“Smart people learn from their mistakes. But the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes of others.” – Brandon Mull, Fablehaven
How paradoxical it is then, that most organizations prefer to cock a snook at those who stumble and think it will never happen to them. And then it does.
The basic problem is that we all think we are impervious to adversity or setbacks so unless we make our own mistakes (and subsequently learn from them), we assume ourselves to be amazingly insulated against such events. The same pattern seems to have emerged in Recruitment practices in use in recent years.
Companies invest millions on branding and billions in engaging good Recruitment agencies that help them in addressing their current needs of staying competitive in the market. But does outsourcing talent hiring mean that firms no longer have any responsibility towards talent strategy anymore? Of course, not. But apparently, that’s what a lot of companies actually think, and that’s where the chasm of dissonance between talent market realities and employer expectations starts building
Here is what I tell our clients when they are faced with acquisition challenges that don’t seem to go away- that one must know about the inner workings of the hiring process in their entirety. Knowing the ground realities of talent acquisition is far more important than following theoretical hiring principles blindly. The secret of success in recruitment is to follow the mantra of “Common Sense”.
Talent Acquisition function has gone through multiple cycles of fine-tuning and has transformed globally because organizations have started laying emphasis on basic recruitment metrics. Not surprisingly, the ‘source of hiring’ has come out as the most important parameter for effective hiring, along with ‘candidate experience’, ‘cost per hire’ and offer acceptance ratio’ coming in close behind.
It is time for the recruitment function across industries to “aim for moon” and develop an ambitious strategy that revolves around candidate value proposition, talent pooling, leveraging basic hiring sources, focus on high end metrics and improving overall productivity. This calls for a by structured approach we call the Rule of 5 W’s (Who, When, What, Why & Where). Organizations need to infuse a high level of maturity in running their Talent Acquisition function by implementing following 5W’s
- Who: Do we really understand what the problem is? First & foremost, we need to acknowledge the importance of “The Individuals” who are involved in the process i.e. recruiter, hiring manager and the candidate. Take the example of a circus. The clowns, acrobats, tightrope walkers, ringmaster, trapeze artists, animal handlers etc. each have highly specific and skill-based roles that only they can perform best, that are far more important than, say, the trained animals or the circus props. Imagine, if a circus were to start hiring their staff with just an interview without any auditions; chances are that the circus would suffer immense losses because instead of evaluating the qualifications and experience of the candidates, they chose to hurriedly fill in the vacancies, because there is never enough talent available in the circus world.
Similarly, a common grouse of most firms is the dearth of quality talent. But is that the real problem or are these companies missing something? The main problem in recruiting is that everyone focuses on the candidates (prospective hires) and not enough on the recruiters. Are the recruiters qualified to identify the right candidate for you? Have you equipped them with the ammunition they need to go all guns blazing to cull out the perfect person for the job? A large number of companies hire recruiters based only on one or two interviews which do not probe their understanding of how recruitment needs to be handled. Such kind of recruiters bring in a lot of intuitive decision making and hence, ‘gut feel’ hiring decisions get taken with poor or no scientific reasoning.
Common sense is to hire recruiters who understand the industry and the relevant talent pools, are able to deliver on, market mapping assignments and can analyse the employer value proposition. Reskilling of existing recruiters also makes a lot of sense; they should clear technical /function domain test or certification programs like LinkedIn Certified Professional—Recruiter or Certified Recruitment Analyst by Carlton etc. to stay ahead in the talent race. Once organizations fix this problem, they will automatically start getting better quality of hires, quicker turnaround time and moreover, this strategy will help hiring managers to focus on their core job.
- Where – These days, the bigger question is where will organizations find the right talent? Take the example of still photography. Gone are the days when we would go to a photo shop to develop our camera reels and wait for the photos to be printed out. Ten years back, I surely would not have fathomed the near extinction of the neighbourhood photo shops because no one clicks pictures on their still cameras any more. A majority of such businesses died because they didn’t plan for the future or expect it to change so much. Had these photography shops invested in digital equipment and hired the right/qualified technicians to run it, they wouldn’t have slowly gone into oblivion. There are many studies that state that the talent crunch is only going to get worse in next 3-4 years. Even though the number of jobs will shrink, there will still be a huge shortfall of relevant people. The job boards are nearing saturation and so are the other conventional job searching platforms. Everybody is talking about social or professional media and everyone is on websites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ etc. However, the challenge remains-, where to find the talent?
The answer is again common sense. Organizations must look for skillset diversity and think beyond numbers to beat experience or academic credentials. New mothers (with relevant work experience) who are looking for flexi-jobs or retired professionals who would love to work on consulting projects are examples of such alternate but relevant talent pools. This will not only reduce the cost of hiring but allow a larger section of employable candidates to be integrated in mainstream positions, thus reducing the talent crunch. The sooner organizations realize the effectiveness of this strategy and start investing in it they earlier they can avoid talent issues in the future.
