Moving Away from Requisitions and Towards Strategic Partnership

The response to my last two articles on the topic of requisitions was informative. Most recruiting professionals who responded via the ERE Forum thought I had missed the point entirely, while those people who wrote me directly expressed gratitude for stating something they struggle with everyday. But everybody’s basic point was the same: requisitions run my life and define my job. Some people seem to like that, some people don’t. No matter where people fell down on the issue though, they all hinted at the next question: “Okay, smart guy. If requisitions are so bad, tell me how you live life without them!” The answer? Integration! This article will explore “integration” the way people with pocket-protectors and broken horn-rimmed glasses mean it, as in, “The integration of multiple subsystems within a heterogeneous compute environment is a necessary condition for end-to-end transactions.” I know, it’s pretty hot. But since this is a family publication I will try to keep such a sexy subject as dry as possible. There is also the metaphor of integration, which is about how you integrate what you do with your client’s business. I’ll address that only briefly at the end of the article, since my main focus is on technology integration. Moving away from a tactical requisition-based environment to the more ideal strategic partnership scenario requires the integration of various technologies that you may already be using inside your organization. In fact, in order to move beyond requisitions you (or your HRIT partner) must work towards making sure that all your data sources are integrated into one seamless information system. Even if your organization doesn’t have the types of systems that I discuss below, they probably will at some point in the future. The technologies that drive workforce planning include workforce planning tools (including project management, resource allocation, new product modeling, and IT governance), performance management tools, contact management and candidate relationship tools, and financial central-planning tools. At present, most of these tools live in their own universes and don’t talk to each other. For instance, if you have a project at your organization that you are staffing, it is likely that the project management team used some form of tool to create a scenario whereby they would need to go off and hire someone. These tools range from the very old (manual spreadsheet analysis) to the very advanced (new product modeling features in resource and project management tools). The project planning tool helps the business leader model some scenarios around staffing: the expected launch of the product, what types of skills are needed on the project, which individuals inside the organization are available to be staffed on a new project, and financial/budget constraints on what the project can pay for any particular skill. The business lead creates these plans and then runs them through various approval processes and checkpoints in order to end up with an approved plan. That plan says, “The company needs to hire these types of folks, with these types of skills and experiences, around this time, for this much money.” The project manager will then typically contact their HR or Recruiting representative to tell them about their needs. Because the HR/recruiting rep wants to make sure that they have the information right, and since they usually don’t have access to the original planning tool to see the various approvals, they must create a requisition to confirm that the need is real, as well as to initiate a conversation with the hiring manager about his or her “actual needs.” But what if the planning tool and the ATS talked to each other? Using the present level of sophistication of integration tools (at EA we use a tool called Tibco, but there are many others out there), your HRIT department can help you create business rules that determine whether a “TBH” (to be hired) has gone through the appropriate authorization channels and whether the proper information is contained in the resource request. Assuming the needs of those rules are met, a virtual requisition can be created in the ATS, which then can trigger the hiring process. The need description, budget allocation, skill requirements, and timing of the request should all be contained within the modeling tool database. Yes, sometimes you will need to go back and double-check the information, or change the job description language to meet a specific geographical or employment challenge. But that is more about the marketing side of recruiting, and less about administration. In other words, integration between the project management tool and the applicant tracking system takes requisitions and moves them from the administrative side of the business process to the communication side of the recruiting/selling process. Of course, this integration won’t solve world hunger or hold back the tides. Recruiters must still be accountable for understanding their client’s needs by specializing in what Kevin Wheeler calls “expert thinking” and “complex communications.” Integration won’t solve for a lack of these skills. In fact, a simple test of how “integrated” a recruiter is with the company’s talent processes is to remark their level of surprise when a new requisition magically appears in their fully integrated ATS. A recruiter who is well integrated into his or her clients’ business planning process will already know the requisition is coming. On the other hand, a recruiter who uses requisitions as a way to avoid hiring managers will continually be surprised when new requisitions appear. Of course, project planning tools aren’t the only source of TBH data. In fact, most organizations are just starting to move towards a “project work model” (as opposed to the functional model of work, where you just repeat a task over and over, but never get to see the final outcome). But all organizations talk money. So often times new hire planning is done in central planning tools, usually in finance. Most companies (and almost all public companies) must provide a budget for headcount prior to the start of the fiscal year. In the post Sarbanes-Oxley era of company governance, headcount is a common metric that Wall Street uses to evaluate the expense risk of a company for the coming fiscal year. You have probably had to deal with this through your company’s budgeting process: how many people, in what types of positions, for how much money, are you going to need for the year? Again, in most companies today, this information is accessed through the finance department during the requisition creation process. In other words, the information is only available to the finance department, because only they have access to the budgeting module of the financial system. So a requisition becomes a way of getting finance to approve something they already agreed to: that a position has budget approval as of a certain date. As we discussed in the previous articles, the approval of a requisition by finance is redundant, because they have to do it again when the offer gets issued. But again, imagine for a minute that your ATS and the central planning and budgeting system are integrated. Your position description (note that this does not have to be a requisition) already has a job code, a department number, and hiring manager number. Guess what? That’s the same information in the planning system! So once you are ready to send an offer out, you can initiate a request to the planning system to check that the position is budgeted and open. This protects the company from making the mistake of hiring someone off plan. It doesn’t require a requisition, and it has successfully automated a manual process. Finally, I would like to reiterate something I brought up at the start of the article, which is that integration is both a technology and a metaphor. From a technology perspective, integration means reducing the administrative workload of the recruiting organization through seamlessly meshing different information sources into one cohesive hiring management system. This will enable recruiters to shift from being tactical administrators to strategic consultants and partners. But technical integration only provides an opportunity for becoming more strategic. The metaphor of integration is the way to maximize this opportunity. Integration as a metaphor means that the recruiter is a seamless part of the business system they are supporting. Moving beyond requisition is the first step from technical integration towards “business integration.”

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Jeff Hunter ( is the director of global talent technologies at Electronic Arts (EA), where he is accountable for the selection and implementation of services and business processes surrounding the innovative technologies that EA uses to win in its global war for talent. Throughout Jeff's 20 years of business experience he has consistently focused on using technical innovation and business imagination to solve difficult technical, process, resource and corporate strategy challenges. In various capacities as a CEO, COO, and founder of various software and services companies, he has worked with many of the leading enterprise software companies in the recruiting space, as well as many of the largest employers. Jeff has a patent pending in the area of information retrieval technology and has been published and spoken on the subject of corporate, technology, and HR strategy.