From the ERE Conference’s First Day: Are Recruiters Ready to Be Masters of the Universe?

Apr 17, 2013
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

No one ever said that recruiting was simple, or easy, and if you were listening Tuesday on Day 1 of the Spring 2013 ERE Recruiting Conference & Expo in San Diego, you know that there is an overwhelming desire for how to do it better in today’s rapidly changing, post-recession workplace.

Ron Mester, the president and CEO of ERE Media kicked off the two-day event by observing that recruiting seems to be at a precipice and is viewed by recruiters and other talent managers in one of two very different ways:

  • The Golden Age of recruiting is over We’re not at the strategy table and technology is taking over. Call this the “Wile E. Coyote Group,” or the people who are always worried that the anvil is about to fall on their head. Or,
  • This is the time for recruiting to break out and soar — Executives finally seem to understand how important talent really is, and we are all about to become “Masters of the Universe.

Challenges to Be Addressed

So which is it? Are recruiters on the precipice, just waiting for that next big object to fall on them, or are they the new Masters of the Universe?

Ron Mester’s belief is that recruiting is ready to move to the “Masters” stage, and these are the reasons that in-house recruiters can become masters:

  • The worker-company relationship is changing dramatically. You probably know this all to well, but the tenure of employees is getting much shorter and there are a great many things that workers used to be dependent on the company for (think of all the changes in the flexible or virtual workplace environment) that they are no longer counting on. In short, there’s more recruiting to be done because so many of today’s employee are just looking for their next gig, not a career commitment.
  • Robots aren’t very good people whisperers. In other words, the real essence of recruiting — the person-to-person connection and relationship — can’t be automated or handled by a robot or computer. At its core, recruiting is about people.
  • The nature of work is changing. We’re going from working in jobs to working on projects — from continuous and predictable to discontinuous and unpredictable employments. Again, we’re more about the short term “gig” than the long-term “job,” and this changes the needs of organizations as well as the role of recruiters.

But added this: for recruiters to get there they need to address these four challenges:

  1. Volatility — Talent demands today are, well, pretty demanding, as recruiters know all too well.
  2. Transparency — Candidates can see everything, so they can pretty easily get a direct, clear sense of your culture and what you’re about, for good or for bad.
  3. Consumerism — How candidates search for jobs today is akin to how they buy products. They want everything in real time, with social media recommendations and everything else they have become accustomed to from the consumer world.
  4. Total Talent — The mission is to bring the right talent into the organization, but, most recruiters seem to be looking to bring the right employees into the company instead.

In short, it’s time to rethink/transform the talent acquisition department. It needs to be re-imagined as opposed to reengineered, with new approaches, new priorities, and new metrics.

That’s just a short and perhaps sketchy synopsis of the kickoff presentation at the Spring 2013 ERE Recruiting Conference & Expo, but it led into a number of other sessions that were focused on what recruiters are doing, and more importantly, how they might be able to do it differently.

What Makes Hiring Managers Great

Here are some of the ones that jumped out at me:

  • Linking Your Recruitment Strategy to Your Company’s Business StrategyMara Swan, Manpower Group’s executive vice president, global strategy and talent, is a former HR professional who made a great case for linking your recruiting strategy to your business strategy. The assumptions have all changed, she noted, and there needs to be a deeper understanding of talent needs and wants if we’re going to cope with shrinking working age population.
  • Hiring Manager Panel: What Makes Hiring Managers Great? John Vlastelica, the managing director of Recruiting Toolbox, led a lively panel discussion with Eric Stromberg, the VP of service engineering for search at Yahoo, and Julie Szudarek, a vice president at Groupon, that was all about getting recruiters to understand that the trick to great recruiting is both raising the bar on candidate quality and having a consistent candidate experience across the company. And how do you do this? By helping your direct reports to embrace the challenge and be better hiring managers.
  • Building a Strategic Recruiting Function — Maybe I’m just a sucker for panel discussions (hey, I like the multiple viewpoints!) but this one included Alan Strauss, managing partner at StartFinder, Michele Neiman, director of talent acquisition at Northrop Grumman, Keith Elson, HR BPO North America account director at Accenture, and Miranda Kalinowski, U.S. recruiting lead for PwC Advisory Practice at Price Waterhouse Coopers. That’s a heavy-duty, all-star panel, and they continued to hammer on the notion that recruiting has just become a lot more complex, and the key is for recruiters to be seen as “trusted advisers” who can influence business decisions and aren’t just a recruiting “order taker.”
  • Why the Dot-com Boom/Bust Was Just a Warmup for Recruiting Leaders — This has to get the award for the best session title, and it sure intrigued me even if the payoff wasn’t quite as good as the promise.  Still, Alan Fluhrer, the national recruiting director for Marcus & Millchap, pointed out that the recruiting challenges of the dot-com era are minor compared to the challenges recruiters will be facing as the Baby Boomers slowly exit the workplace and need to be replaced. According to Fluhrer, 10,000 Boomers are retiring every day and will be doing so for the next 20 years — and that’s 23 percent of the U.S. population. That’s a sobering number for ANY recruiter.

The Talent World Is Dramatically Changing

I couldn’t get to all the presentations and panel discussions on Day 1, of course, and this is just a taste of what the 800-plus attendees here in San Diego  had to choose from. There will be a lot more today on Day 2, of course.

But what jumped out at me, after a full day of a focus on recruiting and recruiters, is that the world is dramatically changing and if you’re not changing as quickly, you won’t be able to really compete and help your organization succeed in the new War for Talent.

Is that a big surprise? No, it’s not, but I don’t think anyone really gets a clear sense of the problem until you hear so many high level recruiting executives  tell you about it in every possible, conceivable way.

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