Steps in Developing a Recruiting Strategy

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Very much like a roadmap you use when traveling, a recruiting strategy tells you where, when, and what you need to do in order to meet organizational goals. More specifically, it gives the recruiting department (and the recruiting professionals in it) a focus and a direction.

A recruiting strategy gives recruiting managers guidance about what they should do more of and less of. It also helps ensure that everyone on the recruiting team understands the priorities of the business and how recruiting can have an impact on the business. That’s why, when putting together a recruiting strategy, it’s important to make sure that the process you use to develop the strategy is logical and straightforward.

18 Steps in Developing a Recruiting Strategy

There are no shortcuts in developing a recruiting strategy. It takes a logical process and numerous inter-related steps. Each of these steps are outlined below.

1. Determine accountability for the strategy.

Start the recruiting strategy development process by appointing an individual to manage it. Clear accountability for developing and maintaining the appropriate recruiting strategy must be made clear the very beginning.

This individual and the team they select will manage the planning process, but it is critical that they should not own the process or the final strategy. Great strategies cannot be developed in a vacuum. In order to have a successful strategy, recruiting managers, recruiters and recruiting support personnel throughout the organization need to feel that they “own” both the process and the resulting strategy. If they don’t, there is a strong likelihood that they will either ignore the final strategy or not understand it. In either case, the net result will be that it will not be completely implemented.

Similar to a plan for a family trip, the strategy needs multiple inputs from individuals with different perspectives and “power bases,” who can help identify roadblocks and steer the strategy team in the right direction. Once you have assigned accountability and assembled your team, I recommend that they utilize these remaining steps as a guide for setting goals and developing your recruiting strategy.

2. Identify the business and overall HR goals of the firm.

It’s important to realize upfront that recruiting priorities and goals can’t be set independently; they are dependent on already-established business and HR goals and objectives.

When reviewing your company’s business and HR goals, be sure that your recruiting strategy is in a similar physical format and that the recruiting goals are closely aligned with or are clearly related to the already-established corporate and HR goals. To identify overall business goals, review the firm’s overall business strategy created by the board of directors or your executive management team. If you have the time and the access to it, it’s important to review this overall business plan and strategy to ensure that you understand where the business is going.

Another source for identifying key business goals is your CEO’s bonus plan. In almost all cases, whatever the CEO or senior officers are measured and rewarded on is, by definition, what is most important to the firm. Of course, if you closely “mirror” them with your key recruiting goals, you help to guarantee that your recruiting goals will directly support the highest priority business goals.

Follow a similar process in order to identify the established HR strategy, goals, and plan. I must warn you upfront that the majority of HR departments have no written strategy or strategic plan. As a result, it’s difficult to assess whether your recruiting strategy, strategic plan, or even your goals are in line with what the overall HR function is trying to do. Don’t let that deter you though; your efforts in recruiting might spur the rest of the HR department to follow your lead.

When developing your recruiting strategy, it is also important to limit your attention to only the highest priority business and HR goals and objectives; otherwise, you are likely to get bogged down with too many goals and thus increase the likelihood of confusion and the possibility of spreading your recruiting focus too broadly.

3. Identify which business goals and which business units you wish to impact.

For each major business goal, you believe you can impact, you need to cascade down to recruiting to identify any possible links or connections between recruiting programs and corporate goals. Some recruiting departments go even further and prioritize different business units, product areas, managers, or even jobs, based on business priorities. The recruiting strategy then directs managers to provide priority services and extra resources to those prioritized areas.

Identifying goals you can impact means that you need to eventually translate these business goals into recruiting strategies and actions. For example, if the business goal is “Grow XYZ business by 20% in six months,” the recruiting translation may include:

  • Prepare to hire 20% more people
  • Determine if the necessary skills to grow the business are present to allow for internal redeployment. If not, determine whether it is better to develop them through training or through “hiring the skills.”
  • Determine if top performers and already employed individuals are essential for meeting that high growth target.

4. Identify any possible (future) changes to the internal or external business environment.

Forecast any possible changes in the business or recruiting environment in the next few years that may force recruiting (and the business) to reassess its current strategy, approach, programs, or process. Developing a “static” recruiting strategy that does not change with the shifting economic and business environment is a common but disastrous approach.

With the constant ups and downs of talent wars, it is critical that any recruiting strategy “flex” as the economy changes. Common environmental factors include globalization, new technologies, changing demographics, the unemployment rate, the availability of labor, company expansion into new geographic areas or products, and acquisitions or divestitures of business units.

5. Determine who your primary customer is.

Since recruiting can’t please everyone in a corporation, it is important to first determine “who,” by title, is your primary target customer. Whether you designate senior management (generally the best option), line managers, or applicants as your primary target, it’s important to realize upfront that you can’t set goals or measures without knowing who your primary customer is.

Once you have identified your customer, it’s important to interview or survey them to ensure that you know their current expectations and their changing needs. Document your findings and get confirmation from your target customer to avoid errors. Realize upfront that expectations will change along the way, so develop a regular customer feedback process to capture these changing customer expectations.

6. Select between the traditional “narrow” recruiting strategy and a broader talent management approach.

Most traditional recruiting strategies limit their focus to recruiting. However, select organizations have gone the next step to adopt a broader talent management approach.

A talent management approach integrates many of the often independent HR functions relating to talent and recruiting into a single coordinated effort. Talent management is the acquisition, retention, movement, and release of workers in order to maximize the productivity of a company’s “talent inventory.”

In addition to the traditional functions of recruiting, a talent management strategy also encompasses:

  • Retention
  • Orientation
  • Workforce planning
  • Employment branding
  • Relocation
  • Talent management metrics
  • Internal placement of individuals
  • Replacement plans
  • Redeployment plans
  • Forecasts
  • Releasing non-productive or surplus workers

Talent management doesn’t necessarily “own” each of the above activities, but it certainly coordinates each and ensures that the entire talent pipeline is constantly supplied and being updated. If you select the talent management option, obviously you must include broader goals in your strategy. These broader goals should relate to each of the above functions and include processes to integrate their individual efforts into a single unified output.

7. Develop or refine your recruiting mission statement. (optional)

Before you can set specific recruiting goals and select your strategy elements, you should first clarify your overall mission or purpose. A recruiting mission statement is a short (one or two paragraphs) statement of purpose. It describes what the recruiting organization does, who it serves (who recruiting’s key customers are), and what makes the recruiting organization unique. A mission statement can be used to direct and refine all current and proposed recruiting activities.

If you already have a mission statement, it’s appropriate to update it before you begin developing your recruiting strategy. The first step is to check the alignment between your recruiting mission and the mission statement of HR and the overall business. A note of caution: Most mission statements have little actual impact unless they are crystal clear and they are directly supported with an unambiguous recruiting strategy as well as strategic and tactical goals, metrics, and rewards.

A sample recruiting mission statement might look like this:

Our goal is to continually identify, assess, and sell top performers working in our industry on the value of some day joining our firm. By building a great employment brand and hiring the very best performers, recruiting will be a prime contributor in helping senior managers meet their productivity and business goals. However, we cannot succeed in our mission without managers and employees taking ownership of the process of continually identifying and selling top performers on the value of joining our firm.

Next week I’ll cover the remaining steps in developing a recruiting strategy in Part 4.

Author’s Note: If this article stimulated your thinking and provided you with actionable tips, please take a minute to follow and/or connect with Dr. Sullivan on LinkedIn.

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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