Artificial intelligence can also be a huge help in finding talent through different data-driven technologies, crawlers, online technical or behavioural assessments, algorithms, social behaviour (types of online games played, interest etc.). AI-backed solutions like PeopleStrong’s Alt Recruit have a unique feature called, Auto match, which allows a multi-channel reach. This feature not only allows recruiters to access candidate pools from three different kinds of meta sources— covering both active and passive candidates for any particular profile— but also suggests the best matches for the recruiter to decide from. In next couple of years, the candidate profiling on the above parameters will start happening from high school onwards and Artificial intelligence may start keeping a track of relevant applicants real time.
- Why – Why should – or would- a candidate join any organization? Why is candidate’s experience important? Why are motivation factors of the workforce today different from those who joined a decade back?
Employee Value Proposition (EVP), an unheard-of concept maybe 30 years ago is probably the keystone of any Talent Acquisition Strategy today. The traditional practices of attracting prospective hires using careers websites are not effective any more. Talent Acquisition teams must think like a sales team and create the right sales pitch to attract candidates. The easiest way is to showcase company vision, its goals, financial stability, cultural alignment and policies on exploring personal interests. They can use interesting hooks like gamification and other interactive methodologies on their website or social media to attract and engage candidates. EVP can become more meaningful if it is also experienced by employees internally which will help in getting more referrals. The eventual aim of organizations should be to integrate all these elements so effectively that they become a part of the recruiter’s DNA. In today’s age, recruiters play an important role in employer branding and attracting candidates by sharing regular updates on social media.
User Experience is the key for success whether it is a product, service or a candidate. It is the easiest form of indirect marketing for any organization. Whether it’s a fresher or a lateral candidate, s/he wants to know everything about the company and expects regular updates even if his/her profile is not shortlisted. But in approximately 90% of the cases, recruiters do not provide feedback and close the loop with the candidates.
Recruitment teams should design the entire process keeping the candidate in mind. There should be transparency in understanding the complete hiring process well in advance like the number of interviews required, assignments, test or personality assessments to be conducted, tentative time/days to complete the entire process etc. Most importantly, as basic courtesy and a necessary protocol, the recruiter must update candidates on time whether s/he has been shortlisted or not.
- When: ‘Just-in-time hiring’ and ‘Bench hiring’ are two approaches in the recruitment space that have been effective to some extent in the past. But, enterprises the world over have not been able to figure any new breakthrough solutions for the hiring challenges of today. Lead time in hiring is impacting organizations in terms of revenue leakage. One of the easiest ways to reduce hiring time is to adopt a technology-based recruiting process. The future of recruitment is 100% automation! When a candidate gets hired without any manual intervention is the day that Talent Acquisition would have reached a different orbit. Everyone may have to go through pre-defined online tests and behavioural assessment. The level of questions could change with every response and the role of a candidate may get decided based on their score.
- What: Companies have realized that the basic composition of manpower has changed so drastically that the 4 W’s (Who, When, Where & Why) have become even more crucial both internally as well as externally. At the same time, organizations are asking, “What are the various things we can do to focus on our core businesses instead of spending time on Recruitment or HR?”
This is one of the reasons why Recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) organizations like PeopleStrong, Cielo, Allegis etc. are growing faster; because they bring lot of value on the table. Technology is helping organizations perform well on recruitment metrics and make the hiring teams look good. Things like cost per hire, lead time to hire, conversion rate, sourcing channel efficacy etc are analytics available to the recruiters on their fingertips, thus making it very easy for them to take the next steps very quickly. Chatbots are the next big thing that are already managing basic activities right from interview scheduling to sharing feedback with the candidates. These have become such an integral part of the life that HR products like Workday, PeopleStrong Alt, and Successfactor etc. are taking over the market.
When it comes to fighting for the best talent, organizations which have realized that drawing in the entire HR value chain (right from creating a talent pool, monitoring the metrics) to focus on readiness (employee, project, timeline & cost) are doing much better than their contemporaries.
The thumb rule of the game is to focus on maturing basic practices before adding any game changer initiatives. Talent Acquisition is a combination of giving the right sales pitch to the candidate, intuitive decision making on the cultural alignment and Algorithms to find a suitable candidate for a role. Artificial intelligence or machine learning provides only an additional layer of rich data and inferences to empower the recruiters in improving productivity and generating more predictive analysis. It won’t be able to completely remove the human element or personal touch.
So, it’s all about ‘breaking the rules’ and thinking two steps ahead to get closer to understanding the ongoing and future talent challenges to stay ahead in the game.