Is it time to Fire your Director of Employment?

What is the name of our employment strategy?

Imagine the head of the function that has one of the most strategic impacts on the business (Employment) not even having (or communicating) a business strategy. Go ahead and ask them “What is the name of our employment strategy?” Ask several non-HR managers the same question and if (when) you get blank looks – read on.

Now I know directors of employment as “soooo” busy “hiring people” they say they don’t have time to develop a written employment plan but at least they should have a name for their “strategy” and it should be communicated to all.

I’ve studied/ worked with dozens of employment functions and I’ve compiled a list of some corporate-wide strategies that companies should consider. The strategies need to fit the environment of the company if they are to be successful. Of course, these strategies can be broken up and used in multiple combinations.

It is no longer acceptable for an Employment function just to be reactive to open requisitions and being satisfied with putting “butts in chairs.” They need to have a strategy that’s:

  • Aligned with the business strategy
  • Is communicated and understood by all and
  • There must be a corresponding set of metrics to see if the strategy is meeting its goals!

Possible Strategies for the Employment Function

The Range of Possible Employment Strategies (or where do we put our focus, resources, and priorities) include:

Hire The Best And Brightest – Variations include:

  • Hiring “Brain Horsepower” – selecting individuals with intellectual capabilities clearly above that of others in order to build up a companies Intellectual Capital.
  • Hire Talent – Find talented people and find a position for them.
  • Top 10% from the “top” schools – Using university admissions and grading assessments to identify candidates.
  • Fresh College Hires – A related strategy assumes that recent grads are “better” with new ideas and “energy” that experienced workers don’t have.
  • Hire “fresh” brains or “entry-level” brains.
  • Cost per Hire (“Butts in Chairs”) – Selecting “average” employees to fill slots that pay below the midpoint and have a low cost per hire.
  • Assumes most employees are pretty much the same and that we need to hire low-cost employees in order to be competitive.
  • Targeted Hiring – Selecting certain jobs as key jobs and putting a disproportionate percentage of resources to fill these positions.
  • Competency-Based Selection – Targeting individuals based on their broad competencies that go across many jobs and may also look at future needs (as opposed to hiring individuals with an eye only on the skills currently needed for one job).
  • Experience Based Selection – Recruiting and selection based on the number of years of experience they have in this or related jobs (or our industry). The assumption is that more years is better as long as salary caps aren’t exceeded. The quality of the experience needs to be assessed if this strategy is to be successful.
  • Company Based Hiring – Assumes if you want to be the best you must hire people that have worked for companies we want to be like. This might include a “raiding strategy.”
  • Hire Too Many And Wash Out The Failures – Assumes errors will be made in the selection process and only on the job experience can cull out those not able to do the job.
  • Temporary to Permanent Hire – Related to the preceding item where recruitment is done by others (contracting firms and temp agencies) and on the job performance determines who we hire on as a long term employee 
  • Buy/ Merge with Firms for Talent Acquisition – You can hire “intact” talent relatively fast through the acquisition of proven talent in other firms. You might also get customers and patents as an added benefit.
  • Outsourcing – Admitting the function is not strategic (or at least the initial phases) and hiring others to do part or all of it for you.
  • Hiring for Fit – Assuming that most skills can be taught but “fit” to the organization/team’s values are the most important selection criteria. A related approach is hiring for “attitude” and training for skills.
  • Promote Only / Hire at the bottom – This approach assumes our company is unique and that knowing our culture is essential for success. Outside hires must be at entry-level because they must work their way up to succeed. In order for this strategy to be successful, there must be strong internal placement and employee development programs. There are diversity issues related to this strategy.
  • Recruitment is everything – This strategy assumes that you can’t hire great people from a mixed candidate pool. Resources are focused on recruiting only the best. The actual selection process is less important if only stars are recruited.
  • Recruiting Ads/ Web Must Be A WOW vs Recruiting Ads Provide Information – Techies and others in our target audience judges a firm (fun, creative, technology-based) and our products based on how exciting our recruitment efforts are. The traditional approach views these ads only as information providers.
  • Pygmalion Approach – Recruit and Hire Average Candidates and then train and develop them because training and development can make stars out of almost anyone.
  • Agility Hiring – Emphasizes hiring individuals that can “multi-task” and rapidly shift from job to job is the most important thing in a world of rapid change. Hiring “white water thinkers.”
  • Problem Solvers/ Winners – Assumes that successful people succeed at almost everything they do and that past success at solving complex problems is the best indicator of future success.
  • Intrasourcing – Assumes that the rapid movement of talent (proactively) within the corporation is at least as important as external sourcing.
  • Employer of Choice – By developing an image as “the” great place to work we can attract the best people and that the best people will attract other great people.
  • Virtual Workforce – A strategy that focuses on hiring a large percentage (usually over 50%) of our needed talent as off-site contractors and temps. The basic premise is that you can plugin and unplug talent in certain areas of business. Most work is done off-site. The fact that the “virtual” staff does not have to come into our office and that they are continually challenged by constantly shifting employers excites workers to the point where we can attract talent that we could not get if they had to work on-site or full time.
  • Target The Unemployed vs People That Are Good In Their Job – Is our target recruiting audience unemployed people (those that have been rejected, laid off or fired) and people that are unhappy in their job (and are thus looking) OR are we seeking the very best that are not active job seekers and don’t look at want ads, etc.
  • HR is Responsible for Hiring vs The Line Manager Is Responsible – Who should own the hiring process HR or Managers? Who is responsible for finding the best? Do we weaken our managers by doing “their” job for them?
  • They Find Us vs We Find Them – Traditional strategies focus on the premise that applicants are strangers and they need to apply to us in order to be considered. Another approach assumes in order to identify the very best we must find/ capture the names of the best on our own. And over time, build a relationship with them so that they become “friends.” The premise is that hiring people we have known over time gets us a higher acceptance rate among superstars and stretching out the screening process results in less “bad” hires and retention problems.
  • A Continuous Recruiting Process Or Just When We Have Open Requisitions – Are there always a sufficient number of good hires in the market or do we need to keep a constant, proactive lookout for great candidates and hire the “best athlete” even when we have no current openings?
  • Recruit and Select Based On What They Will Do in The Future VS What They Did in The Past – Traditional selection tools (resumes, behavioral interviews, and references) focus on past behaviors. In a rapidly changing world assessing and hiring talent on their ability to solve future problems may have a greater impact on our competitiveness.
  • US Only vs Global Searches – Is the best talent to be found in the U.S. or do we need to find talent where ever it lives? Are U.S. recruiting and selection tools sufficient in the International Business Environment?
  • Employment’s Speed of Change Must Mirror That Of Our Product vs A Status Quo Approach. – Must overhead functions evolve slowly to save costs or must employment obsolete it’s own products and tools at the same rate of all other business systems if we are to beat the competition.

