Big Ideas for Recruiting Leaders — What if Davos Covered Recruiting?

Forward-looking executives seeking truly big ideas understand the value of the Davos World Economic Forum, where only thought leaders and the most senior executives at top global firms are invited to attend. If there were to be a Davos-type “big-idea session” covering strategic recruiting, this article covers the big idea topics that I would propose for the agenda.

The hectic world of day-to-day recruiting is often dominated by having to solve tactical functional problems like cutting cost per hire or identifying the correct recruiter req load. However if you are a recruiting leader who wants to make quantum improvements of more than 25 percent in your results, step back and focus exclusively on a few big ideas. Big ideas by definition are potentially high-impact strategic actions that are barely emerging, that are extremely difficult to implement, and that may become essential as the business or recruiting environment evolves and changes. Also because they require a dramatic change in thinking, almost all big ideas are instantly rejected by shortsighted individuals in recruiting.

The Top 15 Future-focused Big Ideas for Recruiting Leaders to Contemplate

The 15 biggest ideas or evolving trends most worthy of further consideration are listed in descending order, based on the size of their potential future impact on recruiting.

  1. The “war for top talent” will become permanent – visualize a world where all of the top employed talent can be easily found on the Internet. And as a result of that visibility, they will be constantly contacted and “bid on” by numerous firms. New technologies will also allow a disgruntled top performer to instantly apply for a new job on their phone, which will also mean that turnover rates will dramatically increase. This environment would mean that the war for top-performing and innovative talent would not be a periodically reoccurring phenomenon, but instead a continuous condition where only the most sophisticated recruiting approaches would have a chance of landing game-changing talent. Eventually data will show that only specially designed, targeted, and personalized recruiting processes can succeed in hiring innovators and technical talent in high demand.
  2. The gap between the top 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent of firms will widen – imagine a recruiting environment where it becomes unambiguously clear to everyone that only 1 percent of top employer branded firms (i.e. Google, Facebook, Apple, Zappos, and Rackspace) have succeeded in broadcasting their compelling brand that sells their freedom-filled, fun, and innovative environment. The only remaining effective recruiting competitors to this 1 percent will be startups that may be able to offer even more freedom, excitement, a chance to innovate, and the opportunity to have a significant impact. The remaining 99 percent of corporate firms will acquiesce and settle for second-tier status once they realize that their limited “business case” capability (illustrated by their inability to convince executives even to offer free food) may for the foreseeable future essentially prohibit them from attracting top talent and innovators.
  3. Demonstrating revenue impact becomes a common shared feature between business and overhead functions – consider a future business environment where not just business units but also all overhead functions are expected to demonstrate their direct and measurable impacts on corporate revenue. Unless recruiting prioritizes its jobs and shifts its approach to where it maximizes its revenue and business impacts, it like every other overhead function will be outsourced or replaced by technology. Fortunately top recruiting functions that are focused on demonstrating their business impact in dollars will be able to prove that among all talent functions, they have the highest impact on corporate revenue and profit margins.
  4. Demonstrating the percentage and the total dollar value of on-the-job performance improvement from new hires becomes the sole strategic recruiting metric – even today, the best way to demonstrate the business impact of recruiting is to show that the average new hire produces a measurable higher percentage of “on the job output” than existing and recently trained employees. If you take the average percentage increase in performance and multiply it by the firm’s average revenue per employee, you get a defendable number demonstrating the economic impact of each new hire. The same calculation method will eventually be used to show the significantly higher economic value provided by hiring innovators.
  5. Recruiting follows the business in shifting to a data-driven and scientific approach – eventually recruiting executives will realize that overhead functions will not be exempt from the unstoppable business trend toward databased decision-making. Once recruiting adopts a data-driven approach, it will drop many low-performing traditional practices and adopt new ones like using marketing research approaches to fully understand the expectations of their recruiting targets around the world.
  6. Referrals continually grow in dominance – the above-mentioned shift to databased decision-making coupled with the growth of employee contacts on social media will drive the referral program to continually improve and eventually become the majority source of hire. Metrics will continue to show that referrals from top-performing employees are “the best-performing hires” with the highest retention rates. Data evidence will show that these superior results occur because a well-designed referral process is better at identifying, accurately assessing, and selling prospects than any other recruiting source. Once data becomes granular enough, it will also eventually show that the next best sources for hiring top performers are boomerang rehires, contest/award winners, and those who post exceptional work on the Internet.
