Talent acquisition, the foundation of any successful organization, is always under pressure to produce high-quality staff in improbable timeframes. And leading a highly competent TA team is both rewarding and challenging, which is why I humbly share my story, in hopes that others can learn from my experience.
Last spring, I was leading human resources for an organization that had been awarded a new business opportunity that required my team of seven recruiters to recruit, hire, perform background and credit checks, and onboard at least 1,000 exempt and nonexempt employees immediately in the southeastern United States.
The goal seemed impossible, especially as Covid complicated things. However, with an immense amount of dedication, teamwork, and leadership, our mighty team delivered 1,009 new employees in 120 days, nearly doubling the size of the company.
I reflect on this career milestone with pride for what the team accomplished and the desire to share the leadership skills I leveraged to succeed in an emergency and demanding situation.
Lead by example. It was important that I set the tone for the team. I was in the trenches working alongside them, as their leader and their peer. The recruitment team needed to see that I was invested in accomplishing the goal with them, as well as in their individual and collective success. They quickly learned that I wasn’t going to ask them to do anything I wasn’t willing to do myself, and when they had questions, I had answers.
Transparent data. Instead of using HRIS reports to track hiring progress, the team intentionally chose to use an Excel spreadsheet saved on a Microsoft Office Teams channel. The channel was open to all stakeholders and included a master spreadsheet of all planned training classes. Each time a recruiter hired a new employee, the recruiter added that new person to the master spreadsheet. This manual method was intentional — it allowed recruiters to receive immediate satisfaction of getting closer to the goal while providing complete transparency to hiring managers.
Purposeful communication. The recruitment team met formally at the end of each day to track hiring progress, discuss any operational changes, make any strategy changes, and plan for the next day. With each recruiter working remotely due to Covid, this daily connection allowed them to bond as a team and to adapt to operational changes in real time.
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Agile strategy. As the team progressed toward the hiring goal, it was critical that the recruitment strategy remain agile. Radio advertising, geo-targeted marketing, employee and customer referral programs, and execution of in-person job fairs pivoted regularly to meet the ever-changing business demands.
Process optimization and teamwork. In an emergency sprint to recruit, hire, and onboard, there was no time to hire and train additional recruiters. To offset the gap, we made changes to our hiring process by removing traditional offer approvals, implementing a chat string where recruiters announced offers and HR approved immediately, building video chats to walk new employees through onboarding steps, and attaching job-profile videos to every posting. All of this was accomplished by the seven recruiters we had and four members of the HR team who were more than willing to jump in and help. Seeing these 11 people work together was the definition of teamwork in action.
Empathy and authenticity. The most important lesson of all: As my team’s leader, I tried to always remember that each person working so hard to deliver results was a mom, dad, brother, sister, brother, friend, son, or daughter, and that work was just one piece of their life. I did my best to put myself in their shoes and treated them the way I wanted to be treated — with genuineness, gratitude, and grace.
Ultimately, I am forever grateful to every member of the HR and TA teams in this unprecedented hiring sprint for their dedication, their spirit, and their relentless support of each other.