A Short Plan for Breaking Talent Acquisition Up With HR

Human resources is a Frankenstein department comprised of every function that didn’t fit into another department. Recruitment, benefits, employee relations, FMLA Administration, and the list goes on. In order to run a department like this, we’ve created jack-of-all-trades roles like Generalist that require HR professionals to become party planners, trainers, employment law experts, and everything in between. 

This has put HR teams at a disadvantage for a long time, but not all these functions should secede from the HR union. The biggest loser in all of this is talent acquisition. We’ve reached a pinnacle breaking point in talent acquisition. We have enough information now to know that our people are the most important part of building a successful company. Bad hires cost more than just dollars, and diverse teams lead to better, more successful outcomes. So, why is that we often ask one person to process FMLA paperwork, run an employee relations investigation, coach managers, file compliance reports, interview candidates, and to fight all the fires that pop up on any given day? 

I keep hearing the same phrase from HR and TA practitioners, “In an ideal world we would have someone dedicated to employer branding … retention … sourcing etc.” When pressed about why they weren’t able to obtain those resources it became clear there were only a few things standing in their way:

Budget: Most HR operations are understaffed and underfunded, making it difficult to add new positions, never mind a whole new department.

Perception: People are familiar with the all-in-one HR department structure. Even in companies with separate TA functions, they are still considered HR. 

Addressing the first one is simple. Better understand how your dollars are being spent to remove, add, or reallocate as needed. Think about it: are you using all the features in that $50,000-year ATS? What’s the real ROI of promoting jobs on various job boards? 

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The second is a bit more difficult because it will take some time. Educate your employees with more than a bullet point in a company-wide email. Rewire their brains to think about talent acquisition separately. Try moving them to a different part of the building. Or, perhaps create internal marketing materials. Maybe a grand jesture is needed. Have a party to celebrate the death of HR and the birth of People Ops and Talent Acquisition. 

If you let talent acquisition operate as its own function, it will be able to jump-start the virtuous cycle of recruitment that will allow you to show candidates why they should work with you. It will be able to build a brand around employee stories, because as marketing has already figured out, the brand is what people will remember. It can be creative, think more strategically about recruitment, and add more value to the organization. It will be able to spend time understanding how to choose the right technology and actually use the systems you’re paying for. It can focus on the candidate experience (believe it or not, candidate experience can affect your bottom line), build new talent pipelines, understand your employee lifetime value, better train recruiters, and so much more! Someone should be thinking about and acting on, recruitment efforts 24/7, and your operation should be proactive, not reactive. 

Much has been written on ERE (like this) about the need for talent acquisition to break free from human resources. But little has been said about how to start. Here are some very brief suggestions.

  1. Listen to Reid Hoffman’s podcast with AirBnB co-founder Brian Chesky. Pay particular attention to the exercise they used when designing their customer experience. Essentially they draw out the ideal, pie-in-the-sky state, and scale backward. This is exactly what you should do to find the best plan that is also reasonable enough for you to execute.  
  2. Re-design job descriptions. There will likely need to be some shifting of responsibilities. Before you propose this change to leadership, show them who will be doing what and how it differs from your current operation.
  3. Write a proposal to the leadership team: You’re probably going to have to fight for this. A proposal with examples and data will help. Bonus tip: Get buy-in before you go to the final decision-maker. If your CEO knows everyone’s onboard, then you’ll have a better chance to make this happen. 
  4. Assess your current team and understand their career goals: Before you go hiring outside help, look internally for someone who is passionate and wants to learn.  
  5. Hire up: Fill out your team to make sure they will be able to focus on their responsibilities. 
  6. Educate your company on your new structure and clearly map out where they should go for the appropriate resources.

After 10 years in HR doing everything from administering benefits, managing employee relations, and full cycle recruitment, I joined NextWave Hire as the head of accounts & operations to help more companies attract and engage candidates through our recruitment marketing and employer branding software. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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