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The trouble with talent acquisition...

In what is now appearing to be some strikingly appropriate branding on my part my website is reflecting me and my life. I’m on a pendolino (sorry geeks didn’t look for or get the number) heading south. It’s unusually empty due to the short working week and I am starting to feel I should have joined those that have stayed at home. Still coffee on the go, laptop fired up, you me and the trouble with talent acquisition… This is a very ‘recruitment’ post.

Unlike many of my others.

However because of that there is always the danger that I fail to deliver a new message, or think of something different to say that hasn’t already been said before. Many of us hate the industry we are in (not necessarily the job that we do) and have found it easy to criticise recruitment consultants and their shark like behaviours.

But what about the ‘other’ side?

I am lucky, partly by design partly through past experience in that I find it comfortable to work both sides of the divide. That one day I am recruiting directly for a client the next I can be working on a talent acquisition delivery strategy for a large corporate, absorbing their corporate identity for a few weeks or months.

I have always believed that this capability is a blessing, in reality it is a curse as I see the flaws in both camps. External recruitment agencies may have the poor reputations, the shoddy approach to candidate management and client engagement chasing a commission but is the client talent acquisition function that much better or is all we have done is take away the commission element to front line recruiters salaries?

My work is predominately in the IT sector, currently working as an interim for a global software organisation but previously I have delivered front line Talent Acquisition, Strategy and retained search services to global and European based organisations. Being the IT sector they all love technology although being the IT sector many have poorly integrated systems that fail to deliver effect services to front line recruiters. This focus on the technology is changing how the Talent Acquisition function operates. The focus is on KPI’s, the speed to hire, delivery of contact schedules ensuring that every candidate is contacted rather than a focus on the message they receive. Large organisations are beginning to think that the speed of the transaction and that all the boxes are ticked is actually recruiting? That tracking everything will deliver motivated, engaged candidates. Don’t get me wrong in many cases is does but that is in spite of the applicant tracking system not because of it.

I have used the word. Transaction.

For that is what it has become on the client side of the fence. How many of us have criticised external agencies for that focus on transaction, for failing to engage with the candidate market, looking for long term engagement rather than short term result? We are doing the same thing. A transactional focus that has commoditised our engagement with candidates, making us all look for a perfect round peg for our perfect round hole rather than thinking longer term.

The Talent Acquisition organisation of any business is being forced to reduce hiring costs. This is no bad thing. Using external agencies at 30% of salary or whatever you are paying is fine for those difficult to fill roles or the role you fill once in a blue moon but cannot and should not be sustained in the long term. But whilst the corporate approach does reduce overall costs it misses out on measurement of opportunity cost due to poor candidate engagement or the employment brand damage caused by an applicant tracking system on interested in the here and now rather than building a sustainable relationship based engagement with candidates they need today and in the future.

Large corporates are filled with great talent acquisition teams. They are motivated and capable but if they are hidden behind technology they will fail. They need to be let of the lead a little, courageed to think outside of the tick boxes, reports and REQ closure schedule.

Good recruitment is all about the relationship, not the technology, not the transaction.

This is not a revolutionary statement. I know that, you know that. But good recruiters have become good recruiters through the power of picking up the phone, engaging with candidates, qualifying hard and building a long term relationship. The good thing about an external agency chasing the fee is that they can often think of a candidate as a succession of fees every 2 to 3 years. Imagine if talent acquisition could think or be allowed to think in the same terms, delivering on real succession planning.

I am a bit of an eeyore when it comes to my views on recruitment so whilst it is sounds a bit doomy and gloomy it can be fixed. Let recruiters recruit, make intellectual decisions, engage with their hiring managers and stop them from being transactional CV sourcers. Encourage to think longer term, not just the current open REQ’s list. That the great candidate they saw today that isn’t quite right today but is right for the company is engaged. That they do have a phone call, a coffee even a postcard. Something that says I think you are a great candidate and when I have something good for you, we will both know.

I haven’t got beyond that today.

There is more to come but not sure what yet. Maybe corporates need education, understanding the difference between a recruiter and a CV sifter. That the tools should be built around the recruiter making their lives simpler, allowing them to focus on what they are best at. That technology is good but so much more than a job feed stream on twitter.

I told you all I was back in the game (I'm back in the game) I am. There is so much to do but galvanising that into something tangible is tough on my own, so engage, tell me I’m wrong, tell me I’m right. Tell me how we are going to fix it.

martin