Planning an Efficient and Effective Corporate Recruiting Function

Building a house, a building, or a department all starts out with a plan. Many of us, however, don’t heed those textbook ideas of how we should start. Rather, we jump in and try to steer the ship while it is moving and frankly don’t know where it is going. As many have heard the adage, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

A recruitment plan starts out with an agreed-upon strategic vision of what a corporate recruiting department is to accomplish. This must be a consensus of the immediate management chain as well as the people on the top floor. It has to start out with both a forecast of intended hires in a given time frame (a people budget) as well as an overall concept of operations … also known as just how are we going to accomplish our people budget and ultimately drive the operational budget which supports the execution of the concept of operations.

A “people budget” is just that: a budget. We all know that budgets are guidelines that become fluid depending on changes in the business. After all, all business is dynamic and things do change. Development of a “people budget” should be an ongoing activity of the recruitment department, perhaps polling divisions, departments, etc. to provide you with not only an anticipated number of potential new hires in the next three to six months but also a general breakdown of skill sets that you envision hiring.

Your departments will resist this exercise. But it the most important building block in developing a meaningful plan. This people budget should be updated and revisited every three months to capture anticipated changes in direction. The idea of a people budget is most relevant in the world of government contracting but can also be applied to other business sectors. The uncertainly of what proposals you will actually win vs. the proposals you bid drives this process and could cause the mix of needed people to dramatically change as well as the time frame for delivering these people.

Once an initial people budget has been established, a concept of operations must be developed and documented. This takes its cue from the people budget. It basically lays out the resources needed in terms of full-time internal staff required, staff training, and outside resources to be acquired (services such as job boards, job fairs, marketing, consultants, referral programs, recruiting process outsourcing, applicant tracking systems, enhancements to those systems, spot funds for niche job board advertising, background checks, drug checks, and a potential budget for executive search for those especially difficult and time-consuming “purple squirrel” requirements). Furthermore, the concept of operations maps out both passive and active sources of candidates.

All these sources must work in parallel to generate and drive a meaningful flow of qualified candidates to fill available positions. It shows where you intend to find the people with the identified skill sets as a result of the people-budget exercise, and provide ample flow into a candidate funnel. The concept of operations is best accomplished via a visual flow chart documenting this process.

The recruiting concept of operations logically flows into the development of an operational budget, meaning the dollars needed to successfully fulfill the demands of the people budget and successfully execute the concept of operations. Adding up all the line item components of the concept of operations conveniently rolls up into the operational budget, which is the plan on how to execute the defined recruitment mission translated into dollars.

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This developed operational budget is then presented to the appropriate budget decision makers and along with the people budget and concept of operations provides a rationale for funding. Budget process modifications can be made by either eliminating or trimming line items in the concept of operations. At the same time it can be clearly pointed out what aspects of the recruitment plan will be affected by tweaks in funding. Furthermore, if deficiencies in candidate flow become apparent, that can be adjusted with additional funding.

The department should be agile and adaptable to changing needs; specifically, surges in candidate demand and/or the urgency of that demand. While a company can quote specific numbers of how many hires it had the previous year, the coming year forecast can be difficult to predict both in terms of the number or total hires and the distribution of those hires throughout the year. This is an acute problem especially in the government contract world. The reason this is so is the increased “just-in-time-recruitment” pressure of more and more federal government contracts. Corporate recruitment departments in this industry should have established and ready-to-go supplemental recruiting partners who can handle surge sourcing and/or recruiting “pop-up” needs that they can turn on in a moment’s notice. Smart corporate recruitment functions have these contractual relationships already established and in place and ready to be turned on with minimal delay.

Lastly but by no means the least is the quality, ongoing training, and effective management of your recruiting team. Recruiters come in all flavors and experience levels, so maintain and enhance the integrity of skills of your team. This can be accomplished by internal training or allowing staff a reasonable budget to enhance their skills. You want your team to keep their skills sharp and to become fluent in new ways and means of sourcing, recruiting, and enhancing their skills. Beware of recruiters who are not interested!

If you are a recruiting manager do your best to be a professional manager; that is, address issues promptly, check in with your team on a daily basis even to say “hi” or good morning, encourage a team environment, tell your employees that you are there to support them, be a good mentor, mean it, and make it a fun place to work. Great professional recruitment teams not only accomplish their defined goals but enjoy the psychological satisfaction and accomplishment of a job well done.