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Let’s Move Recruiting to the Marketing Department

by Dec 11, 2013, 6:41 am ET

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 2.37.51 PMIn a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than 1,250 company leaders from 60 countries have made it official: recruiting key talent is priority No. 1 for CEOs. Yes, CEOs say there is a big threat to business growth by not having the right talent in place.

At the same time, we have all heard ad nauseum that HR needs to become more strategic and less tactical. Since recruiting reports to HR, this criticism applies to them as well. It’s a case of guilt by association.

Let’s face it: It’s always seemed like Recruiting was tossed into the HR function because no one knew what else to do with it. Employment, yes — having it report into HR makes sense. You know, filling reqs for those positions that are relatively easy to find.

But true strategic recruiting? No — it has just never “clicked” in HR.

I want to talk about how we might “save” Recruiting — the strategic kind — by transferring it to another department that is more closely aligned with it. The transfer I propose would strengthen Recruiting’s ability to take on a more strategic role. This is important because of the new attention it’s getting from CEOs.

A Home in Marketing

I believe that Recruiting should report to Marketing. Recruiting and Marketing are both outwardly focused, concentrate on the future, share a common vision for the business, and have very similar responsibilities, albeit with different populations — Marketing with customers and Recruiting with candidates.

Yes, there are some differences between the two, but let’s look at the similarities:

  • Market intelligence – In Marketing, this focuses on providing the company with information to understand what is happening in the marketplace, what the issues are, what competitors are doing, and what market potential exists. For Recruiting, this involves researching supply and demand in all company locations; competitor companies in terms of who they hire from, who they lose people to, and who their competitors’ key employees are.
  • Branding – Marketing builds an image/brand of the company’s products/services that is essential for product success. The branding process is about creating specific, positive, mental and emotional associations to these products/services. Branding is also important to Recruiting. A strong employment brand enables the company to attract potential employees. Getting people to view the company as a great place to work is what employment branding is all about.
  • Communications – Tailoring messages to different types of customer groups and using different communication channels is something that Marketing does well. Recruiting needs to do the same. Using some of Marketing’s communication methods would help them create material for the company website, job sites, social media — any place communication is used in recruiting efforts.
  • Segmentation – Market segmentation involves dividing the broad market into groups of individual markets. It is about understanding each individual market’s wants or needs and how they make buying decisions. If done properly this helps to insure the highest return for marketing/sales expenditures. For Recruiting it means segmenting jobs between difficult and those relatively easy to fill. It takes more time and effort to source and recruit people for jobs that are key and have critical skills. For example:
    • Recruiting: Reporting into Marketing. Requires high-end skills in sourcing candidates. This function is responsible for finding candidates with very specialized skills.
    • Employment: Reporting into HR. Responsible for hiring for jobs which require skills that are relatively easy to find and where there are typically a lot of candidates. The job is mostly administrative — no special sourcing skills are necessary.
  • Differentiation – Marketing differentiation is the way to make a company’s products/services more desirable than similar products/services of its competitors. Marketing looks for ways to differentiate — to make products/services “stand out” and be noticed. It is the heart of competition. For Recruiting, differentiation means making the company “stand out” to candidates and making it look like a more desirable place to work than its competitors.

Let’s face it. HR has always been risk averse — both for legal reasons as well as the mentality of needing to “follow the pack.” Differentiation for Recruiting, like Marketing, is the heart of competition.

Making Recruiting Truly Strategic

By placing Recruiting under Marketing, it would strengthen its ability to become truly strategic. There is also an opportunity for synergy between the two in a way that would not occur if Recruiting continued to report to HR.

The combination of these two functions is a real “natural” to me. Picture the swan finding a home with other swans. Works better than the swan trying to look like a duck with the other ducks in HR.

What do you think? Does it make sense to you?

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.

  • Petr Hovorka

    I’ve just become the Ere member and have to say: Great article and even more discussion! The problem I see is a distance between business and HR. I help companies build brands in the Czech Republic. And it starts with people in companies. What I daily get in touch with is HR people have only basic knowledge about company brand. So how they can do recruitment / hire somebody (I mean “right fit”) at all?

  • Jacque Vilet

    Look at Maureen’s post for my comments.

    Shame on you “nay-sayers”. For those of you that don’t know —– business people have been preaching to HR for years to become more business oriented. And nothing has changed (in most companies.) AND there is tension between STRATEGIC Recruiting and HR.

    Again — I can’t say this enough —- my post has nothing to do with “employment” — an administrative task of filling reqs from ATS resumes, etc. Lot of people looking for mostly common jobs. Not strategic.

    Some of you say it shouldn’t matter where Recruiting reports — just do a good job, etc. and ignore the rest. As long as STRATEGIC Recruiting reports to HR they are viewed in as negative light as the whole of HR. It DOES matter where they report.

