THE TECHNACIOUS RECRUITER NEWSLETTER

October 27, 2005   view past issues

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Feature: Don’t Be Production Wise, But Performance Foolish

An article entitled “Growing Talent as if Your Business Depended on It” recently appeared in Harvard Business Review. Its focus was on workforce development within the enterprise at large, but its message was especially applicable to corporate recruiting functions and staffing firms. Why? Well, to put it in the starkest possible terms, recruiting organizations are so focused on today’s production-meeting the requirements of the moment-that they sometimes lose sight of the need to prepare recruiters so they can deliver the performance necessary to achieve that production and, no less important, sustain it.

The article suggests that this approach is fraught with danger. It made two key points:

  • You should train your employees as if your business (or the business of your function) depends on it, because it does. A skilled workforce is a precondition to the success of everything your unit does-its strategic planning, use of technology, operational effectiveness, productivity, and ultimately, its leadership.
  • Training is most effective and has the greatest impact on employee performance when it is integrated into the culture of the organization. It must be embedded in every workplace activity and every individual’s core responsibilities. In short, it must be an essential element of the organization’s mission.
  • How do those guidelines apply to recruiting organizations? First, I think it’s important to realize that a labor shortage market-and that’s precisely what the War for the Best Talent is-demands a wide range of skills that are not innate, but must instead be acquired. These skills are much more complex than the mechanical variety that are typically provided to organizational recruiters (e.g., how to use the applicant tracking system, how to search the resume database). They include (but are not limited to):

  • Sourcing passive prospects who are not looking for a job and are protective of their personal privacy;
  • Candidate relationship management with individuals who have many choices in the labor market and high expectations of employers;
  • Evaluating prospects and selecting the one who can best perform a job while fitting into an organization’s culture;
  • Customer relationship management with hiring managers who are often inarticulate and less than fully engaged in the search for talent; and
  • Marketing and selling to reluctant prospects who are well compensated and managed by their current employer.
  • These are the skills that enable sustained, superior recruiter performance in today’s labor market, and they are skills that must, first, be learned and, then, continuously honed.

    Second, given the significant time and effort required to develop genuine competency in such skills, I think the article’s guidelines should also shape the way we select, employ, and compensate our recruiters. Here’s what I mean.

    Select recruiters with a track record of personal development. Look for those with a resume that shows they are continuous learners. Over the course of their career, they either worked for employers that enabled them to acquire a strong set of skills and/or they took the initiative to do so themselves.

    Create the expectation of development within the scope of every recruiter’s job. Make participation in training programs (through in-house courses, professional conferences and/or commercial programs) a part of every recruiter’s job description. Then, use the performance appraisal process to evaluate their performance against that expectation.

    Walk what you have written. Back up the expectation for training that you create in individual position descriptions with the allocation of time and financial support necessary to implement it. If training is the key to business success than it’s also a part of the business day, not something that’s relegated to weekends and evenings.

    Model the right leadership behaviors. Make sure supervisors don’t penalize workers for participating in training. Indeed, leaders should demonstrate their commitment to training by helping to identify the skills that will best serve the organization and then participating, themselves, in whatever training programs are devised to provide those skills.

    Reward the right behaviors. Compensate recruiters and leaders for meeting the training expectations codified in their position descriptions. In addition, celebrate their completion of training programs and acquisition of skills by recognizing them on your organization’s intranet or through internal communications.

    Create a learning culture. Wherever possible, tap employees to serve as trainers and deliver skills to coworkers. This approach enables the organization to recognize employees who are “exemplars of excellence” and to transfer skills that have proven to be effective within its culture and marketplace.

    It’s easy to forget or postpone training in the hurly-burly of day-to-day recruiting requirements. That laser-like focus on near term production, however, has two negative consequences: first, it assumes optimal performance in the near term by recruiters who may (and often do) lack the skills necessary to meet those requirements; and second, it undermines the preparation of recruiters for mid-to-longer term requirements that will only be more demanding and difficult in the War for the Best Talent. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, it sets an organization up to be “production wise, but performance foolish.”

    Thanks for reading,

    Peter

    P.S. Please tell your friends and colleagues about WEDDLE’s newsletter. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness and benefit from your recommendation.


    This Issue’s Sponsor: ZoomInfo

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of ZoomInfo.

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    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Accenture announced the results of its latest survey of what’s keeping CEOs up at night. Guess what was the #1 response: that’s right, “attracting and retaining skilled staff.” As this is about the one millionth time I’ve heard such a finding, perhaps we should take this occasion to answer back. What follows, then, is a brief e-mail message you can send to your CEO to help them solve this problem that is so disruptive to their getting a good night’s sleep.

    Dear Boss: Thanks for recognizing the importance of “attracting and retaining skilled talent.” As you may know, that’s what we do in the HR Department. However, lately we’ve been having a tough time getting those busy managers and supervisors who work for you to pay attention. So, here are a couple of suggestions that may help align their actions with your views: (a) include metrics for recruiting and retention performance in the performance appraisals of anyone who supervises more than themselves on-the-job; (b) give the metrics teeth by making them a key factor in the incentive portion of each leader’s annual compensation plan; (c) increase the budget of the HR Department so that it can provide the support that managers and supervisors will need to meet their requirements; and, oh yes, (d) walk the talk by modeling the recruiting and retention behaviors you expect of the rest of the leadership team. Respectfully, [Insert your name or the name of your colleague, I. B. Anonymous].

