Well as it turns out, there are several models to choose from that can be carved to fit your needs, more than I can fit in here. I’ll try to give you a feel for some basic frameworks. Let’s start with the ones I feel are less appealing. The first is a simple model that seems pretty straightforward and logical given the issues I’ve raised. If you’re a head of staffing and you’re trying to create a staffing function where you need to add recruiters, technology, job postings, branding, and an employee referral mechanism, you set it up so that the overhead costs of recruiters’ salaries stays in HR, but all other variable costs attributable to a search ó e.g., advertisements, etc. ó get charged back to the business unit that’s hiring. Sounds logical, right? Problem is, sometimes it’s difficult to assign certain costs to a department. For instance, when you have multiple searches for similar departments and you have to place a lot of ads, you don’t want to “sack” one department with too much of the bill. Is this easily figured out? Of course, but it requires some judgment on what to do internally versus externally. And you still have that sizable chunk of overhead (recruiters’ salaries) on the dreaded G&A line. Another model is the full charge-back model. In this scenario, all recruiting and staffing costs are considered variable and are charged back to businesses. The costs are allocated to different business units based on the employee population or that unit’s percentage of the company’s revenue. This also makes sense, because a lot of other HR costs are allocated this way. It’s simple, it’s straightforward ó but it’s not very engaging. It doesn’t really get either side vested in the process and outcome of staffing and recruiting. There’s no skin. And we need skin (I said I would try to make it sexy). What I recommend, and have seen work successfully, are two allocation models that have different takes on them. If they were drinks I’d have to call them allocations-with-a-twist. The first is a model where all recruiting costs are allocated on a per-hire basis. Not only does this properly align recruiting with the businesses, it forces a planning conversation between recruiters and the head of business units. Here’s what you do: In developing your budget for the quarter or year, you sit down with your department heads to look at past and current turnover and to determine future needs. Then you aggregate the numbers, come up with a demand forecast for the next quarter, and break it down by function and level. You now have the information to build out a recruiting strategy based on needs ó you’ll know your external, as well as internal, needs and how much funding you’ll need per hire. Armed with an amount, you can then go back to the hiring manager and present him or her with a figure. A key approach here is to present the amount you need to allocate to their department per hire, but then mention that whatever isn’t used will be “refunded” or rebated. The great thing about this model overall is that you could do it in advance or on the “back end,” after everything has occurred. I know this sounds complicated, but there are many benefits to this model, including:
- It forces dialogue between staffing professional and hiring manager before recruiting needs happen.
In case you are unaware, the U.S. military in general ó and the Army in particular ó is having a great deal of difficulty in meeting its recruiting quotas. No matter what your position is on the issue of the military, I think we can all agree that a severe shortage in any one branch is certainly not good for the security of the country. And that brings out the primary reason for this article. I believe, as professional recruiters, there is a role that we can play in helping the Army and the military better learn the latest recruiting strategies and tools. After reviewing their approach, their website and their strategy, it is clear to me that they could use some professional recruiting device. So I’m calling on both corporate and third-party recruiters to contact their local recruiting center (they’re listed in the yellow pages) or the Army recruiting command (its leaders can be found at this website) and offer your ideas and support. After analyzing the U.S. Army’s approach to recruiting, I have some suggestions for action steps that it could take to improve their efforts. Maybe the ideas presented below will trigger some ideas of your own. Certainly many of them could also be used to improve recruiting at your own organization.
- Take advantage of referrals. Referrals are always the foundation for great recruiting results, but unfortunately the Army seems to under-utilize them. Current members of the military should be routinely approached and asked to provide names of relatives and friends who would make good soldiers. They should be encouraged to go through their address books for potential prospects. In addition, unit managers should be given targets for the number of referrals from their units. The commander, the unit, and the referring individuals should get some recognition and rewards for successful referrals. Even civilians and veterans should be rewarded for making successful referrals. New recruits in particular should be asked on their first day to provide the names of others. During the recruiting process, even individuals who are currently being considered for enlistment should be asked for additional names during the interview process. Also, soldiers and recent recruits themselves should be encouraged to help “sell” candidates on the benefits of joining.
Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss talent management strategy with over 500 recruiting and HR leaders from companies across the U.S. I started these talks by asking the question, “Are you aware that most corporate executives and line managers don’t consider HR/recruiting strategic enough?” The overwhelming answer was a reluctant “yes.” And it’s true: HR/recruiting is not strategic enough. Being strategic is not just about thinking strategically; I’ve met many outstanding HR/recruiting professionals who think strategically. Being strategic is more about executing and implementing tactics, programs, and projects based on sound strategic thinking, not just talking about it. In this article, I’d like to review the problems associated with not being strategic enough, and then propose a step-by-step plan about how to get started on becoming more strategic. Understanding your current and future hiring challenges is the first step to becoming more strategic. From there you can then determine if a long-term strategic fix will work, or if you’ll be forced to use some type of short-term tactical band-aid. For example, if the market for software developers is extremely tight, you’ll be forced to hire some extra recruiters right away. Given some forewarning, a better strategic choice might have been to outsource the project to Infosys in Bangalore. To get started on this forward-planning part, I’ve put together a 2005-2006 recruiting and hiring challenges survey (http://www.zoomerang.com/survey.zgi?p=WEB224DP4PX42X) to highlight trends and changes on the recruiting horizon. Knowing these trends will give you a firsthand chance to be more strategic. As you might know, I frequently use the iPod as a metaphor for developing a market-driven systematic hiring strategy. The iPod is not a music player. It’s a fully integrated music system developed based on market and consumer needs. In my mind, most hiring and recruiting processes are neither market-driven nor systematic. Instead, they resemble a random collection of CDs, MP3 players, and old stereo equipment and require too many instructions to get the whole processing working. Following are some clues that a company’s recruiting and hiring processes are neither iPod-like nor strategic enough. If you observe any of them in your company, then rules and bureaucratic processes might be driving recruiting techniques rather than sound business strategy.
- Not hiring enough top people (and/or the process takes too long). What would you have to do to hire a top person in five days after opening a requisition? I’m not sure it’s possible, but you’d have to be strategic to pull it off. Just figuring out how to get there would require some great strategic thinking and planning.
In 1995 I decided that I had had enough of the administration game. I wanted to make money. More importantly, my wife wanted me to make money. I felt it would be nice to measure my success in easy terms, like dollars and cents, and not in “client satisfaction” and “atta boys”. So I decided to get into big ticket enterprise software sales. Software sales is a lot like recruiting. You have prospects (candidates), you have your “target number” (openings), and you try to figure out which prospects, given the right message and attention, will lead to making your number. Selling big software packages is tough. In order to close the deal you have to make a lot of pitches (sound familiar?), and when the deal goes critical you start burning a lot of company resources to make presentations and get the deal closed. There is a lot of inherent risk for any vendor in the sales process, because a salesperson can chew up a lot of the company’s resources trying to close a deal. This could be time better spent on other activities, like going to Hawaii or buying that new Mercedes. Yet in all my time selling software and enterprise services (about 10 years worth) I never once got a “sales requisition.” Not once. I never had the CFO call me up and tell me that the only way that I could start prospecting for my next customer was if I got a piece of paper with an “ideal sale description.” And yet there was at least as much on the line with a large multi-million dollar enterprise software deal as there is in the hiring of a junior programmer. Now that I am working inside a corporate staffing organization, I frequently end up asking myself, what good is a requisition? And the answer I arrive at increasingly is: not much. A Brief History of Requisitions In today’s dynamic staffing environment, requisitions are a dinosaur that should be at the front of the extinction express lane. At a time when internal staffing organizations are in need of ever more advanced tools to attract and close the best possible talent for their companies, the entire hiring process gets structured around an ancient relic of the days when human beings were just “cogs in a larger wheel.” Requisitions were created for two purposes: cost control and risk management. They don’t help recruiters hire more effectively or find the best candidates. They don’t help recruiters get better insight into their client’s business. To the point, requisitions are designed to ensure that those free-wheeling, devil-may-care nuts in staffing don’t go hiring a bunch a new CEOs, bankrupting the company in the process. There was a time when the use of requisitions made more sense. After all, if people are your number one liability, you definitely want to put big hurdles between the desperate flake searching for a job and the golden key to the executive washroom. In this scenario, a recruiter is nothing more than a frustrated social worker, secretly planning to save the world one ex-welfare recipient at a time. Only the wise hand of capital control can prevent every mental patient in the big house down the lane from ending up on the payroll. Thus the requisition was 1950s management’s way of saying, “Thou shalt not do anything risky, like talking to people before you actually need to hire someone.” Some further history may be instructive. Requisitions are a relatively recent phenomenon. They arose from the concept of the job order. A job order is like a purchase order, without the extra