5 Things Keeping Recruiting Leaders Awake

Nov 2, 2010
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Last week I had the pleasure of serving as the chairperson of the Fall ERE Expo in Hollywood, Florida. During my opening remarks, I discussed five things that are “keeping senior recruiting leaders up at night.” The list seemed to resonate with the crowd at the Expo, as many took time to talk to me about it. It was created at a “Recruiting Summit” hosted by CareerXroads on August 17th in Oak Park, Illinois, and Mark Mehler and Gerry Crispin get the credit for pulling many different responses together into these five coherent themes.

The survey, while not scientific in manner, included input from over 20 powerhouse organizations, including Wal-Mart, Lockheed Martin, Kimberly Clark, Lilly, Campbell’s, Limited Brands, Cargill, State Farm, Microsoft, JP Morgan, Target, and others. The five items, along with my commentary, are presented below:

Relentless Pressure to do More with Less

On this one it’s easy to respond, “Duh, welcome to Corporate America,” or “Duh, welcome to the global business landscape.” This isn’t going to change. But one basic and fundamental impact “confessed” by many at the Summit is the increasing fear of recruiter burnout. Activity is increasing, and team sizes have been reduced. Many recruiters have worked their tails off over the last few years in a difficult economic climate; this definitely includes our team at DaVita. Can we maintain (or restore) a more healthy work-life balance for our teammates?

For me, this was an “in my face” reminder that I, as the leader of the team, have to more proactively address this issue. I’ve not given it enough personal energy or attention, and I simply have to do a better job and step up to address the challenge. Please check back with me in a few months to see how I’m doing — perhaps at the Spring Expo, March 23-25 in San Diego.

Recruiter Competency Development

Some of the key thoughts from the Summit included: How do we as leaders ensure that we’re giving our recruiters the right tools and training to be more effective in a rapidly changing world? More specifically, how do we teach them to be more effective business partners — especially with HR generalists who don’t seem to want to play nicely in the same sandbox?

My add-on: it’s hard to develop meaningful competencies against an unknown target. If you don’t have a recruiter competency model, get one or build one. If you need help, talk to Linda Brenner or Kim Rutledge, or your internal OD team. If you’ve had one for awhile, perhaps it’s time to refresh your model. We are.

Increasing Diversity

Building more diverse leadership teams, creating a compelling value proposition for diverse candidate pools, and managing the burden imposed by the OFCCP and other regulatory bodies in reporting on diversity were hot topics. Lucky for all of us, Reggie Stewart presented a solid diversity construct during his keynote speech on Wednesday, and I’m ready to adapt it and start taking more definitive action. Thank you, Reggie!

Workforce Planning and Pipeline Development

“Scarce talent pools,” “retiring workforce,” and “increasing competition” were common themes from Summit attendees. “Where will we find the engineers we need?” “How many nurses do we need, and where will they come from?” As much as it gets mentioned, few seem to be doing the combination of planning and pipelining well. Major kudos to those who are. Larry Clifton at CACI is ahead of most of us. A big part of his success is that he keeps it fairly simple (think Econ 101): “it’s just demand & supply” analysis. Check out his Fall Expo presentation (and all the others).

Proving the Value of Recruiting

This one is closely tied to #1. When facing relentless pressure to do more with less, recruiting leaders have to step up their game and effectively make the case for more and/or different resources. This requires a combination of good metrics and good business acumen to sell the case for change. Many seemed to feel hamstrung by not having the right processes and tools to generate the right metrics. I’ve been fortunate: we’ve been able to invest in great tools and process at DaVita. For many, there is no easy answer, but if this is an issue for you and you’re looking for someone to brainstorm with, give me a shout. No promises, but I’ve had some success in building business cases and am happy to share.

In addition to “the numbers,” there is also the basic human principle that bad news travels faster than good news. If recruiting “messed up,” word gets around our organizations much more than when we hit a home run. Are we intentional enough in our internal communication to overcome bad press? I need to be a better story-teller; how about you?

My Closing Soapbox

Whether you’re a senior recruiting leader or a fairly new recruiter, what are you sensing in your organization? Are you experiencing these same things, or do other things “keep you up at night?” And more importantly, what are you doing about it? If you’re constantly saying that all-too-common phrase “it is what it is,” then let me politely suggest that you’ve already lost the battle. That is not the attitude of a great leader. You’ve accepted the status quo. You accepted defeat. Don’t give up! How about altering that cliché to say: “It is what it is, until I accept the challenge to go change it.”

Great leadership will overcome these challenges and we won’t have to lose sleep at night. My focus is sharper than ever and I’m ready to move forward much more decisively. Won’t you join me?

I want to hear from you. Let’s get a good discussion thread going in the ERE community by commenting on this post.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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