    Booz Allen released a study of organizational personality types. Its principal finding was this: those organizations that are “passive-aggressive” are less likely than firms that are “resilient” to be above average in profitability for their industry. While 51% of the employees in resilient companies said their employer was more profitable than average, just 28% of those in passive-aggressive companies said so. A passive-aggressive organization is characterized by employees who don’t know who is responsible for making specific decisions and who believe that no decision is ever final, but can and frequently will be reversed. What’s makes that passive aggressive? Basically, these attributes describe a cultural norm in which employees go into a decision-making meeting and agree with the outcome, but do not feel bound by the decision once everyone leaves the room. As a consequence, the organization implements plans and strategies in fits and starts, and rarely achieves any forward momentum. What would a therapist tell an organization suffering from this passive-aggressive syndrome? The root cause of this problem is not the employees; they’re simply the symptom. What’s driving this dysfunctional behavior is a recurring nightmare; I call it “leadersleep.”

    Find-a-Human provides much needed help for those who want to find a way around the automated voice response systems installed by a large and growing number of organizations. How would recruiters use it? Say, you’re trying to contact a prospect within an employer, but can’t find a human to connect you. This site may have the solution. For example, if you want to talk to a potential candidate at Apple, dial its toll free number (800.275.2273); then, when the automated system starts up, hit zero three times and say operator. Next thing you know, you’ll be talking to a human. The site lists the secrets for bypassing telephone systems and reaching humans at banks and financial institutions, hardware and software companies, as well as companies in such fields as insurance, pharmaceutical products and retail.

    Randstad released the results of its recent survey of U.S. workers’ attitude toward their employers. As with other, similar studies, it found morale down by a significant degree. Among employees, the percentage that rated morale among their coworkers as good to excellent fell from 44% in 2004 to 40% this year. Among employers, the drop was even more precipitous; the percentage of organizations that rated employee morale as good to excellent fell from 70% a year ago to just 55% this year. Randstad also suggested a number of strategies with which HR could address this pandemic of evaporating esprit; number one of its list was leadership. But what is HR leadership? As I suggest in my book Generalship: HR Leadership in a Time of War, it is leadership that is rooted in character. I call it “inside-out leadership” because it begins with the personal attributes of the leader; these attributes are personal qualities (e.g., courage, resilience) that everyone has, but which most of us never use, either because we don’t have a reason or permission to do so. The HR leader, however, uses their personal attributes to influence the course of events outside themselves by empowering and supporting the expression of those very same attributes among their coworkers. In other words, the most successful HR leaders encourage every member of their staff to see themselves as a leader and enable them to act on that vision. Do that-provide a re-imagination of roles so that everyone can make a difference with the best of who they are-and the morale necessary to implement that vision will follow.


    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. You’re looking for a seasoned corporate communications manager to improve the information flow to your company’s employees. Which of the following sites would clearly convey your employer’s value proposition to top prospects?

  • Communications Roundtable (roundtable.org)
  • CorporateComm.com
  • PRWeek.com
  • VarietyCareers.com
  • 2. Your municipal health clinic needs another physical therapist. Which of the following sites would strengthen your search for candidates?

  • PhysicalTherapist.com
  • TherapyJobs.com
  • RehabEdge.com
  • PTPeople.com
  • 3. Your biotechnology company needs another lab tech right away. Which of the following sites would likely provide your search with just the right formula for success?

  • ScienceJobs.com
  • WhereTechsConnect.com
  • HealtheCareers.com
  • HealthJobsUSA.com
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Guides and Directories

    Job Postings for Benefits, Compensation & Human Resources

    http://www.ifebp.org/jobs

    International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – Part time

    Distribution of jobs: International-USA & Canada

    Fee to post a job: $185/posting

    Posting period: 60 days

    Can posting be linked to your site: Yes

    Resume database: Yes

    Number of resumes: 100

    Source of resumes: Direct from individuals

    Top occupations among resumes: Benefits, Compensation, Human Resources

    Other services for employers: Listserv/discussion forum for networking

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. All but CorporateComm.com, the site of a “digital marketing agency.”

    2. All but PTPeople.com, the site of a consulting company called Performance Through People.

    3. All but WhereTechsConnect.com, a job board for veterinary techs and other staff.


    Support Our Sponsor: ZoomInfo

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of ZoomInfo.

    Too many job reqs…too little time?

    Reduce sourcing time by 80%. Expand your outreach. Hire the best.

    Try our people search engine to find the superstars you need. ZoomInfo gets you in front of the best, so you can do what you do best…recruit them!

  • Fastest, easiest way to source: Get contact information and data on more than 26 million mid- to executive-level business people and 2 million public and private companies.
  • Most comprehensive candidate information: Summarized from millions of Web sources to include titles, work history, education, associations and affiliations.
  • Search by keyword, filter by date, export into Excel.
  • TRY ZOOMINFO TODAY