five letters to make it as important. The job order tells the outside recruiting firm that if they provide bodies that meet a certain specification (i.e “must be able to fog mirror”) then the company will agree to pay them. After this had gone on for a while people started thinking, “Hey, why pay the big bucks for an outside company when we could pay less and get the same result?” This thinking begat the corporate recruiting position. This in turn lead the finance department (as the protector of corporate capital) to have a collective coronary, as the cost and risk control mechanism of a job order would obviously not work with an internal corporate recruiting department. And so the “let’s control the risk of the corporate recruiter the way we control the risk of the outside firm” notion was born ó and we have been recruiting with requisitions ever since. Why Are Requisitions Used in Recruiting, But Not in Sales? A requisition is supposed to be an authorization (only once approved!) to the recruiter that they can now officially start their engines. It is the green flag of the recruiting race. But good recruiters fill their pipelines long before the approved req ever comes down from on high. At best, a requisition is a green flag to involve internal resources in the further exploration of the opportunity. At its worst, a requisition can be a serious distraction. But if recruiting is a sales function as is frequently argued, then we must ask some questions: Why isn’t there a requisition in software sales? Or any other complex sale? Why doesn’t the CFO issue a “sales requisition”? Any complex sale involves lots of internal company resources. Even in companies that interview a candidate 20 times, the relative cost of the interview process still pales in comparison to the cost closing a multi-million dollar software sale. If the requisition is the best way to control cost and risk, then why not use it in any “sales” situation where cost and risk are part of the process? There is no “sales requisition” outside of recruiting because of a fundamental belief most executives subscribe to: When you are closing deals, the customer is in the driver’s seat, but when you are closing candidates, the company is in the driver’s seat. In other words, candidates need jobs more than prospects need software (or services, or whatever you are selling). Which translates into: candidates are expensive and risky, and customers are not. (I am not saying that every company that uses requisitions believes this. I am saying that this is the fundamental assumption behind the creation of the concept of a requisition.) One would have to agree with that statement ó if there were only one employer in the universe for any particular sort of opening, and if there were vendors as numerous as the stars available for any prospective sales situation. But of course, it is usually exactly the opposite. In fact, the more talented the candidate, the more opportunities she has to take her services to the highest bidder, whereas large enterprise software companies will cut their prices all day long to win a deal. Enterprise software is increasingly a commodity, while talent is increasingly expensive and valued. If this is true, then perhaps sales management should start issuing requisitions with the exact deal properties listed. In that, way salespeople will stop wasting their time chasing deals that don’t help the company achieve the margins and market penetration needed to milk every last cent out of an increasingly commoditized market. This is not to say that there should not be financial controls on decisions that affect how people spend money. In sales, you have ongoing executive review of the deal pipeline to make sure that salespeople are not signing the company up for something that won’t yield expected returns. In recruiting, we call that kind of overview “offer approval.” All offer letters (and, by extension, the verbal extension of offer letters) should be reviewed by the finance department prior to delivery to ensure that the original budget assumptions are not invalidated, challenged, or changed. Top-tier talent executives view their number one responsibility as the ongoing management of talent resources (as opposed to finance’s focus on managing capital resources) and therefore constantly review recruiting pipelines for fit to specification. In a well-run recruiting shop, it is much more difficult for a recruiter to burn company resources than it is for a salesperson inside a well-run sales organization. So there are plenty of checks and balances on recruiters in a well-run recruiting department to make sure that someone isn’t hiring their best friend into a new “CMO” position (chief massage operator) with big bucks to boot. Yet requisitions are still almost universally used, even in leading-edge recruiting organizations. Even here at Electronic Arts, which was one of the first adopters of the talent pool concept and has sourced ahead of demand as a standard business practice since its inception over 20 years ago, we use requisitions as our final hiring control. But my experience has been that pioneering recruiting organizations use requisitions in spite of their effects, not because of them. Recruiting organizations often have to use a tool to initiate conversations with hiring authorities, track hiring activities for EEO/OFCCP purposes, or ensure that the needs of the hiring manager are validated. And the requisition is the most commonly acceptable, tried-and-true tool to tackle those all-pervading problems. But just like the proverb of a carpenter who has to use a hammer for every need, even to drive in screws, requisitions get used to deal with problems they were not designed for. Unfortunately, this leads many organizations to spend as much time trying to figure out how to deal with requisitions as they do solving the most important problems every recruiting organization faces: how to attract and close on talent that will extend your organization’s competitive advantage in its marketplace. In my next article, we will review the specific standard uses of requisitions, possible alternatives, and what this means for the staffing organization and its clients.