  7. The mobile phone will dominate every aspect of recruiting – in a data-driven world, every aspect of the business (including recruiting) will realize that the mobile platform is becoming the dominant communications device. Because of its broad capabilities and the fact that it is carried and often viewed 24/7, every aspect of recruiting including branding, recruitment messaging, job posting, candidate communications, assessment, and applying for a job will eventually be on the mobile platform.
  8. LinkedIn eventually wins the social media recruiting war — in a data-driven world, it will eventually become clear that the most effective social media platform for job posting, sourcing, and assessment is LinkedIn. As LinkedIn continues to improve and go global, less effective social media sites like Twitter and especially Facebook will fade in recruiting usage. Eventually the fact that the LinkedIn site also allows you to identify which specific firms are hiring and losing talent will make it a required tool for conducting the now essential competitive analysis of your recruiting competitors.
  9. Resumes are replaced with Internet profiles — visualize a world where the problematic resume fades in usage … to be replaced with a LinkedIn or similar social media profile that is more accurate and more frequently updated. The information is provided in a universally consistent and easy to compare format. Applying for a job by simply authorizing the use of your profile will dramatically increase the number of qualified applicants. It will also eventually completely eliminate the need for formally applying for jobs and having to wait for “employed and not-actively-looking prospects” to get around to updating their resume.
  10. Selling eventually replaces sourcing as the most impactful recruiting component – sourcing has for decades been the most critical component in recruiting. However it’s importance will fade when eventually every professional and college student can be found either on social media or with an Internet search. Because everyone can be found, the new dominant recruiting function will be convincing or selling. The strategic focus will shift to the best approaches for convincing easily found top talent to accept an invitation to interview and later to accept a job at your firm.
  11. Assessment improves as it shifts to simulations – in a data-driven recruiting environment, everyone will quickly realize that the current candidate assessment approaches are amazingly weak predictors of which candidate will turn out to be a top performer on the job. Data will eventually show that giving candidates real problems or virtual reality simulations that closely approximate those problems is the most predictive assessment approach. With the introduction of new and cheaper technologies, not only will assessment be more accurate but executives will find that it can also be done remotely and at a low cost. When interviews are held, most will eventually shift to the live video interview model using the mobile platform.
  12. Video use expands dramatically — data will eventually show that members of the newest generations show a willingness to watch a seemingly endless number of videos. The data will eventually show that videos (both YouTube and Vine varieties) are the most effective employer branding and candidate selling tools because they allow the viewer to see and “feel” the passion at your firm. Videos will also be used for interviews, job descriptions, facility tours, employee profiles, and Internet meet ups.
  13. The era of expensive ATS systems comes to an end – as more firms learn the need to conduct ROI analysis on every aspect of recruiting, the purchasing of expensive ATS systems will quickly come to an end. Standard business software or the nearly free ATS alternatives that are already emerging will take their place.
  14. Corporate career websites fade in credibility – imagine a world where prospects are extremely cynical. And as a result most simply won’t believe what they find on the firm’s corporate career website because it is dominated by “corporate speak” that was written by the PR staff. Instead they will independently seek out what they consider to be more “authentic” and credible information. And that more often than not will be the information they find on social media sites, in chat rooms, and what they hear from their friends and their contacts. Many prospects and candidates will increasingly turn to employer feedback sites like to find out what they consider to be a more accurate and less filtered information about what it’s like to work at a firm.
  15. Other big ideas that could emerge – in the future, because recruiting leaders will have established their strong business impact, they will be less risk-averse and more willing to try out seldom or never used approaches that might dramatically improve recruiting results. Some possibilities include the use of music and celebrities in recruiting, developing texting-specific recruiting approaches, remote college recruiting, hiring people who are “in the flow,” and expanding the use of video games in recruiting. Some extremely bold approaches to consider include recruiting intact teams, acquiring firms for talent, using data mining to identify hidden talent among big data, recommending replacing employees with technology, and using algorithms to identify criteria that accurately predicts on-the-job success.

Final Thoughts

Recruiting leaders need to be exposed to more of these big ideas that focus on forecasting the future, on identifying “what is possible,” and on what strategic actions that leaders would have to be working on today if they wanted to improve their results by more than 25 percent over the next two years.

If you are a corporate recruiting leader, I hope my “big idea list” at least started you to think about the major shifts that are ahead in recruiting. As a recruiting executive I also hope that if you have additional big ideas that can further our profession that you please share them in the comments section immediately following the online version of this article.

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.

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