Sarah, the Marketing Head of a renowned multi-national company, was having a rough time. The Brand Manager on her most critical brand had recently quit, and they were unable to source the right replacement. In the past few days, HR had sent her multiple candidates who had cleared the selection process, but none was making the cut in her assessment. With the business being in its toughest times, this was not a staffing gap Sarah can afford!
Does this sound familiar? Talent Acquisition is a never-ending problem across multiple facets of business-linkage, turnaround time, or candidate experience.
In my ~20 years of being in HR, I have realized that “joint responsibility” of talent acquisition processes eases this pressure a lot.
When HR and business partner, along with the right internal and external experts work together, it significantly improves the quality, timeliness and acceptance metrics – it not only brings the right expertise into the hiring process (thereby making it faster and more streamlined), but also ensures hiring the right person and a great experience to all involved. More sourcing avenues open up, hiring managers have more ownership of the talent they have helped recruit and the system slowly starts operating as “one team” to hire and retain the very best!
However, very few companies are able to do this successfully, and the reasons range from time crunch to capability gaps to “is it my job?”! Below are my top ten tips on how companies can break this barrier and make talent acquisition a business AND HR responsibility:
Leadership advocacy: How your leader perceives and communicates the importance of talent acquisition is the single biggest “make or break” element of joint ownership. The organization is highly perceptible and reads into informal gestures more than a formal town hall script. Ensure that the system has the right leadership sponsorship, both formally and informally, and leaders see acquiring the right talent as critical as building the right brands/products.
Ingrain it in the DNA of your organization metrics: It is critical to be clear on what success looks like, especially since it will involve considerable time and effort at their end. This will ensure that all stakeholders are committed to the time spent, and it is budgeted for and supported. I know of a few companies which articulate “organization” responsibility as a critical performance metric for their middle-management and above levels, which drives significant ownership and results.
Integrated end-to-end talent management processes: “Joint responsibility” is an overall talent management philosophy. If you plan to involve your business managers into recruitment and no other organization processes (like organization design, performance management, learning and development, etc.), your approach is bound to fail on both counts. Go for joint responsibility only if it is a philosophy that works for your organization and then embrace it across all fronts – intensity, however, across various processes can vary.
Innovation must be a strong by-product: Your Talent Acquisition systems should get better and better as time passes by, especially since the external environment is highly dynamic. As you get more involvement from your line teams, channelize their ideas and energies to innovate the system for future. I remember when I was heading Recruitment for Procter and Gamble in India back in the ‘90s, my biggest innovation idea came from a Marketing New Hire who was a part of our Campus Team.
Make it aspirational! I was talking to one of my mentees recently who has just got promoted to middle-management. The biggest AHA for him related to his promotion was not the bigger role or higher salary… it was in fact that he is now an organizational leader and can be an interviewer on campus!
• Ensure that the right rewards and recognition (including leadership exposure) are in place for the extended Talent Acquisition team, so that being a part of organizational activities is aspirational for them. Only then will you be able to attract top talent with high passion.
Build capability: A few years back, my recruitment team brought to my notice a senior business manager who was making multiple recruitment errors. Essentially, the person was just not able to select the right candidate! On doing a deep-dive, we realized that the manager was not trained enough on our interviewing process – and all it took from our side was a focused one-day interviewing college, along with 10-12 interviews where experienced interviewers coached him on-the-job on the nuances of interviewing. My key learning from this experience is that we should never under-estimate the power of capability-building and not leave anything to chance. This is critical now when we are looking for more diverse profiles, yet we have to calibrate to the competencies needed in the company.
Allocate based on expertise: The starting point is identifying the ‘what’ and the ‘who’.
• What are the skill-sets required to perform a particular hiring activity?
• Who (within and outside your organization) is the right person to perform that activity?
For example, the hiring manager might be the best person to shortlist profiles because they best understand the vacant job, recent campus recruit might be the best person to be campus ambassador because they best understand the target audience, an outsourcing agency might be the best person to manage hiring logistics because they are SMEs of that process, so on and so forth.
Automate, automate and automate: As you involve more arms and legs into your processes, the system will become more complex and prone to manual errors. Tracking and follow-ups will take exponentially more time. Hence, proactively identify areas where you can automate and prioritize running them like a machine. For example, make job applications online, track via mobile applications, integrate with a hi-tech travel agency, etc.
Proactively handle the distractors: In my experience, nothing stalls a team of highly-motivated people more than unnecessary distractors. Ensure that you have proactively killed all of them before they become a barrier for your resources – pre-align budgets, pre-book calendars, systematize your communication channels, so on and so forth.
Human touch - The more people get involved, the more you can tap into bringing personal touch into your processes, especially candidate experience.
In this highly digitized and technology-enabled world, the differentiator will be companies which are able to bring in the human element.
There are multiple ways of doing that – mentor/ buddy roles, softer skills trainings, scorecards, etc.
Richard Dupree, former CEO of P&G, said in 1947, “If you leave us our money, our buildings, and our brands, but take away our people, the company will fail. But if you take away our money, our buildings, and our brands, but leave us our people, we can rebuild the whole thing in a decade."
People are, and will be, the cornerstone of any organization’s success. And to recruit the best, we need to have our organization’s best enrolled in that journey.
(With inputs from Himani Maharshi, Senior Manager-Human Resources, Supply Chain)