Other Choices / Decisions in Employment

  • Involve everyone in the “finding” process through employee referrals or rely on central HR.
  • Make it easy to apply to increase the pool or create hurdles in applying to discourage excess applicants
  • Electronic or paper-based employment systems (speed vs costs).
  • Select candidates solely based on selection (test) performance or with added factors considered (diversity).
  • Cost per hire/speed of hire is more or less important than the quality of hire.
  • Make hiring decisions an individual vs a team decision.
  • Reject former employees that quit as disloyal vs viewing them as “strayed family” members returning to the flock.
  • Attract candidates with intangible factors (image, culture) vs tangible points (sign on and starting salary incentives).
  • Recruit with professional recruiters or with our employees that volunteer.
  • Staff employment with headhunter types vs the standard recruiter types.
  • Hire permanent recruiters vs contract recruiters (or a mix).
  • Recruit for all jobs or farm out our exec level jobs.
  • Recruiters find and “drop” candidates after hire or stay involved with candidates after hire to increase retention.
  • Measure and reward all important aspects of employment (customer service, response time, quality of hire) or measure only filled / open reqs.
  • Have a centralized Recruiting/ Shared services function vs using generalists on site.
  • Place own ads or rely on an HR ad agency.
  • Operate employment as a standard overhead function or as a key competitive advantage
  • Have remote recruiting. & selection capabilities or have face to face hiring only.
  • Employment must relax its rules so that out of the box thinkers will not be screened out using inside the box recruiting and screening tools. Compared to the strategy that employment must screen out the bad apples due to the difficulty in firing employees.

As seen on Gately Consulting

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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