Keeping pace with state-of-the-art talent acquisition is simple: Work very, very hard.
By D. Zachary Misko
Let’s face it, regardless of good or bad economic times, A-level talent is hard to find.
The recent global recession has only exacerbated the situation. And while A-level talent has been riding out the labor market ice age in an office or a cubicle somewhere, technology and the Internet have been changing the game of recruitment at a dizzying pace.
Technology and the Internet have made the job of sourcing A-level talent more complex, turbulent, and inconsistent than ever before. Take the overwhelming abundance of technology and online talent resources, and compound that with major lulls in global labor markets and hiring freezes across multiple industry sectors. The result: Companies are shell-shocked.
So how are companies embracing and adapting to these game changers to recruit A-level talent? Truth be told, not very well, if at all. But that’s not to say they aren’t trying. So here’s what companies must know in order to stay relevant and keep their talent pipeline brimming.
A-level talent is already plugged into new technology. They are savvy and comfortable with using job-search resources via the web. It’s not an exception to the rule. It is the rule. These folks are occupationally mobile. What does that mean? They are the living antithesis to traditional labor concepts. And as you read this article, they are already roving the Internet, tapping colleagues and looking for new opportunities.
So how do you find and acquire them? The simple answer is: Get on the Internet. And that’ll get you as far as a slapped face and bruised pride. The true answer is deeper and messier than that. You are going to have to fully commit to plugging into technology and the Internet to source great talent. In addition to technology—people in general have changed. People want personalized experiences in their job search, faster and easier methods to apply, and constant communication throughout the process. You are going to have to build a recruitment toolbox that exploits your website, job boards, social media and networking, online print media, and other online tactics, coupled with traditional recruitment methods including print, job fairs, cold calling, networking; recruitment is not accomplished through technology alone in your quest for A-level talent.
It won’t be easy. But by engaging these new mediums and tactics to source A-level talent along with the tried and true recruiting fundamentals, you will build the visibility and credibility of your employer brand. And when you do that, the tables are turned: A-level talent comes looking for you.
Efficiency within talent acquisition coupled with improved customer satisfaction and cost savings, are also key objectives, now more than ever. Those companies looking to find ways to achieve all three must understand and evaluate “Lean methodology” and how it can be incorporated.
While the Lean movement within the back office remains nascent, its adoption by the manufacturing community has been ongoing for decades. Toyota, the global carmaker whose production system spawned the term “Lean,” leveraged this approach to grow itself into the world’s leading automobile manufacturer. The Toyota Production System (TPS) is so effective that an entire industry is now based on its study. Today, the Lean philosophy has been adopted by organizations around the globe, with thousands of trained disciples practicing its methods.
The benefits to HR have been documented. According to a study conducted by two researchers at Coventry University, Lean principles applied in a pilot project to improve candidate recruitment at the institution helped to significantly raise outcomes. Involving staff from the university’s HR recruitment team, external recruitment agencies, IT services, customers in library services, academic faculty, and student services, the project netted a 20 percent reduction in overall time to approve and fill staff positions.
More importantly, the exercise also helped HR identify noncore, ancillary activities that occupied their time, enabling HR to simplify and expedite the entire process.
What exactly, then, is the Lean philosophy, and how can it be leveraged to improve corporate recruitment?
Shop Floor to Back Office
In essence, Lean manufacturing is a philosophy in which practitioners are committed to continuous improvements using critical tools to help them identify and eliminate waste and irregularities in their processes. Although it stemmed from the automotive shop floor, its fundamental tenets can be applied to the back office also, since all organizational activities involve some degree of waste or duplication. Just as this management approach is capable of turning out a better car, recruitment practitioners can expect a more efficient and responsive process when applying this to the pursuit of candidates. Ultimately, because practicing organizations reduce waste and non-value-added activities, they also cut costs.
It all starts with Value Stream Mapping (VSM), a process in which managers examine all activities that take place to produce a product or service. As part of the Lean philosophy, tasks that do not create value for the customer are considered wasteful, so in drawing up a VSM, practitioners identify “waste” to be targeted for elimination. In recruitment, for example, an organization may duplicate efforts when a candidate slate is presented to the hiring manager. Some companies employ multiple applicant tracking systems that might require the same information to be input several times to meet customer needs, compliance requirements, for data retention, etc. This duplication clearly generates waste that adds no value to the hiring manager or the candidate. By drawing up a comprehensive VSM, Lean practitioners address all the unneeded efforts in the recruitment process. This allows team members to produce a future-state VSM free of the identified waste. Visually, it provides an organization a map to follow.
