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Talent Acquisition: The Eyesore of HR?

by Feb 6, 2013, 5:49 am ET

bigstock-Scary-Old-House-84669After working in a number of talent acquisition groups over the course of my career, I have often reflected on the many comments and sentiments that have been shared with me about the function. My belief has been and always will be that talent acquisition is the only function within HR that can destroy the business and HR.

If you can’t get people through the door, there is no need for benefits, compensation, employee relations, or any other facet of HR because there is no one working at the company. Surely, if there are no people or hires coming through the door there is no way to keep the business going.

In many ways, the talent acquisition job is a thankless one. If you hire someone who doesn’t work out it is your fault. If a job needs to filled yesterday and other logistics prevent the group from proceeding in a timely fashion, it is Talent’s fault.

However, there are many instances in which talent acquisition misses the mark in delivering upon its inherent value proposition and there is no one to blame but itself.

One of those areas is strategy. Unfortunately, strategy for the sake of strategy does not work. I have worked for companies where the meat of their strategy was in satisfying compliance requirements, posting jobs, and filling jobs. A strategy built upon these three premises is one destined for failure. It lacks vision, creativity, and it does not begin to solve any of the issues of internal stakeholders. A strategy like this will make you the eyesore of HR in the same way a haphazardly kept house does to a block of well-manicured homes.

The key to a talent acquisition strategy that establishes and accounts for the needs of all involved is communication. Working in a vacuum or silo is a Personnel circa 1980 move. Get out of your cubicle or office and meet with your internal partners. Find out what is going on in the departments and understand their present and future needs for staffing. How can you begin to carry out a strategy without understanding the needs of the customer?

Second, calibrate your internal stakeholders’ needs with any compliance or regulatory requirements. Evaluate what you must get done and what they expect of you. Through communication, ensure that your stakeholders understand what you are required to do so everyone is on the same page.

Last but not least, create a strategy that is consistent with the needs of the business, compliance requirements, and the needs of the internal stakeholders. Meet with your internal stakeholders about the strategy. Make sure they understand it, buy into it, and observe it as a guide for interacting with the group.

Any deficit in communication or execution is where talent acquisition becomes the eyesore of HR. If people know what to expect, it is consistent, and the strategy makes sense for what they need to get done — you will find that your partners will no longer go against you but work with you. You will no longer be seen as a roadblock but a valued ally. With a customer-focused strategy you build credibility, which is vital to talent acquisition’s success and continued existence.

 

photo from bigstock

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • http://hcl.com Anmol Singh

    Good Article Janine.In beginning its all about the pain of recruiters (Step Child) but ultimately it turns into a internal Recruitment strategic page.Thanks again.

  • http://www.recruitinginferno.com Steve Levy

    Tru…actually HR is te eyesore of recruiting ;)

  • http://www.superrecruiter.wordpress.com Michael Goldberg

    Second that Steve. Janine, Recruiting is not the eyesore of the company. In fact, I can point to a a handful of companies where Recruiting actually carries HR. While I agree that a strategy is needed, The HR Executive Team needs to ensure that they have strong Recruiting leaders and recruiters who can understand the business. It all boils down to Recruiting building effective partnerships (pardon the cliche’) with their hiring managers.

    Basically, if HR doesn’t understand that they need the right Talent finders in their department, then they are the actual eyesore.

  • http://www.madgigs.com Madgigs Corp

    There is NO HR without Talent Aquisition…just as there is no business without sales. I am afraid that your post headline (Talent Acquisition: The Eyesore of HR?) is false and designed to sensationalize. But your post itself makes some great points.

    I don’t believe that talent acquisition is a thankless job. However, in those organizations, that talent acquisition is a thankless job you can be certain that organization is either medicore or on it’s way to mediocrity…even for those organizations that have no challenge in attracting the best.

