Let’s Stop Pretending That All Jobs Are Equally Valuable

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Jun 17, 2020

Does your organization have a one-size-fits-all orientation toward recruiting? Or does it recruit based on an intentionally built recruiting strategy that is part of a larger organization strategy?

That you should aim for the latter is fairly indisputable. But how your organizational strategy should inform your recruiting practices is where things can get tricky. Nonetheless, strategy alignment is essential to support the value of your recruiting function to your business. 

Positions and Performance Are Not Equally Valuable

The resource-based view of the firm (RBV), popularized by management thinker Jay Barney, proposes that organizations gain sustained competitive advantage from its resources if they are valuable, rare, difficult to imitate, and non-substitutable. In many cases, such resources are human. Indeed, RBV supports that an organization’s human capital can be a business differentiator and a source of competitive advantage…when aligned with strategy and applied properly.

All of which is a fancy way of saying that the people that TA sources and places in key positions can have a significant impact on an organization’s future (for better or for worse!). 

Now, just as some general capital investments provide more ROI than others, so it is true with human capital investments. Not all jobs are created alike, and not all jobs will return the same value to the organization’s strategy execution. Additionally, not all performance by employees will be the same within those jobs. Therefore, you should not treat all positions alike in your recruiting strategy. 

Start With Strategy 

Do you know your organization’s strategy for competing, especially in today’s COVID-19 economy? Does your company have a strategy that has been shared down to the operational level?

Recently, one of us asked a new client’s leadership team about the business’ organizational strategy. Two of the three leaders had different perceptions of the strategy. Another said that if there were a strategy, no one had shared with him.

If a senior leadership team does not know or understand their own strategy or, worse, they don’t share it with recruiting leaders, how can the efforts of TA professionals have a significant impact? (And let’s just say that if your organization’s idea of strategy is dusting off last year’s budget in a vacuum and adding or subtracting 5%, then that is not really a strategy.) 

Ultimately, understanding your firm’s business strategy is the basis for building a workforce strategy that is valuable. As a recruiter, if you’re not aware of it, ask. If you don’t understand it, ask. 

Choose Best Practice Best Fit 

Once you know your company’s overall strategy, your goal will be to fit the right talent to the right positions. However, in doing so, it’s important to draw a distinction between “best practices” and “best fit.”

Best practices suggest taking a universal approach toward addressing recruiting challenges. They may include something as simple as posting all jobs on Indeed, providing your team with access to resources like LinkedIn Recruiter, or encouraging a heavy use of social media to attract talent. However, these standard best practices may not always enable you to fill positions that are critical to organizational success. For instance, if the talent you’re targeting does not use LinkedIn Recruiter, then it may not make sense to focus your efforts there. 

On the other hand, the best-fit approach takes a detailed look at unique organizational needs. It seeks to fit the right practices for your specific organization.

To truly achieve success at your organization, we therefore urge you to look beyond best practices to inform actions, especially when it comes to differentiating positions strategically within an organization.

Focus First on Strategic Jobs

In The Differentiated Workforce, the authors explain that strategic positions are those that have a disproportionate impact on an organization’s capacity to accomplish its strategic business initiatives through its capabilities. Although all jobs are important, not all jobs are strategic (wealth-creating). The authors state that very few jobs are strategic in any organization, perhaps 15%. These are the jobs where recruiting can have a significant impact on their organization’s success (or failure).

The Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule) also supports this, stating that a minority of causes leads to a majority of results, outputs, or rewards. In other words, only a small percentage of the jobs in your organization have the strategic ability to impact your competitive standing. The authors explain the following about strategic (“A”) positions:

  • Top talent significantly enhances the probability of achieving business strategy.
  • Employees for these positions are hard to get; top talent is difficult to attract and retain.
  • Selection of the wrong person is expensive.
  • They have major revenue-enhancing or cost-reducing impact.
  • Poor performance is immediately detectable in these roles.

Become a Business Partner

Unfortunately, our research demonstrates that recruiting professionals frequently end up becoming implementers of processes rather than becoming business partners. The latter demands being at the table and asking the right questions to build a TA architecture that supports the organizational strategic capabilities through prioritized hiring.

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