Smith and Co.’s three recruiters are overwhelmed with requisitions. At the end of last week they had more than 150 open positions to fill, many of them requiring hard-to-find candidates. Most of these requisitions had been open for more than two weeks, and hiring managers were upset. Many hiring managers had not seen any candidates, and the few who had were not pleased with the quality of what they say. At this week’s staff meeting, Peter suggested that they outsource at least some of the requisitions to an agency. But, he said, “Let’s not just use an agency. Let’s find a firm who will want an on-going relationship with us and let them completely take over ownership for some of the really hard-to-fill positions.” The other two recruiters, and most of the HR team, had some reservations about doing this. They worried about losing their jobs over time and wondered if any outside agency could really understand what their hiring managers were looking for and could find the right people. At the end of the meeting, the team had agreed to find out a bit more about outsourcing and what it would really mean for their company. This situation is increasingly common. I find that many organizations are turning to outsourcing as a solution either to the problem of too many requisitions and too few recruiters, or to that of too many hard-to-fill positions and no talent pool or legitimate candidate sources. But many organizations are turning to recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) firms out of desperation, without a clear strategy or well-defined goals. The most successful RPO efforts involve in-depth consideration of the four issues below. Understanding RPO The first consideration is to be sure that you understand what an RPO is and what it can and cannot do for your organization. The Recruitment Process Outsourcing Association says that RPO takes place when “…a recruitment process outsourcer acts as a company’s internal recruitment function for a portion or all of its jobs. RPOs manage the entire recruiting/hiring process ó from job profiling through the on-boarding of the new hire, including staff, technology, method, and reporting.” What is unique here is that the organization you hire to do RPO for you acts as if they are you. That means the candidate thinks they are talking to an employee of your company and that they are interacting with internal staff. As a result, you must carefully choose and manage the vendors who provide this service. You need to check references and monitor their performance closely until you are comfortable that they are fairly representing your organization. You will also need to spend time educating an RPO about the company, its strategy and goals, and its overall talent philosophy. Entering into an RPO relationship is very different from hiring a contingency or retained recruiting firm. These firms are generally focused on single positions and often represent a function or a hiring manager more than they do your company. Another issue to consider is whether the RPO will hire the internal recruiters you currently employ and allow them to continue acting as your recruiters. Sometimes these individuals may not have the skills necessary to be effective, which may be one of reasons you decided to outsource the function to begin with. If that is so, you may decide to let some of your existing recruiters go and ask the RPO vendor to supply other recruiters. You will also have to give the RPO vendor access to hiring managers and internal, often confidential, information. That is why you need to be sure they have signed appropriate confidentiality agreements and are a trustworthy firm. Know Why You Are Outsourcing The second consideration is to determine the reasons why you want to outsource. Identifying what the real reasons are starts by establishing goals and success criteria. One reason for moving to an RPO may be to improve the efficiency of finding and presenting quality candidates. This is often driven by an inadequate sourcing capability or by too few recruiters. A second reason is to save money, by contracting at a lower rate than you are spending for salaries, overhead, and office space. The third driver of outsourcing is often an effort to focus the organization on doing whatever it does. Organizations frequently choose to outsource most of their human resources functions, including recruiting, just to keep themselves small and avoid anything that interferes with accomplishing the core mission of the organization. Having a set of success criteria is essential to showing that your efforts are working. If saving money is a goal, track how much you spend versus how much you used to spend and show the difference. If greater efficiency is your goal, be sure to determine your current levels and use that as a baseline for RPO improvements. If you cannot quantitatively track your success in executing RPO, it will be difficult to keep senior management support. Be Clear About What To Outsource The third consideration is to determine what gets outsourced. Are you planning to outsource everything, or just a part of the recruiting responsibilities? If only a part of the whole function, which part? You should also ask yourself why this is the part to be outsourced and examine carefully the motivations and consequences of that decision. Some organizations outsource the wrong functions ó those that either require technical or proprietary knowledge of the organization’s needs or those that are highly strategic and represent the intellectual capital of the firm. Others choose to outsource what they consider to be administrative functions of little strategic value, only to find that the opposite is true. For example, more than one firm has outsourced its call-center staffing function, only to find that the people who directly interface with customers ó often unhappy or upset customers ó are actually highly important to the company’s brand and profitability. Many times these decisions get revoked and the recruiting returns inside. Unfortunately, the RPO firm usually gets the blame, when the real blame lies within the HR decision-making process itself. Manage the Relationship The final consideration is whether or not you can mange the relationship with the RPO vendor and whether the vendor can work with you on a continuous basis. Managing a vendor requires different skills from those most recruiters have. You will have to negotiate pricing and timeframes, and act as a communications channel with the vendor. Not all vendors who claim to offer RPO really do so. Most RPO firms are also retained or contingency recruiting organizations. They may have the ability to find good candidates, but many of these firms are used to the one-at-a-time placement of candidates. They have administrative and management challenges with a day-to-day, ongoing relationship. Use the resources of the Recruitment Process Outsourcing Association to help you as you decide which way is best for your organization. More and more firms are deciding that RPO offers them real advantages and cost savings over an internal function, but there are always tradeoffs to make. Only a well-thought-out, thoroughly researched plan will succeed in the long run.