  • Cheryl Bice

    You are confusing “strategy” with “tactic.” Many internal talent acquisition groups make the mistake of thinking “strategy” and “tactic” are interchangeable. They are not…and any talent group that executes…posting, sourcing, hiring, without having a strategy based on the business goals and objectives is destined to get it wrong most of the time and ultimately be viewed as useless by the business.

  • http://hr.toolbox.com/blogs/aristocracy-hr/ Janine Truitt

    Cheryl:

    Tactic is defined as “a conceptual action of one or more steps to accomplish an end; strategy a careful plan or method”. These two are quite similar. Both are aligned with the notion of planned steps and actions that will be taken to garner a specific outcome; in this case that would be attracting talent.

    I would agree with your comment about having no strategy based on business goals as being a road to being viewed as useless. This is a fact and one that I don’t think people pay enough attention to.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reading.

    Best Regards,

    Janine

  • http://hr.toolbox.com/blogs/aristocracy-hr/ Janine Truitt

    Anmol,

    Thank you for reading and chiming in. I appreciate the feedback.

    Best Regards,

    Janine

  • http://hr.toolbox.com/blogs/aristocracy-hr/ Janine Truitt

    Steve and Michael,

    I love both of your comments and you are absolutely right. Shame on HR leaders if they don’t have the vision and quite frankly common sense to choose the right Recruitment professionals to accommodate and drive the business vision, goals, and mission.

    Thanks for reading and adding value to the conversation.

    Best Regards,

    Janine

  • http://hr.toolbox.com/blogs/aristocracy-hr/ Janine Truitt

    Madgigs Corp,

    Understand that my job as a writer is to attract readers and may be even lean a little on titles and content that may be “sensational”.

    You bring up excellent points about the correlation between mediocre organizations and weak talent functions. While I have no data handy to back this, I’m sure you’re right.

    What I truly believe is that Talent Acquisition has to be the shining star of HR. If it isn’t it is a reflection of poor decisions made by HR leaders in the people they put in these positions. When run well and with a solid strategy, talent acquisition has unlimited possibilities in an organization.

    Thank you for your excellent points and for reading.

    Best Regards,

    Janine

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/jacobsmadsen Jacob Madsen

    Ref sentence: ‘ talent acquisition is the only function within HR that can destroy the business and HR’.
    I had thought and hoped there might have been more to this sentence, which obviously there was not. You did sort of touch upon it Janine later in article why perhaps not completely fair to express disappointment.

    I take the perhaps simple view as follows:
    Apart from planet earth, the kingdom of plants, animals and minerals, e v r y t h i n g is man made. Be it paperclips or ‘man on the moon’

    For that reason and why I am missing something in above sentence, the people that TA bring in and are responsible for can make or break a company.

    It is really where HR start and from where all is built why it beggars belief that HRD’s and HRBP”s and the like do not focus at least 30-40% of their time solely on this subject getting it right and making it the very best it can be.

    I have had the fortune of being in companies where this subject was understood all the way from the CEO through to the copy admin assistant. Not least the HRD’s understood that all the way through from interns and grads through to senior sales management and anything in between that the choice and culture fit short would be a integrated and pivotal part of whether the company doing well or not.

    Why of why then that there has to be debate and questioning about the importance/relevance and justification about this is beyond me, – it is the very essence and as long as man the maker of a substantial part of all on our planet, people and employees the ones that will be the ones making a difference be it products, services or anything else.

  • Martin Snyder

    Steve, mediocre minds think alike! That was my first thought too….

    HR and TA are oil and water- the tension will always be there. TA is sales, HR is process. TA looks outward and flexes to the environment, HR looks inward and seeks to control the environment. TA deals with unique situations, HR lives for standards. HR is deterministic, TA is emergent.

    Frankly, HR is the function that modern technology and practice is making superfluous and TA is the one that the modern world is forcing performance /value into with every passing hour.