    And Recruiting has more in common with Sales and Marketing than HR. There is a common thread here. And contrary to HR Recruiting does KNOW the business — at least STRATEGIC Recruiting does.

    Lots of reasons to get it out of HR. Let HR survive or not — but let’s move STRATEGIC Recruiting to a better place.

  • Jacque Vilet

    Petr — EXACTLY. Recruiting (the administrative type) doesn’t know much about the business of the company. STRATEGIC Recruiting should — or they don’t belong in STRATEGIC Recruiting.

    That’s why STRATEGIC Recruiting should be closely aligned with Marketing/Sales and no better place than under a VP/SVP that reports to the CEO. The HR exec (in most companies) isn’t strong enough to do it —- and in some cases doesn’t understand the business him/herself.

  • Maureen Sharib

    Jacque is DEAD RIGHT on this.

    STRATEGIC Recruiting is the answer.

    It’s the differentiator that’s been ignored for far too long and is the “perilator” (I made that word up but it does seem to have preceded my cognition in the gaming world – yay for the gamers!) that threatens to destroy – at least promises to hold stagnant – organizations if not allowed to flourish within them.

  • Robert Dromgoole

    It certainly is misplaced. But moving recruiting under the VP Sales just creates a new set of biases to fight.

    I’ve found strategic recruiting is viewed very positively. In fact, our function is one of the few viewed positively in HR. CHRO would rather die fighting than give up one of the sole bright spots.

    I had an interesting conversation with Operations & Strategy executives. They tended to agree about better alignment with strategic recruiting, for key roles.

    Seems to me you leave staffing under HR, and have a strategic recruiting function moved under the COO/Chief Strategy person. More than an ES&H COO to be sure, or a facilities centric one. I’m talking chief execution officer type.

    But that’s me. Without that direct connection, leadership will tend to go it on their own in searches and fail. The stronger connection will just unleash existing capability more.

    I think the smart CEOs see this, know this.

    So for all our typing, I think this exists already, even if it isn’t on most org charts.


  • Jacque Vilet

    Hi Rob — agree. And not to pick on you but my whole point (maybe I didn’t make it clear in my post) is to leave “staffing/employment” (the administrative type of recruiting) under HR and move STRATEGIC recruiting out of HR and under ____.

    Most companies DO have a Sales/Marketing function and my personal opinion is that STRATEGIC recruiting does have more in common with them than say, Engineering/R&D, Mfg/Operations, etc.

    Maybe the first step is just agreeing that STRATEGIC doesn’t belong under HR. Then let the company decide where it belongs.

    Some of you may think that I am focusing on a picky point of reporting relationships —- but as I said above I think it does matter in terms of support, impression of internal/external partners, etc. I’ve seen top-notch STRATEGIC recruiters embarrassed (grinding their teeth) about reporting into HR. Many times their needs/priorities just aren’t viewed as important as they should be by most heads of HR.

    It’s GREAT Rob if your VPHR understands your importance but I would venture to say that that is unusual for most heads of HR. (Hope none are reading this.) I think you would agree.

    The response here has been incredible and I appreciate all your comments and points. Maybe Todd will think this issue belongs at one of the conferences where we can even get more input AND hear from some C-level execs!

  • Thomas Waldman

    With all due respect Jaque, but it seems you are confusing a better home with a broken home. What you are describing in your comments is a disfunctional relationship with HR, rather than a better relationship with marketing. It is certainly not the relationships that I have seen recruitment have with HR. I’ve seen the two work seemlessly together on many occasions in companies large and small.

    If you have not managed to work well with HR, you may find that you will equally struggle with Marketing or whereever else you want to end up. It all seems slightly petulant. Like a 2 year old screaming “I want a new mommy!” when denied a second ice cream cone. Have you ever asked a CMO whether he’d even want to have you?

    Like I said before, levels of strategy do not come with reporting lines. It comes with cooperation. Ask your next employers CEO what reporting he looks at and you’ll see recruiting is but a small part of a larger set of HR metrics that he/she looks at. That and that alone is the reason we are right where we ought to be. Straight up the most logical reporting line for a CEO to get his data from.

  • Frank Wilcockson

    Recruitment has just been gradually processed and automated until it is now generally inefficient and ineffective. This has resulted in ‘outsourcing’ because fewer people in the organisation really know what is required and don’t want the responsibility. This has resulted in failure to recruit well even at the most junior level. Retailing is the classic Example: churning of Sales Assistants so customers seldom see the same staff twice. They know little about what they are supposed to be selling because why should anybody train them as they won’t stay long? So much for the customer experience.

  • Jacque Vilet

    Frank — And look how it happened. HR wants to “outsource” everything that is “transactional” — and they include recruiting in that definition. Technology may be an “aid” but it takes more than spitting out resumes to analyze and make recommendations/decisions.

    Can’t force any changes. But if we bring this issue out in the open it might stir some thinking and in the end companies that want to make the change with the CEOs support might actually make the change.

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