We Found Time for Pipeline Building

Feb 5, 2008

Let’s fantasize about what it would be like to take maybe a month off (or, since we are dreaming, maybe even two) just to do succession planning. It would be a time frame when no jobs are assigned, and you have a complete focus on finding candidates for jobs that are not yet open.

At Brown Shoe Company, we have established a program to do this. We call it the “Strategic Month.” Each corporate recruiter doing full-cycle sourcing and candidate-relationship building is able to have two months without any job assignments. The overflow of additional positions that this creates is covered by the other team members and by a relied upon third party named Grapevine Group. In our structure, human resources and recruiting are separate functions that partner together, working with the hiring manager.

The following is a breakdown, based on our experience, of one way you might structure this fantasy month.

Manage Expectations

First off, meet with the HR person and the hiring manager to get insight into the department you are working with. Review the selected department’s organizational charts. Confidentially review every position, and have them share who may leave or be let go, who may be thinking about retiring, what departments may increase or decrease staff, and which stars may be promoted at some point.

Some managers are afraid to discuss these changes for their teams and for themselves so be aware of their fear of this subject. Discuss the issues of the diminishing workforce, along with the fact that top talent can be passive. Explain that the goal is to target the best people, not just for the short-term but also for the long-term, as well as hypothetical opportunities. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss the company’s diversity goals and how their departments can have an impact. With this in mind, make it clear that this conversation is to confidentially talk about the objectives for their divisions and the impact that early recruitment can have.

Ask the hiring manager about networking, training, and other events they and their team attend or know about. Request attendee lists so you can contact those people for your pipeline. Determine if you should attend any events yourself as a candidate resource. Talk to them about alumni lists they may have access to and industry websites they know about for job postings. Discuss any competitors you should target and if they know anyone you should speak to.

Get the Candidates

Now the fun begins. Rank the priority of each potential opening so you can decide where to focus your time. Build a talent-sourcing plan for each position. This includes educating yourself about industry lingo, niche sites, and other resources. Take the time to get out on Craigslist, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendster, Ryze, Eliyon, and others to see how they work and how they can assist you with your networking. Read blogs within the industry you hire for and reach out to bloggers as resources. Locate military sources to consider those entering the workforce who have the experience you look for. Contact schools/instructors to promote your openings and get referrals on good students.

Use this time to build other possible resources you find. What about investigating local meetings of industry associations, SHRM, the Chamber of Commerce, and others you have been thinking of attending? Do research to discover the diverse organizations in your area that could be a great resource for candidates. Make a list of competitors that have the talent you want, and research them to create a cold-call break-in strategy.

Often, there are times during the Strategic Month when you may talk to candidates without a current job opening available. People don’t always understand why you would be talking to them if you don’t have a position for them today. Since information about retirements and department changes are likely to be confidential, try to remain as general as you can. Have an exploratory conversation over coffee or lunch, or just schedule a phone conversation (that you don’t refer to as an interview). When you find that “wow” candidate, schedule him or her to meet with HR and the hiring manager. It is amazing the direction conversations will go without the focus on job bullet points.

When you have interested exploratory candidates, check in with them over the coming months and beyond. Don’t overdo it by becoming a stalker recruiter, but occasionally touch base to maintain the relationship. You could even place the names of these future hires on the wall in your recruiting department (as we do) to get your company talking and to encourage referrals. We are out hunting for talent, not waiting for talent to find us.

Reap the Benefits

Investing time and money on a proactive strategy pays off in multiple ways. Fill-time and costs can be improved, turnover may decrease, and the talent level is increased. This results in less frustration in departments where workloads are heavier due to vacancies. The recruiting department will also have a boost in morale and reputation. Being allowed this time to focus your recruiting efforts raises the number of diverse candidates and the ability to build relationships that have long-term payback. This process also increases the amount of communication about potential openings, because HR and hiring managers learn to include recruiting in these conversations.

If time off for a month of succession planning is only a fantasy for you and your employer, think about the results even one day a month could provide. With some effort, there are pieces of the dream that you can build into your daily personal strategy.

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