    Also, the oldest lesson that history teaches is that tactical excellence opens strategic opportunity, while tactical weakness opens strategic opportunity for one’s opponents….if you want to be great at strategy, concentrate on getting your tactics in tip-top shape, which gives you far better odds in the end….

  • Logan Meece

    Hi Janine,

    I enjoyed your article. However, I don’t believe that any one part of a group is more important than another (ie…Recruiting is the most important part of HR). To me, that is like saying that height is more important than width when determining the area of a rectangle.

    And I think the same applies to an organization as a whole.

    Thanks
    Logan

  • http://hr.toolbox.com/blogs/aristocracy-hr/ Janine Truitt

    Hi Logan,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I have to ask however, what group drives talent strategy in an organization? If it isn’t Talent Acquisition-who is it? The next question is what is the need for any other facet of HR when there is no talent?

    I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

    Thanks for reading.

    Best Regards,

    Janine

  • Logan Meece

    @ Jacob,

    “Apart from planet earth, the kingdom of plants, animals and minerals, e v r y t h i n g is man made. Be it paperclips or ‘man on the moon’”

    I’m not sure what you mean by this, or if any of this is actually true.

  • http://hr.toolbox.com/blogs/aristocracy-hr/ Janine Truitt

    Jacob,

    I appreciate you reading and commenting and at the same time your comment has me somewhat perplexed.

    I think you are trying to drive home a theme of imperfection among all things including Talent Acquisition and HR because it is man-made. Don’t really want to get into an existential argument here, but thanks for a different point of view.

    Best Regards,

    Janine

  • Logan Meece

    Hi Janine,

    My argument that every part of the group serves a purpose, and if one group is not doing their job it does not matter what the rest do. If TA is bringing in amazing Talent, it is meaningless if the they aren’t being compensated at a competitive rate, they are not engaged at work, etc.

    To me, when one part of a team starts thinking their work is more important then that of the rest of the group, that is a big problem.

    I would counter…why bring in Talent if no one is taking care of the employees when they are here.

    Best
    Logan

  • Logan Meece

    team = group in my previous post!

  • http://hr.toolbox.com/blogs/aristocracy-hr/ Janine Truitt

    If I could start Steve and Martin’s comments- I would. This is the crux of what I wanted this conversation to be about.

    I’m a “no fluff” (nod to Steve Levy) HR professional, so while I’m happy to share the beauty of our profession- I much enjoy sharing the ugly side of our profession as well. It’s called balance.

    Many thanks to you both for being consistent readers and breath of fresh air in our dialogues.

    Best Regards,

    Janine

  • http://hr.toolbox.com/blogs/aristocracy-hr/ Janine Truitt

    I meant “star” Steve and Martin’s comments. Yikes!

  • Logan Meece

    @ Martin…

    “Also, the oldest lesson that history teaches is that tactical excellence opens strategic opportunity, while tactical weakness opens strategic opportunity for one’s opponents….if you want to be great at strategy, concentrate on getting your tactics in tip-top shape, which gives you far better odds in the end….”

    Can you please provide examples of why this is the ‘oldest lesson history teaches’?

    Best
    Logan

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/jacobsmadsen Jacob Madsen

    If I have managed to confuse matters through my wider ‘heaven and earth’ ramblings then apologies.
    What I mean by the e v r y t h i n g subject is:
    Look around you wherever you are, and see how much is produced, delivered and has it origin coming from Man. Where I sit writing this (my office) I cannot see one single thing that is not derived out of a human intervention at some point.
    So on that basis human beings are the ones that produce things and/or deliver services.
    As such humans play a pretty big (the biggest) part and within that whether they are the right ones (skills, abilities, background and passion/engagement etc)
    Get that right and you have a successful company, get it wrong and… Therefore TA simply THE foundation for products being invented, sales carried out, marketing campaigns executed, finance getting the numbers and trucks driven (if a transport co.), coffee brewed (if Starbucks) or anything else.
    On that basis get the right and those in through the door that are able to do those things and do them well and with the right amount of skill, passion and engagement and you have a strong recipe for success.