I’ve frequently discussed hiring salespeople ó what goes right, what goes wrong, that sort of thing. In this article, I’ll discuss how to hire sales managers ó what to look for and, more importantly, why past sales success is often the worst predictor of future sales management performance. As you might expect, the issues at stake have implications for hiring in other positions beyond sales. It’s amazing! Good salespeople are generally bad sales managers. Why? Because they are generally promoted (or recruited) for the wrong reasons. Salespeople and sales managers are different. Salespeople usually come in one flavor: “doers.” Sales managers, on the other hand, come in three: 1) doers, 2) coaches, and, 3) part-doer, part-coach. Does she or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure, but I’ll share a few secrets with you. Doers Are Special Doers produce by their own efforts. They may sell complicated or simple products, have long sales cycles or short scales cycles, manage single buyers or multiple buyers, sell tangible or intangible products, be hunters or farmers, sell big dollar or small dollar products, and have single or multiple sales opportunities…and so forth. Although rumor has it that 10% of Ticonderoga’s annual pencil sales are made by sales managers during pre-hire interviews, a salesperson’s effectiveness can generally be attributed to their own activities ó face to face, minute by minute, and account by account. Did I mention that good salespeople also tend to be “lone wolves,” people who live and die according to their interpersonal skills? Lone wolves are self-sufficient. They make cold calls when they feel bad, effectively deal with insufferable prospects and clients, struggle to overcome a natural aversion to detail, and are willing to suffer frequent rejection in exchange for an occasional closing thrill. Now the big question: What makes sales managers different? The Sales Manager Sure, sales managers must be good at basic “doing.” But, more importantly, sales managers must know how to diagnose and transfer effective sales tactics to someone else. Transference is a different kind of skill from selling entirely. People who have it are “consciously competent,” fancy words referring simply to a person who is always conscientiously aware of how and when to do what. The consciously competent sales manager is never on automatic pilot. He or she does not coach by imitation, because sales interactions are entirely too dynamic for imitation to work consistently. “Watch and do what I do” is only effective with chimps. Although science tells us chimps share 95% of a salesperson’s genes, I am almost certain they would not make good salespeople (however, the jury is still out on whether they would make good sales managers). So, let’s throw past sales performance out the window when it comes to sales managers. An effective sales manager usually was NOT the best salesperson on the team ó but he or she does know how to effectively work through others to build their sales skills. Yes, this seems counterintuitive ó until one takes a road trip with a high sales producer and discovers that they rarely do things by the book. Top salespeople tend to run on automatic; they cut corners and often (heaven forbid!) manipulate both clients and team members to make their sales numbers. Show me a company filled with only top producers, and I’ll show you a company with severe customer service and client retention issues. What starts to become clear is that not every trait desirable in a high sales producer is also desirable in a sales manager. Managerial Selection What are some other examples of what you don’t want to see in a sales manager?
