January 17 , 2018

Don’t Just Fix What’s Broken In Recruiting, Consider What You’re Not Doing

Identifying the key program omissions in talent acquisition

One of the key characteristics of strategic leaders is that they don’t just focus on refining existing processes, they are also forward-looking. So they continually ask themselves the strategic question “What is missing that we should be adding?”

It’s easier to focus on existing processes that need tweaking like sourcing and interviewing because somebody runs and champions them and there is a budget allocated to each one. But in a constantly changing world of business and recruiting, you simply can’t afford to stand still with your existing programs and processes. So even though it is difficult, strategic talent acquisition leaders need to set aside at least one day per month (i.e. omissions day) to identify key TA “omissions.”

I define TA omissions as processes or programs that should be added to meet new needs or because new technology has now made new approaches viable. For example, most TA leaders rely heavily on benchmarking, which is essentially a process of finding out what everyone else is doing. In order to provide your firm with a competitive advantage in recruiting, you instead need to add powerful approaches that every other major firm has omitted.

If you’re interested in learning about my complete list of the major omissions in talent management beyond this article, attend the fall ERE conference in New Orleans. I will be presenting an interactive session on “Innovative high business impact approaches to TA that most should be doing, but they are not.” At the event, there will be plenty of time to go beyond the handful of omissions that are mentioned in this article.

You Can Identify Many TA Omissions by Studying Other Business Functions 

The most effective approach for identifying any key TA omission areas is closely studying the most successful business functions like marketing, sales, finance, and supply chain. Unlike recruiting, these functions seldom have any major process omissions. For example, every major business function has a process for measuring and fixing their major failures (i.e. 6 sigma and failure analysis). Can you imagine the Finance function, for example, not tracking major failures like the theft or the misuse of funds? Well in this area, you can easily see that TA has a major omission because literally no corporate TA function that I have been able to find has a formal process for measuring its process output failures (i.e. hiring failures).

Following the lead of other business functions, TA should be measuring its new hire failure rate, which is defined as the percentage of new hires that must be terminated or that quit prematurely within the first six months. And like other business functions, TA also needs to add a failure analysis process that would allow it to statistically identify the root causes of each major hiring failure. By looking at other business functions, you can see that TA is also way behind in measuring quality, in its CRM processes, in the use of predictive metrics, in quantifying its function’s business impacts in dollars, and in the use of AI and virtual reality technologies.

TA leaders should closely study other business functions to determine what categories of formal processes that are for some reason simply absent in talent acquisition.

Sample TA Omissions That You Should Be Considering

The final section covers three representative examples of talent acquisition omissions that are hard to justify to executives.

Omission #1 — Failing to have a formal competitive intelligence gathering process  Recruiting is a competition between firms. But unlike most business functions that participate in external competition, the recruiting function has no formal process for gathering external competitive intelligence. Competitive intelligence is a formalized process for proactively seeking out a range of information about your competitor’s current and planned actions. The resulting competitive intelligence information can then be used to improve either recruiting or business results.

Since corporate recruiting competes head to head with talent competitors, it seems obvious that the TA function in all firms should conduct competitive analysis try to gather as much information as possible about when and how its competitors recruit. The goal is not just to stay even but to gain a competitive advantage and to dominate recruiting in your industry.

For example, knowing when a competitor firm has a hiring freeze in place or when it is laying off employees provides a window of opportunity where there is little external recruiting competition. Using this CI information would allow a firm to successfully land more than its normal share of the available top talent. In contrast, when a competitor simultaneously has many of the same jobs open as your firm does, competitive intelligence can alert recruiters and hiring managers about the increased competition, and therefore it might suggest that its offers might need to be raised to meet the increased head-to-head competition. An intelligence process could also use LinkedIn to track the career progress of job finalists who were rejected, and this information would help you determine whether you made a mistake by passing on them.

Without a formal process, recruiting is also missing out on a valuable opportunity to gather business intelligence. This variation in CI attempts to systematically collect valuable information about your competitor’s business operations and new products that might be revealed during job interviews with candidates who have recently worked at your competitors. Incidentally, when TA is studying the open positions on a competitor’s website, it can also learn and then pass on information on newly added advanced skills requirements. Your executives may find that these advanced skill requirements might inadvertently reveal the product direction that a competitor is taking.

Omission #2 — Failing to have a process designed specifically for hiring innovators — It’s a universal goal in every business unit to maximize its business impact by focusing its resources on the specific functional results that have the largest measurable impact on the bottom line.

In recruiting, the data reveals that the highest impact result by far is the hiring of serial innovators. These are continuous innovators who can also collaborate and influence, so that they get multiple ideas implemented. These innovators produce such great value because they allow a firm to disrupt its industry and WOW its customers. In addition, innovators serve as a magnet for attracting and retaining other top performers.

Various major corporations have calculated that these innovators produce between 10 and 300 times greater value than the average hire. But unfortunately, innovators are so unique and they are in such demand that standard recruiting processes have almost a zero chance of landing them. The sales department has special processes for landing high-value customers, but in corporate recruiting, we inexplicably expect the standard recruiting process to work on these innovators. What needs to be added is a targeted recruiting process that starts with candidate research and allows a firm to precisely know how innovators seek a job and what factors attract them. The targeted innovator hiring process must be candidate-centric and it must have an inordinately strong emphasis on building a relationship of trust and then selling these innovators who are being literally bid on by many firms. The process leaders should also work with the CFO in order to demonstrate the tremendous revenue impact in dollars resulting from the successful hiring of many more serial innovators.

Omission #3 — Failing to provide talent acquisition consulting services — Every talent acquisition leader I know is striving to become more strategic. However, it’s difficult to make that strategic transformation when almost everyone who currently works in corporate talent acquisition is an operational or process expert. The current staff has for years excelled at guiding hiring managers through the process steps of recruiting. And historically that tactical approach was fine … at least until the recent introduction of many new technologies, outsourcing options, and vendor support programs that now allow hiring managers to execute most of the tactical steps in recruiting on their own. Fortunately, these advancements provide talent acquisition leaders with an opportunity to become more strategic, by providing high-level consulting help to executives and senior managers. That consulting help could, for example, be in the area of using data to identifying upcoming major recruiting problems and opportunities.

TA consultants could also help senior managers develop a talent pipeline or revise their jobs to make them more exciting to potential recruits. Unfortunately, no major corporate TA functions have made the shift to the “TA consultancy model,” in part because many of the current TA staff doesn’t have the required sophisticated consulting skills and experience. If talent acquisition is to advance to the next strategic level, this consulting capability omission must be quickly rectified.

Final Thoughts

Talent acquisition leaders almost universally argue that they are so busy with day-to-day activities that they simply don’t have time to consider adding any of these critical omitted processes. And they frequently also argue that they don’t have the budget resources to add anything strategic. However, my contention is that by not finding the time and the resources to advance into these omitted areas, they are dramatically hurting both the recruiting function and their firm’s business results.

The areas of talent acquisition and business, in general, are now both changing so rapidly that standing still is no longer an option. In this highly competitive world we live in, TA leaders have no choice in my opinion to develop a formal process that continually adds new processes and programs, while it simultaneously drops or reduces the resources allocated to lower ROI programs. I call this process “swapping” because it entails replacing non-strategic and low-impact recruiting processes and programs with omitted strategic processes with a greater impact and a higher ROI. And if you expect to dominate recruiting in your industry, your function must be the first to begin this swapping process. I hope that this article made you think, and I look forward to continued discussions on the topic in New Orleans in the Fall.

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.