    At the very core of this sit the TA function, not HR and not any other function in the company, TA is the maker and those that ensure getting the right human beings in.

    I hope this clarifies my point

  • http://hr.toolbox.com/blogs/aristocracy-hr/ Janine Truitt

    Logan,

    My point is not a matter of undermining the value of any of the other HR functions, so I apologize if that is your impression.

    My point is TA has to get people through the door so the rest of the the other HR facets actually have work to do. If you aren’t getting talent through the door there are no employees.

    You can strategize around compensation, benefit offerings and the like. If TA isn’t bringing in talent everything else becomes a moot point.

  • Logan Meece

    @ Jacob

    I see where you are trying to go…but I would advise a slice of ‘humble pie’ with your lunch today. ;)

    To refer to TA as the ‘maker’ sounds a bit divine. I would suggest that TA can be a very effective catalyst.

    But I would say that other functions can be effective as well…for example the right manager can make a good employee great.

    Look at NCAA Basketball…how can so many teams (Butler) compete with teams that are constantly bringing in the top recruiting classes.

    You might argue recruiting the right talent. I would say you are partially right. But I would also argue that it’s the systems the run. When the right systems are run effectively, teams can be competitive with anyone.

    But whats even better…is when the players being recruited are a perfect match for the systems, and everyone is buying in.

    Therefore, again I say that no one part is great than the other. It’s the relationship and the effect they have on each other that matters.

    I hope that wasn’t rambling and you get where I was going…

    Best
    Logan

  • Logan Meece

    @ Janine…

    I think it’s a chicken or the egg situation. After all, if HR isn’t performing all their functions everyone would quit…then you’d be pushing people through the door into an empty building.

    A tree with no forest so to speak.

    Best
    Logan

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/jacobsmadsen Jacob Madsen

    @ Logan
    Past my lunchtime here in the UK :), but get your point and have no problem with ‘tailoring and modifying my words’
    Indeed TA only first step and managers and others playing a vital part in the whole arrangement of getting the right/best person/asset on-board.
    That is why I argued in initial post that I have seen the ‘magic’ that happen when all play together and make it a joint effort and pull in the same direction.
    I will still argue (as I am a TA manager) that if TA get access and buy in all the right places and understand what is required for a role and person, and truly able to get ‘under the skin’ and interpret requirements, that they are the ones that stand between obtaining the right/best person/candidate or not.
    This is not trying to make the function of TA divine, simply that done correctly it can truly make a difference.
    Rambling No 2 over. :)

  • Keith Halperin

    “Strategy”? Isn’t that what’s thought about between the times Recruiting is “drinking from a fire hose” and wondering how much longer they’ll keep us on during this slowdown? IMHO, like the tactic of talent pipelines, recruiting strategy is often discussed and only occasionally acted upon in more than a minimal way.

    Cheers,

    Keith “Recruiter not Talent Acquisition Specialist” Halperin

  • Howard Adamsky

    Now THIS, is a great article.

    Good comments, (Except @ Levy’s of course…) and good content.

    Bottom line that that HR and TA will never do well together. Never, never, ever. We either create new alignments’ and fix the issue or we quibble and misunderstand each other till the end of time.

    Sad

  • Howard Adamsky

    By the way, using that picture of John Sullivan’s house was just wrong.

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Howard: I prefer “quibble and misunderstand each other till the end of time”. There’s lots of consulting money to be made in situations like this. To re-phrase Anton Chekhov:
    “Happy companies are all alike; every unhappy company is unhappy in its own way.”

    Cheers,

    Keith

  • Howard Adamsky

    Keith, they do not call you the genius for nothing. You might have a point.

    (BTW, I believe that is a Leo Tolstoy quote but why quibble?)