- Failure to pre-coach a sales person prior to making a sales call
Not many people research or study recruiting strategies, but those who do realize quite quickly that all recruiting strategies fit into two categories: “you find us” and “we find you.” The “you find us” category is the most commonly used, where a firm essentially posts a notice that it is looking for someone to hire and then sorts through those individuals who respond. The more proactive category, however, is the “we find you” approach, where a firm instead attempts to identify the names of top performers as individuals and then contact them directly. The first approach almost by design attracts “the masses,” while the other is more targeted to minimize the volume of applications and maximize the quality of the applicants. If you were going to attempt to recruit Tiger Woods to play for your golf team, you would realize early on that it would require the use of a different approach than most corporations currently use. Tiger certainly wouldn’t respond to the traditional approaches, like ads in newspapers, or and he wouldn’t put his resume on Monster.com. It is also unlikely that he would attend golfing “job fairs” or respond to a “now hiring” banner. If by chance Tiger did respond, it is unlikely that he would endure the hiring process at most firms, because he wouldn’t be treated as special or as a “target individual.” The only way to hire top performers is to give up the notion that they are going to find you and instead adopt a recruiting strategy that proactively finds them. Tiger, much like other top performers, has so many choices that the only way you could possibly recruit him would be to target him individually and then build a relationship with him over time in order to eventually convince him to join your golf team. This relationship-based recruiting strategy is called the “we find you” approach, and if you want to hire the very best, it’s the only approach to use. Why “You Find Us” Generates a System Stressing Volume Perhaps an analogy would best highlight the differences between the two categories of recruiting. In the media, there are two basic choices to attracting a target audience: “broadcasting” and “narrowcasting.” The broadcasting approach uses far-reaching tools to attract the widest possible audience. It is the approach used by the major TV networks (e.g. ABC, CBS, NBC, CBC). Another approach, called narrowcasting, is used by cable TV stations to attract a very narrow but targeted audience, for example the Sci-Fi or the Golfing channels. The first approach gets you a large volume of viewers, while the second gets you a smaller but much more targeted viewership. If you wanted to recruit a golf fanatic, placing an ad on a broadcast network will get you a huge volume of candidates, most of whom will be unqualified or underqualified. If you wanted to attract only golf fanatics, you would place an ad on the Golf channel, and you would certainly get only golf fanatics responding, because no one else would ever watch a golf channel. The same holds true for the commonly used “you find us” approach and the superior, but unfortunately least used, “we find you” approach. If you’re currently inundated with a high volume of candidates whom you have little interest in, it’s probably because you are using a “you find us” approach. The “You Find Us” Sourcing Strategy The “you find us” sourcing strategy is used by 95% of firms, making it the most common ó but, unfortunately, least effective ó of all sourcing strategies. Using this strategy, all attraction efforts are general and are designed to find anyone who fits the broad category of your search. It is a “broad net” strategy, where no proactive effort is made to find people or prospects as individuals. Here are the common “you find us” sourcing tools, listed in order from least effective to most effective:
- Job fairs
There is a major and accelerating shift now underway at most major U.S. corporations regarding how to best recruit new talent. Corporate recruiting departments are now more serious than every before about competing head-on with third-party agencies and executive search firms. The shift started six or so years ago, as job boards became the expected weapon to win the war for talent. Everyone figured they wouldn’t have to use search firms anymore and they could bring all of this business in-house. This was phase 1 of the shift. Phase 2 started a few years ago as these same corporations discovered that there was more to hiring top people than just desire. The best people were not responding to online advertising as the job boards predicted. As a counter-measure, corporations began the hiring of corporate recruiters with search firm or agency experience to target more highly qualified and generally passive candidates. This helped if a good recruiter was hired. But it helped less if the new agency-to-corporate recruiter was given too many requisitions or too little contact with the hiring manager. In addition, what was also discovered is that just because someone had headhunter experience, that didn’t mean the person was good at it. What a shock that must have been. Phase 3 is now underway, as the realization is setting in that there is more to hiring top people than hiring experienced headhunters. Here’s a quick-take on some of the big issues involved:
- A shift to a market-driven hiring strategy is a prerequisite to hiring less active and passive candidates. These people are more selective and consider different factors before changing jobs. Unfortunately, the hiring process at most U.S. corporations is not designed to address the unique needs of these passive candidates. For one thing, they’re too restrictive and process driven, where rules, regulations, and past practices determine how candidates are found and hired. These often preclude the best from even applying. In order to hire more top passive candidates, the underlying culture, hiring manager attitudes, and hiring processes need to be overhauled to meet the needs of top candidates. This is less important if the company has a strong employer brand or the supply of top candidates exceeds demand.