Do You Have A Recruiting Turnaround Plan That Will Allow You to Explode Out of the Box?

Everyone knows that recruiting is currently in a down cycle, but there is no doubt firms will again need to recruit significantly to fuel growth and replace aging workers.

But do you have a plan that will enable you to explode out of box immediately as the downturn ends?

If you don’t have a feasible recruiting turnaround plan, you may be hurting your organization.

Research shows that the majority of recruiting organizations don’t have a documented recruiting strategy, let alone one specifically developed to deal with a recovery of the macro-economy. While one could argue that it’s difficult to plan when you don’t know exactly when things will improve, such an excuse is just that, an excuse.

Scenario planning, or a what-if analysis, prepares you to handle the turnaround no matter when it occurs.

As a recruiting manager, ask yourself — before one of your senior executives asks you first:

“What exactly needs to be done in advance so that when the time comes, the recruiting function has the capacity and capability to dramatically ramp up recruiting?”

Benefits of Having an “Explode Out of the Box” Strategy

Whether the turnaround in your industry comes this year or next, it’s critical that you have an operational plan and strategy to prepare for it when it does come.

The reasons why it’s critical for you to develop this “explode out of the box” strategy include:

  • Competitive advantage. During economic recoveries, organizations that can react quickly can pick up market share from competitors not quite as agile. This is especially true if your organization isn’t the largest or the most well-known in your industry.
  • “Right time” advantages. The key is to “ramp up” recruiting at the “right time,” rather than being too early or too late. If you start active recruiting too early, you’ll leave a large number of recruits waiting in limbo before you can take action. If you start too late, you’ll miss out on the first movers (i.e., forward-looking talent who is among the first to be willing to assume the risk of a new position and firm).
  • Free time. Although your budgets might be lean and hiring may be frozen, this “lull” is a great time to rethink your past approach. Once the frenzy of new hiring begins, there will be little time to think strategically and to develop a workable plan. This lull time will also allow you to identify new and emerging tools (mobile phones, Twitter, social networks, talent communities, etc.) and to adapt them to your company’s needs.
  • Recruiter availability. If you plan accurately and act quickly, you’ll have your pick of the top available recruiters. Having a well-designed plan might, by itself, attract some of the best recruiters who have been frustrated when they had to operate in an ad-hoc environment.
  • Lower costs. If you plan in advance, you will be able to attract some of the best recruiters at relatively low salaries. In addition, you might be able to secure low-cost deals with vendors before increased demand drives up their prices and limits implementation availability.
  • Training and education. It is certainly true that hiring managers and some of your recruiters might be a little rusty. A great plan will allow you to improve your training and education processes so that everyone “gets up-to-speed” precisely at the right time.
  • It’s a global competition. If your company is one of the many that has a global reach, it’s likely that the talent wars will heat up in certain geographic regions (or product areas) long before an overall turnaround occurs. If your plan includes elements that allow you to “explode out of the box” in these hot areas, you can help your company much sooner. You can also use these micro-targeted areas as a testing ground for your new plan.
  • Strategic image. By being forward-looking, you might improve recruiting’s image as a strategic function.

Elements of an Effective “Explode Out of the Box” Recruiting Plan

If you’ve been a manager in recruiting for any significant period, you’ve already been through one or more up-and-down cycles. I’ve been through a half-dozen of them and from my experience, it is relatively easy to identify the elements that must be upgraded following a prolonged downturn. The key elements of a great turnaround plan include:

  • Strategic goals. Revisit your current recruiting goals and make them more business-like. That means narrowing your goals and making them more focused on business impacts. These goals should include ramping up from little activity to maximum capability in 30 to 60 days; prioritizing jobs based on their business impact; hiring more top performers and innovators; improving the employer brand; and making managers more effective at hiring while reducing the time they must devote to it. Whatever goals you develop, make sure they are strategic and measurable.
  • Strategic metrics. Shift the recruiting department’s focus away from operational metrics and toward business-impact metrics. You will need a metric for each strategic goal that you have set. Focus on these six strategic business-impact metrics: Quality of hire; innovation from new-hires; revenue loss due to position vacancies; the cost of new-hire turnover; diversity in management positions; and employer brand impact (you can’t attract the very best without a consciously developed and effective brand image).
  • Executive buy in. Because recruiting doesn’t operate in a vacuum, recruiting leaders must realize that their plan needs to be developed with input from HR, executives, and hiring managers. Of all the executives, the CFO and COO are the most important because they control requisition freezes and recruiting budgets. The CFO must also be involved in developing the process to calculate the potential revenue loss that could result if the recruiting function is not adequately prepared with an “explode out of the box” plan.
  • Prioritize positions. When hiring is “unfrozen,” it unfortunately often follows an illogical pattern. In some cases, the number of “low business impact” positions that are opened up may exceed the number of mission-critical openings. If this happens, it’s imperative that you have already prioritized business units and positions to ensure that you focus the most resources and your best recruiters on the high-impact positions. If you do this in advance and make it well-known, politics and loud “whining” will have less of an impact on your efforts.
  • Competitive analysis. A critical part of the plan is to analyze your “talent competitors.” This includes forecasting when they are likely to ramp up, which jobs are likely to initially focus on identifying, and what tools they are likely to use.
  • A timetable. An effective plan includes a timeline with key milestones and accountabilities. As a result, everyone knows “what to do” and “when to do it” after the “explode out of the box” recruiting plan is activated.
  • Prepared managers. Even though recruiting designs the hiring process, it is a fact that managers do the actual hiring. If you expect your managers to be more effective at hiring, include an element that demonstrates the dollar impact of weak hiring. Once you get their attention, you need a process and support material that painlessly educates them about best practices among hiring managers; they will have their own “turnaround” issues in addition to recruiting, so begin this effort before the turnaround begins.
  • Identify precursors to a turnaround. Part of your turnaround plan should be examining past turnarounds in order to identify warning signs which would allow recruiting to more accurately predict when hiring within your firm is most likely to open up. Work with the CFO and COO to identify those early warning signs.
  • Identify applicants’ expectations. Any economic downturn can have a measurable impact on the expectations of potential applicants. It’s a mistake to assume that their expectations and their “decision criteria” for selecting a job have remained the same. Instead, survey a sample of the most desirable potential applicants to identify their current wants, needs, and expectations.
  • Retention. Include a retention component in your plan because as the economy opens up, you are likely to experience as much as 50% increase in employee turnover as a result of your competitor’s expanded recruiting efforts. This means that you need to identify the specific employees that are most “at risk” of leaving. Then you must develop both a retention and a “blocking” strategy to directly counter your competitor’s recruiting and branding efforts.
  • Rebuild your brand. There is no more powerful recruiting tool than building your external employer brand image. Under this plan, your branding efforts should be an ongoing process that “virally” spreads your message by having your managers and your best employees talk about the aspects that make your firm a great place to work. Develop plans to spread your message on the Internet, as well as at professional conferences and in the media.
  • Re-energize your referral program. There is no more effective way of rapidly ramping up your recruiting capability than by convincing your employees to become 24/7 “talent scouts” as part of your employee referral program. The best referral programs focus on proactively seeking out top performers for referrals and on educating their employees on how and where to identify the best. The best also change the focus away from monetary rewards and toward reinforcing your employee’s critical role in helping to “build the team,” so that both they and their colleagues have a continuous opportunity to work alongside the very best.
  • Build a talent pool. After branding and referrals, the next most powerful tool for preparing for an upturn is to build a talent pool for key positions. This means pre-identifying potential applicants and building relationships with them, so that when a position opens up, you already have a list of names of individuals that are both qualified and interested in your firm.
  • Your recruiters and tools. Develop the capability of rapidly increasing the number of recruiters you have available. This element of the plan might include options for utilizing contract recruiters, outsourcing options, the use of agencies, and finally, by getting other HR professionals within your firm to contribute a few hours per week to the recruiting effort. In addition, the plans should be “scalable” to meet the different levels of recruiting volume that you might face. You will also need to “up-skill” your recruiters, so that they know how to utilize the many emerging Web 2.0 and marketing based recruiting tools. You might also need to plan for “new” positions within the recruiting function, including experts in building talent communities, metrics/analytics, employer branding, social networking, and mobile phone recruiting.
  • Recruiting territory. The current mobility of the U.S. population is the lowest that it has been in 60 years. As the turnaround begins, more individuals will be willing and able to physically move to get a great job. As a result, your plan should expand the geographic scope of your recruiting beyond what is currently feasible.
  • Budget and resources. There is a significant time lag between when recruiting has to dramatically increase its capabilities and the point in time where the CFO gets around to fully funding those recruiting activities. So include numerous cheap and no-cost options for branding, sourcing,screening, and making convincing offers. Part of the plan should include leveraging other people’s time, so that your firm’s employees and managers can initially pick up some of the recruiting load (i.e., employer referrals, social networking, recruiting at professional events, and boomerang hires).

Final Thoughts

The current lull in recruiting activity is a great opportunity to develop an “explode out of the box” recruiting plan that gives you the capability to ramp-up recruiting from nearly zero to extremely high levels almost overnight. It’s inevitable that you will need this type of plan, so the only remaining question is when is the best time to develop it?

In my experience, if you wait until the day when requisitions begin to be unfrozen, it will be too late to do an adequate job. Also, don’t wait until you have sufficient budget resources to hire a consultant to help you; just having a plan will build you instant credibility within HR and among senior managers. If you develop a really effective plan, you will actually prevent a great deal of stress on both yourself and your recruiting team because you will be well prepared for any problems that might occur during the turnaround.

I’ve outlined the key elements that you need to include in the plan, so the next step is up to you. The time to act is now!

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.

Check Also

The “No Application Required” Recruiting Strategy (Providing employed top talent with “job search deniability”)

Top employees are reluctant to apply for external jobs because it makes them appear disloyal. …