  • Doug Cohen

    Howard and Keith interesting comments as usual. All I can say is that TA (Corporate/Contractors/Agency/Retained) are the unsung heroes of the company.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/frankwang999 Frank Wang

    Janine,Nice article for a reminder that recruitment is the most important function in HR management. Two years ago I implemented HR business partnership to remodel internal recruitment and staffing. It does work and hiring managers like to work with HR who knows the business and their needs deeply and even fight with them side by side.

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Howard: I stand corrected- the quote was from “Anna Karenina” by Tolstoy and the article I researched mentioned Chekhov in it…
    That’s why I’m a “Genius for Nothing” and not a “Thought Leader”-
    “Thought Leaders” *never admit/apologize when they make mistakes… ;)

    @ Doug: Thank you. Howard and I used to do an old duo comedy act, like Martin and Lewis. Howard was “Smart” and I was “Alec”…

    ” TA (Corporate/Contractors/Agency/Retained) are the unsung heroes of the company.” Well, if they’re singing MY song, a lot of folks must be file-sharing it,’cause I ain’t got no royalties!
    YOWZA!

    Keith

    * Because if they did, they’d be apologizing nearly constantly!
    (Not ERE’s TLs, though- they don’t make mistakes…)

  • Martin Snyder

    Logan, the perfection of the phalanx by the Athenians and Spartans is widely associated with expansion of Hellenism. Roman tactical Command and Control innovation is similarly credited with allowing for rapid expansion of Roman power.

    In recent warfare, tactics such as long-range fighter escort allowed for the execution of strategic bombing, while amphibious landings allowed for the US island hopping strategy in the Pacific war.

    In recent business, Netflix’s tactic of using the mail to deliver DVD’s allowed them to develop their strategy of providing personalized entertainment on demand, while the weaker tactics of cable companies created the openings.

    “One must change one’s tactics every ten years if one wishes to maintain one’s superiority”.

    ~Napoleon Bonaparte

    “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”

    ~ Norman Schwarzkopf

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Martin: Like your military history analogies, as well as the statements. At the same time:
    Napoleon- eventually lost. (Maybe he didn’t follow his own advice.)
    “Stormin Norman”- didn’t finish the job. (He allowed the Republican Guards divisions to escape back into Iraq. To find out more: http://www.amazon.com/The-Generals-American-Military-Command/dp/product-description/1594204047/ref=dp_proddesc_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books)

    Cheers,

    Keith

  • Martin Snyder

    Hi Keith,

    Napoleon did eventually lose, but to an overwhelming array of enemies AND his own strategic overreach, which was of course enabled by his superb grasp of military tactics.

    And Schwarzkopf did exactly as his board of directors told him too- Scowcroft et al. knew that invading Iraq would be a quagmire and a fiasco that would empower Iran and cause major Sunni/Shia issues around the whole region….as we all later learned exactly that.

    The thesis remains sound: superior tactics enable strategic opportunity, and weak tactics enable it for your opponents. The truth is that tactical excellence is hard, maybe even harder to achieve, than strategic superiority….

  • Keith Halperin

    Fair enough. The Devil IS in the details….

    Cheers,

    Keith

  • http://hcs.ind.in Pradeep Sahay

    Great Post… It underscores the importance of integrating TA and TM (Talent Management) in organizations as the need for – and the scarcity of- specialized talent becomes more critical. Although the two functions have the same overall goals – ensuring the organization has the best talent – the two roles just don’t intersect in most organizations . In many organizations, a wall of separation has existed between the TA and TM functions for years. TA operates on its own, separate from HR and TM, while bemoaning the fact that no one gets what they do. At the same time HR business partners and OD professionals often wonder, “What do these recruiters do? How hard can recruiting be?” However the importance of integrating TA and TM is something organizations today can ignore at their own peril as hiring manager’s demand faster, higher quality talent acquisition and employees demand to know what options exist for them to learn and grow in their career