The Talent Management of Recruiting Professionals: An ERE Expo 2012 Primer

Dec 15, 2011

Most methods of hiring, retaining, developing, and managing recruiting and talent acquisition professionals are ineffective, non-strategic, and mostly outdated.

In my upcoming workshop at the spring ERE Expo, we’ll be discussing many of the common issues that are faced by those who manage and hire recruiters, and will share some of the most groundbreaking research in this arena.

For now, let’s discuss one issue in the hiring of recruiters, and one issue in the performance of recruiters and talent acquisition professionals.

Hiring Recruiters

It is safe to assume that most professionals enter the recruiting industry into highly transactional positions where performance is mostly measured by how much they “do.”

For example, how many calls they make per day, how many e-mails they can send, how many interviews they can set-up, and how many people they can get hired are core methods of measurement. This is especially prevalent in entry-level agency recruiting environments where most recruiters are brought into the industry.

Of course, recruiting is not the only profession where this is the accepted method of hiring new talent, but it is the most essential, simply because recruiting is not, in its core, about transactional items. The argument that is used to justify giving new recruiter incentives to engage in more “doing” or transactional activity is that activity is correlated with results. But the truth is that activity does not guarantee good results.

This matters because to many recruiting professionals, recruiting is about the process of recruiting and not the larger picture of acquiring talent. In entry-level and junior-level positions, this is not an issue of contention. But when recruiters become managers and directors they are unable to provide the strategic value that top organizations need.

For example, high-volume recruiters sometimes fail to understand the relative quality of talent needed by internal corporate recruiting professionals, because they have not been developed and trained into thinking about the long-term goals of the business. They may see a job description as all the necessary requirements on which to hire someone for, but focus less on soft items that are increasingly important as that candidate moves up in the organization.

I believe that this is because of how they were trained and developed — to focus more on prioritizing fast hires over quality hires (within reason of course). This is not a criticism of agency or “fast” recruiters. This is a criticism of how their managers and leaders develop them.

In an organization that has a strategic plan to move overseas, for example, it will fall upon the strategic recruiter to ask the question (for each position): “Will this person possibly go overseas when we expand there? And if so, where?” to which she/he may receive a response: “That’s a great question John/Jane. Yes, they may have to go overseas to China in about two years when we move our operations there.” To which the strategic recruiter may respond: “Excellent. I’ll try to recruit someone, based on our conversation and the job description who may also have some experience handling Chinese businesses or something related.”

The transactional recruiter, because she/he has not been developed to think strategically over the years would likely not gear his/her questions in such a way. They’d would focus more on questions that would allow her to make the most efficient hire possible. Although both recruiters will get the job done, one will bring long-term value that cannot be measured, and which she is not being assessed on.

Hiring recruiters in the right way is an issue of early training and development. Recruiting leaders and managers are entirely responsible for this phase.

We will discuss how to develop your recruiting staff (in the early phase of employment as well) to suit your overall needs, as well as when process execution is more important than strategic thinking.

Performance Management

Typically, recruiters are measured, assessed, and evaluated based on hard data (which for some organizations is still a step forward) in some of the best organizations. This is an excellent start, and any performance management system should include process-oriented data as part of an overall performance appraisal.

However, where the industry falls short is in developing enough career development as well as leadership opportunities to augment that appraisal. In fact, only a minority of recruiting professionals actually receive an opportunity to expand their academic, professional, or social knowledge either on or off the job, which in turn, never allows recruiting leaders to develop career paths, professional specialties, succession management, or leadership development opportunities for their employees.

To add, the best most organizations will do is send a small number of their internal talent staff to external training programs, without any thought or planning on how that new knowledge could be disseminated and integrated into leadership development opportunities. In short, even this potentially expensive training is done in a very tactical way and is not sustainable.

The importance of getting this right is paramount: Performance management is one of the main reasons that CEOs of major organizations throughout the entire world rarely (if ever) come from a talent acquisition background.

In addition, there is new and groundbreaking research that top performers in recruiting environments are not necessarily the most independent individual contributors, but individuals who manage internal relationships and social connections with stakeholders.

In fact, social dynamics are better predictors (statistically) of recruiter’s performance than human capital metrics and measurements.

We’ll talk about all these challenges in detail in my workshop at the spring ERE Expo.