Sunday, August 11, 2013



Recently at a certain employer, let's call it the Department of Inertia (DOI), a mandate was passed down from on high to "do more recruiting."  The ensuing chaos that ensued, from HR to line manager, is worth discussing.

First, some background.  DOI had historically generally used the "post and pray" approach to recruiting.  Meaning they put job ads on their careers page and assumed (hoped?) that qualified candidates would come running.

In general there was very little formal establishment of relationships with schools or professional groups.  Branding was minimal and uniform.  Unique attractants weren't highlighted.  Advertisements were about as exciting as reruns of Gilligan's Island.  Wait, less exciting than that, Gilligan had a rockin' hat.

If a bad candidate pool resulted, the assumption was bad timing.

One day, the Executive Office passed down a mandate that all recruitments must henceforth include...ya know... recruiting.  Specifically a "recruitment plan."  (I know, earth-shattering, right?)

Here's what happened after that, not necessarily in this order:

- Program shared services staff freaked out.  What's a recruitment plan?  What does that mean?  Can we see one? Can you make one for us?

- Line supervisors freaked out.  What's this about recruiting?  Aren't we already advertising?  Who can do that for me?

- HR was deluged with calls seeking clarification. Since no clear instruction had been given, they scrambled to provide consultation.

- The one half-time recruiter in HR (budget cuts, ya know) quickly became overwhelmed.  Because most of the other analysts were transactional or focused on performance management, recruitment expertise was lacking.  (Don't even get me started about resource balancing between selection and discipline)

- Slowly, ever so slowly, a strategy coalesced to provide short- and long-term advice to programs on how to best recruit, particularly for hard-to-fill positions.  Discussions, long overdue, about things like LinkedIn, craigslist, and Dice, were had.

- Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and, much to everyone's shock, the world did not end.


- Recruiting never dies*.  I don't care if there's a depression and the unemployment rate is 20%.  Branding is always important.  Attractive but accurate job ads are always important.  Your careers page is always important.

- HR consultants should have recruiting as a core competency.  If your customer gets you on the phone, you should be able to speak half-intelligently about LinkedIn.

- Times change.  One year the focus may be budget cutbacks, but the next things may turn around and suddenly you're hiring again.  HR and shared services providers need to be flexible and agile, and not assume the future will look like the present.  In fact, absent a time machine, I can pretty much guarantee you it won't.

- Supervisors should have to demonstrate they've given recruiting half a second of thought.  I don't care if they think they know who they want.  Ingrain high-quality recruiting and assessing into your organizational culture and hold people accountable for ensuring it.

- Recruitment should be a core focus of any executive office.  Talent is the one thing standing between you and sustainable success.  To the extent that you care about your organization succeeding.

- Negative is stronger than positive.  Left to their own devices, hiring supervisors naturally gravitate toward avoiding poor performers rather than attracting great ones.  HR plays a key role in sustaining the focus on finding the diamonds in the rough.

- If you're going to mandate "more recruitment", give folks a little direction on what you mean, how success will be measured, and when you expect results.

Those of you in HR leadership positions know that not overreacting and keeping a cool head are key competencies for success as a manager.  Sudden changes in the direction of organizational HR practices are no exception.  It may hit a little closer to home, but that makes your calm and logical approach all that much more important.  Rise to the occasion.

* This may have made a better title for this post.  Although I almost went with recruitapocalypse, which now sounds like a dinosaur.