Communicating Your Strategic Value to Hiring Managers

Changes are coming to our profession, changes that mean your job may no longer be safe ó unless you can prove your business value to your customers. At the moment, outsourcing seems like a distant threat, but you need to take notice of it. More and more companies are doing it, and once momentum builds, change happens quickly. Ignoring the signs now could put your job in jeopardy down the road. Why would companies outsource rather than use their highly qualified in-house specialists? Mainly because recruiting professionals are not willing to sell themselves. They are not actively displaying their strategic value. Does the following comparison-shopping scenario seem familiar to you? At Store A, the salesperson learns little about what you want but gives you plenty of irrelevant product information. Store B’s salesperson, on the other hand, gets to know your needs. She explains why her store’s product will benefit you and provides relevant data to help you make your decision. You wind up buying the product from Store B, even though Store A’s product may be better. Of course, you will never end up knowing, since the value of Store A’s product was never effectively conveyed to you. Consider how your own value as a recruiter is being conveyed to your customers. Your hiring managers may perceive your skills as good, but their perception of you as a strategic partner is probably poor. You probably work extremely hard for them. You know your company like no one else, and you can find, assess, and sell to the best candidates out there. But beyond your ability to fill positions, do hiring managers really understand your value? I would venture to say no, particularly if you are providing minimal or irrelevant strategic information. As 2005 approaches, we are constantly hearing about emerging trends. Blogging, online assessments, and another frightening trend…outsourcing! You think to yourself, “There is no way outsourcing will catch on. Recruiting has been the same for decades. I am irreplaceable. My employer will never outsource my role.” Unfortunately, if you aren’t selling your role strategically, you are setting yourself up for quite a shock! If an outsourcing vendor is providing facts and figures demonstrating a guaranteed statistical return on his customers’ money and you aren’t providing similar information, you are placing yourself at a disadvantage. Your hiring managers may like you personally, but business is business. They care about their bottom line. Unless you can clearly demonstrate your impact to their business, they will not understand your relative value as a partner. This may cause them to consider outside resources (vendors) who have positioned themselves more effectively. The outsourcing trend is gaining momentum. In a 2000 survey of 225 employers by Buck Consultants, 38% of respondents had outsourced recruiting, up from 8% in 1996. I don’t see this trend dying, as outsourcers continue to convey their value proposition to business leaders. Few recruiting leaders are doing the same. So what can you do to allay this potential disaster? The answer is simple: build your own value proposition. Display your strategic value as a business partner by providing your customers with meaningful metrics. These are not, however, the same metrics we all know as measures of recruiter performance. You must start using metrics that are relevant to your customer. You must measure beyond what your organization does (which is tactical). In other words, you must be strategic. Most recruiting leaders measure what they think is relevant, which is the performance of their recruiting staff. Unfortunately, they report the same metrics to their hiring managers. This is a mistake! Just as Store A’s salesperson in our example above did not give information about the product that aligned with the customer’s needs, you do not want to give information that is irrelevant to your hiring managers. They will stop listening! So what information is relevant to your hiring managers? Three things:

  1. Can we hire people when they are needed?
  2. Will those people perform well?
  3. Will they stay?

Do you address any of these when you report metrics to your customers? Let me start with hiring people when we need them. In recruiting, we refer to this measure as “time to fill.” At the end of the day, your clients don’t care much about this metric. But they do care, for example, that a project deadline was missed because their team wasn’t fully staffed. When you meet with your customers before every project, discuss their business needs, and align your measurements with their milestones, you are indeed being strategic. At the end of a project, when you meet with management again and are able to demonstrate your contribution to the continuity of their strategy and the growth of their business, you become a Recruiting God! Secondly, I strongly advise you to report hiring information beyond what your organization typically measures. At T-Mobile, for example, we define “quality of hire” by the performance and retention of our new hires. A year ago we piloted an online assessment program focused on our retail hires. We measured performance (based on average percent of sales quota) and retention of new hires, both pre and post-assessment, to get an understanding of how these hires were performing over time. We reported to our client groups the changes in performance from 2003 to 2004, as well as the improvement in retention over the same period. This made it very clear how recruiting was affecting the bottom line. The pilot resulted in an increased investment in assessments, a mutual agreement that we were hiring the “right” people, and a stronger bond with our customers. We proved our relevance to their success. In order to leverage this new data to help drive our recruiting strategies at T-Mobile, we also cross-referenced our new hire assessment data with hiring sources. We compared quality of hire measures for each of our sources. Sources that did not result in new hires that met expectations with regard to performance and retention were de-prioritized. We were able to focus our time and money on the sources that were providing the highest quality of hire. The data we developed to help our clients understand our value proposition also helped us drive a more targeted and effective sourcing strategy. Your main goal should be to give your hiring managers information that is relevant to their success. This is when they will start caring about your metrics and will embrace you as a true business partner. Can you provide hiring data that is relevant to them, even if it is not entirely relevant to you? Can you show a link between what you do and their business success? You can. It takes work. But you will find yourself being more strategic than you are today, and this will improve your relationship with your clients. Your hiring managers will simply perceive you differently. Your goals will align with theirs. You will find it easier to get funding. You will become irreplaceable. Outsource vendor calls will go unanswered. In my next article I will share some best practices for presenting relevant information to hiring managers. I will give you some examples of what we have done at T-Mobile, as well as practices used by other companies. In the meantime, if you would like to share something your present or past company does, please contact me directly at randall.birkwood@t-mobile.com. I would love to hear from you!

Randall Birkwood
Randall Birkwood is a former director of recruiting at T-Mobile USA, Cisco Systems, and Microsoft Corporation, and HR at Intermec Technologies. While at T-Mobile his organization was listed in an ERE article as a top 10 benchmark firm in recruiting and talent management. He has been an advisory speaker at General Electric and AT&T for VPs and directors of HR, and spoken at a number of conferences in the U.S. and UK. He was the subject of a cover story on the "War For Talent" in Internet World Magazine.