What is Your Recruiting Strategy?
Do you have a recruiting strategy, or do you just adopt the latest fad and see if works? This probably won't work. Tactics don't determine strategy; strategy determines tactics. And when business conditions change, a company's strategy needs a corresponding change. So does the company's recruiting strategy. Some of these strategic changes are brought about by technology innovations, demographic shifts, changes in government policy, and economic cycles. Regardless of their causes, incorporating these changes and shifts into the business planning process allows companies to remain competitive.
Those that recognize and incorporate these shifts first enjoy a significant competitive advantage. Consider Microsoft in the 1980s and Google today, or Western Union (telegraph) in the 1850s, as examples of how to adapt to these big changes properly. Now consider GE which figured it out for 100 years, but blew it in the last 10.
Over the past 10 years I've been predicting recruiting industry trends based on similar technology, political, economic, and demographic shifts. In many cases I was spot on; in others, off by a year or two; and in very few, dead wrong. With this as a backdrop, here are my latest predictions on what you need to get ready for the next war for talent:
- Demise of the major job boards. I've been predicting this for 10 years. It just makes no sense to me why a good person with multiple opportunities is willing to spend the time to find and apply to a boring job that is just like every other job. Of course, what I missed were the aggregators acting as intermediaries to make the job boards more efficient and the growth of niche job boards. However, my prediction is that the big job boards will further diminish in importance over the next few years in parallel with the economic recovery, except for companies who have a high volume of jobs to fill.
- The adoption of consumer marketing principles to recruiting. I started discussing this trend in the mid-90s right after the job boards became a major sourcing tool. In consumer marketing it's obvious that those companies that had more creative ads that were positioned to be found had better results. The search engine marketing and optimization piece of this was the driving force behind the rise of Yahoo! and Google Search. In the early 2000s a few brave companies started adopting these same consumer marketing concepts for recruiting, but it took 3-4 years after they were proven out in the consumer world before they were generally accepted by HR/recruiting. Around 2006, recruitment advertising was only 1-2 years behind its consumer marketing cousin; and today, with the most progressive companies, it's even. Based on this trend, it's not too far-fetched to predict that the majority of companies will be adopting these consumer marketing principles without any lag time. The most progressive will be adopting them in beta.
- The rise of the "ERP-pipeline-CRM-talent hub" sourcing model. With the rise of Web 2.0, social media, blogs, Twitter, and LinkedIn, it's pretty obvious that finding the names of potential candidates will have little value, but nurturing them and having them follow you will have tremendous value. This is why building a pipeline of prospects kept warm by robust CRM systems will be critical. It's also obvious that your best employees have heard of, or personally know, the best people in your industry and in their field of expertise. Tapping into this direct and indirect network through a far-reaching and progressive employee referral program will be a critical component of tomorrow's ERP programs. Replacing individual postings will be search engine optimized talent hubs, where candidates can search for jobs by class and company (e.g., all Flash developers at Google). These are company- and job-specific niche boards that will replace the need for aggregators and all public boards. At these sites prospects can submit resumes, be funneled to specific openings, or just be followers.
- Time of possession will become the dominant recruiting metric for hiring top people. Getting the names of great people is now simple, but getting them first isn't. The sourcing sweet spot of the near future will be to get these people to call you on the first day they decide to get serious about considering a new career opportunity. You can see where you stand on this measure by starting to ask the best people you come across how long they've been looking. If it's not on the first day, worry. Then start tracking it. Of course, you need to add this objective to your recruiting strategy and then figure out how to pull it off. It's pretty obvious that those candidates found on day one are of higher quality than those found after they've been looking 2-3 weeks. (Note: good recruiting agencies are already doing this.)
- Increased focus on top performers vs. the masses. A basic principle of consumer marketing is to identify an ideal target customer and develop messages that meet their motivating needs. They then need to be pushed to them through the best media channels, like TV, radio, blogs, Facebook, etc., to drive the highest response rate. Up until the recent past, most recruitment advertising has been targeted to attract average performers (consider your boring job descriptions) and pushed to where the best rarely go (the big job boards). Building an ideal candidate persona is the first step in determining the messages and the appropriate media. This profile examines the prospective candidate from multiple perspectives identifying job hunting patterns, their decision criteria, networking and social connections, motivators, and short- and long-term career needs, to name the most obvious. For example, the best CPAs will soon want to be involved in the conversion of U.S. GAAP accounting to international standards, and the best electrical engineers want to work on developing new ways to create a secure smart grid.
- The rise and fall of Twitter will be offset by the increasing importance of the corporate recruiter, employer branding, and job linking. In a sea of sameness and info overload, the brand will become king again. Twitter will become useless unless a loyal group of followers is developed and maintained. The dominant reason top people accept offers is the opportunity to learn something, make an impact, and grow. An employer brand can establish this overarching message. Linking the corporate vision and strategy to each class of job through the talent hub can increase the number of prospects and followers as long as the tweets and emails enhance the story. However, the corporate recruiter will become the critical cog in this system – just as the sales rep is in any other complex buying process. If corporate recruiters are just doing data updates, box checking, and admin, the possibilities offered by consumer-based Web 2.0 marketing will fail to launch.
- There will be no silver bullet. For the past 10 years, many corporate recruiting leaders have based their strategies on becoming early adopters of the latest fad. This actually is not a bad way to go, as long as you're first, and are willing to change horses once diminishing returns set in. While this will still work, there won't be any overarching new technology that solves everyone's needs, since once everyone has it, the best you can get are average results. A sourcing strategy needs to be built upon a strong integrated technology platform flexible enough to handle the latest cool stuff.
- Hiring will become a business process. Actually, I'm not too sure of this one. But it seems odd that with hiring top talent such an important issue, most company execs and HR leaders don't really do too much to ensure it's done properly. Of course, they'll sometimes train their managers in an interviewing process they don't use and they'll give the recruiting department some extra resources when hiring spikes. However, this is not a strategy; this is a tactical reaction to a change in business conditions. Despite this typical response, some companies actually have implemented an end-to-end integrated process for hiring top performers with startling results. This covers how jobs are defined (clarifying performance expectations), the implementation of consumer marketing-based sourcing programs, the use of an evidenced-based interviewing process, all tied together by a solution-based sales system for recruiting. This is the process described in my book, Hire With Your Head.
The most important of these predictions is the idea that hiring must become a business process if you want to hire top people on a continuous basis. However, to pull this off you must recognize that there will be no silver bullets or short-term panaceas. The silver bullets do work in the short term, so making the use of these as a component of a recruiting strategy if it's tied to the overarching idea of doing everything described here. While these are predictions of where the industry is going, they're really not predictions at all, since many companies are now doing most of these things already, and successfully. The key here is not to get caught in the trap of tactics driving strategy. This is a fool's game that can't be won.