Talent-acquisition Departments: Stop Doing Stuff That Doesn’t Matter

The recruiting industry in general likes to poke fun at how corporate talent acquisition departments across the board struggle to do actual recruiting. It’s mostly an unfair comparison between corporate talent acquisition and recruiters who work in an agency or RPO environment. The agency/RPO recruiters only source and recruit. That’s the sole job for which they get paid.

Can you imagine if your own corporate recruiting teams only had to recruit? In many cases, their capacity would easily triple, if not more.

This is the largest problem I see when I go into corporate talent acquisition shops and analyze their operations. Corporate talent acquisition does everything but talent acquisition. They go to meetings where someone believes talent acquisition should be present, but mostly it’s a waste of time. They work on talent acquisition-related projects that are supposed to increase efficiency or increase quality or make interviewing easier or some other improvement. Mostly, these things never come to fruition. TA gets roped into community-related projects, massive organizational projects, and so on.

When I first joined Sparrow Health System in Lansing, Michigan, to run talent acquisition, I immediately could tell my team was in post-and-pray survival mode. Each recruiter was responsible for roughly 100 or more requisitions. We were lucky to get jobs posted and pass on résumés and applications to hiring managers, let alone do anything else.

Something else I noticed was that my entire team was spending about 60 percent of its week in various meetings. Each meeting was vital for us to attend. I mean, we’ve been attending them for years. The departments we support demand we are at these meetings. We even run some of these meetings ourselves.

I find that the larger the organization, the higher the number of meetings you are forced to attend that are worthless. Can you imagine how much time is wasted at Walmart and Amazon? I love the old stories about Jack Welch at GE taking chairs out of conference rooms, forcing employees to stand throughout each meeting. Meetings certainly got much shorter during this experiment.

I blame Microsoft for corporate America’s meeting obsession. Before Outlook calendar, we had much fewer one-hour meetings. But as soon as people could easily, with one click of the button, schedule an hour on your calendar, our schedules got filled with one-hour meetings that really only have about 10 minutes of content. But, if we’re here for an hour, we may as well fill an hour!

At Sparrow, one of the first things I did was cancel all nonessential meetings my team was attending. Every single one. The only meetings we kept were the intake ones with hiring managers to discuss their openings, which were now mandatory for each opening, even openings that were frequent in nature. The team’s full responsibility was now filling positions, only.

Was there fallout? Of course! Right away my team began coming to me with upset meeting owners wondering why talent acquisition and its new asshole leader weren’t coming to their very important meetings. So, I told my team to schedule me in their place. I would attend each of these meetings and determine the importance of our attendance.

At these meetings, I spoke up, I got involved, asked some pointed questions about why I needed to be there, and what the specific purpose of this meeting was and whether it was still appropriate to have on a weekly or monthly basis. I probably ruffled some feathers. No one wants to be called out in their own meetings, but it was critical for the success of my team that I figure this out.

I explained that talent acquisition fails when we do things that are not about finding great talent for the organization. I had a go-to speech that sounded more like a sermon ready for each meeting about how these meetings were killing my team’s ability to support the organization. Others chimed in with the same frustration about their teams and capacity as well.

It wasn’t that we weren’t willing, or wanting, to be a part of these meetings going forward; it was about finding out how we could increase the capacity of our teams, which they needed if we were going to do what our function was supposed to do for the organization.

Sometimes under the disguise of partnership, we do silly stuff like attend meetings that we really have no business being a part of, but leadership business wants to make sure everyone is involved and at the table. Welcome to the downfall of corporate America. I’m only half joking. Sure, we want to be a part of the business and a great partner, but sometimes this entire concept goes way beyond what it was originally designed to do.

Ultimately, we found that about 75 percent of the meetings we were attending wasn’t necessary for us to attend at all or all the time. We came to agreements with many meeting owners that any time they needed talent acquisition in the room, we would drop everything and attend, but as a normal course of business, we would not plan on attending. We kept abreast of what was happening in these meetings by continuing to be a part of the group email that had the meeting notes.

Another practice that I brought from my time at Applebee’s was the fact we would not attend a meeting that didn’t have a formal agenda for each meeting. I found that many of these ongoing weekly and monthly meetings had a standing agenda, which usually consisted of updates that were not worthy of a meeting. My team would not attend a meeting where a specific agenda was not sent out priorly.

The senior executive team loved this rule, and many instituted it as their own policy as well. If your meeting is important, then you should have an agenda of what’s going to be presented, discussed, and decided upon. That way each of us can decide if it’s critical we attend or not. It’s just good, efficient business practice.

The perfect talent acquisition team is one that can do talent acquisition, not one that happily does everything but talent acquisition. It’s unbelievable how fast you can fill 40 hours a week with stuff, and then at the end of the week, realize none of it led to hiring great talent for your organization.

It’s our job as talent acquisition leaders to eliminate distraction and increase the capacity of our teams to allow them to do what is most important — attracting and hiring talent. This must be your focus as a leader. No CEO ever said, “We have the best talent acquisition team on the planet because of all these great projects!” But, your team can’t fill the openings your organization needs filled.

A great exercise to do with your team is list out everything you do individually and as a team, weekly and monthly within your roles, even the smallest details. Then, as a group, force a certain percentage of this stuff to stop.

Article Continues Below

We will no longer set up interviews for hiring managers. Period.

What will happen? You will send out a notice to all the managers saying, Going forward, talent acquisition will no longer play the third party to setting up interviews with candidates. It will now be the responsibility of the managers and their teams to do this task. We’ve found the process of being a go-between inefficient and it actually slows the process of bringing in candidates quickly.

About 3 percent of your managers will be completely pissed off by this memo, about 10 percent will applaud this change, and the rest won’t care and have no issue either way.

Great talent acquisition happens when your team can do the actual recruiting they are hired to do. Another crazy thing will happen when you go on your capacity crusade. You’re going to find out who on your team wants to recruit and who doesn’t. As it turns out, some folks on your team don’t really want to recruit. They love working in talent acquisition and they love getting paid and the benefits, but they don’t really like doing the hard work of recruiting, which is one reason you have this capacity issue to begin with.

Reprinted with permission from The Talent Fix: A Leader’s Guide to Recruiting Great Talent.

image from bigstock

Tim Sackett
Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.