If a VSM is the roadmap for the journey, then the “Five S’s” might be considered gas for the road. These are five essential principles for operating a Lean environment and to help ensure process consistency. They are:
• Sort: separation of necessary items from unnecessary items
• Set In Order: arrange items according to how they will be used
(an enabler of efficiency);
• Shine: maintain work area for sorted and set-in-order items
(maintaining workplace hygiene);
• Standardize: ensure sort, set-in-order, and shine steps are
consistently followed (reducing process variations); and
• Sustain: maintain and improve sort, set-in-order, shine, and
standardize steps (ensuring Lean efforts are ongoing).
These five principles set the foundation on which Lean organizations execute their operational plans. Each step helps to ensure that workflow is not compromised by unanticipated problems. And when issues do arise, all team members pitch in to resolve them.
When the “Five S” concept was first developed, it was aimed at improving production flow on the manufacturing floor. However, these ideas can be applied with equal success to recruitment, where unnecessary activities slow hiring and hinder delivery of services to customers. Each of these tools facilitates waste elimination and minimizes process variation.
Let’s think about the “Five S’s” in recruitment. How do we take it from the manufacturing floor to the office? Well, the floor is your desk, where you do your work. It is a sustainable solution. The principles have been around forever, and it’s a matter of how you apply them and how you challenge yourself to continue applying these principles.
As the “Five S’s” are implemented, organizations typically assemble “kaizen” teams—stakeholders who help sustain and administer continuous improvements. Kaizen, which simply means “improvement” in Japanese, “is the practice of making changes, monitoring results, and making adjustments as needed.” Without this important component, Lean would be unsustainable.
Because of the collaborative environment it creates, Lean encourages transparency for every team member’s role, so that others can weigh in with suggestions on how to resolve a particular colleague’s difficult issues. Furthermore, individuals are highly accountable for their work, but the culture is less about blame than about problem solving. As well, it allows for best practices to be visible and, thus, shared.
Consider Lean, and learn more through a quality control organization, a Lean consultant, or your outsourcing provider. Many companies have realized Lean can be a valuable and cost-effective tool within their HR organizations.
Another option is to engage in a recruitment process outsourcing service provider with a strong Lean background capable of passing on their knowledge. This enables the hiring organization to observe Lean in practice without having to disrupt ongoing recruitment work. Using its Lean-embedded processes, such a provider can help clients to ease into the transition and eventually work in lock-step under the same Lean culture, sharing all lessons learned and a vision for a future state. When considering such a relationship, remember to ask the following about the vendor:
• How long has the provider practiced Lean in its own culture?
• How has it applied Lean to other clients to help improve their
• Does the provider have sufficient expert resources to help with
• What type of knowledge base does it offer for your use?
These and other questions will help you identify the best Lean vendors to fit your needs and who can help you successfully bring about a sustainable cultural shift in your workplace.
Candy Lewandowski, VP and global practice lead, KellyOCG, puts it this way: “As you go through the Lean journey, some things might not seem like they can make a huge impact, but over time—months or years later—that’s when you really understand the impact they have. We started using Lean in 2005 and continue to include Lean within our own practices as well as our clients. You have to have patience.”
The decision to outsource is growing in popularity, with the proportion of global firms outsourcing all or part of their HR function standing at 46 percent in 2010, up from 43 percent the previous year. Organizations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (at 56 percent) are more likely than those in the Americas (46 percent) and Asia Pacific (29 percent) to outsource HR functions. But what HR functions are global firms outsourcing?
Everything, All the Time
Yes, here’s the most frightening truth of all: In order to find A-level talent and build your employer brand, you must be engaged and active in all of these tactics and opportunities simultaneously, around the clock. And let’s be honest, if you had the time, money, resources and know-how to do this, you would already be doing it. Maybe you’ve tried some of these tactics to no avail. But chances are you need help.
Increasingly, companies of all sizes are shifting focus to outsourcing the talent acquisition function. Recognizing the need to take a more strategic approach to their role within the organization, HR professionals realize they cannot (and should not) be all things to all people. This doesn’t mean quitting or that the game is over. Outsourcing allows an organization to manage and participate where needed, while still providing maximum flexibility.
Companies also need to consider how they can best add value. The complexity of the HR landscape means that many HR professionals are becoming bogged down in transactional tasks, at the expense of more strategic priorities like acquiring A-level talent. Much of the work around hiring is largely tactical, but it is also increasingly complex and moving beyond the capacity of some HR managers. These are the types of jobs that are ripe for being outsourced.
Outsourcing some of the functionality can free time and resources for HR people to start to look at how they are meeting more important and strategic corporate goals.
Outsourcing providers should be able to demonstrate their sourcing strategy and capabilities, and provide long-term (two-plus years) client references to demonstrate their ability to sustain long term customers. If global solutions are important, seek a provider that has a global presence to ensure they can effectively adopt the global culture into your recruitment strategy. A provider that is present in all regions, has established relationships, and is visible in a large variety of markets is key.
Companies need a vendor that is plugged into understanding their industry landscape, the competencies a candidate must have to succeed in their organization, and the quickest way to beating their competitors to the best talent.