“Heavy requisition loads, side projects, competing priorities--the talent acquisition function of an organization can be pulled in so many directions, it is easy to fall back into a transactional process. This includes snapping resumes together with a job description and shooting an email to a hiring manager with something as profound as ‘Whaddyathink?’” says Bill McCabe, National Manager, Talent Acquisition, Polyglass USA, Inc.
As a recruiter, talent acquisition leader or chief HR officer, it falls back on us to refocus and establish, or return to, a relationship with the functions we support in a consultative, value-added way, continues McCabe. This starts with the relationship between the talent acquisition function and the executive leadership team in your organization.
Following are seven specific building blocks McCabe suggests implementing to help your recruiting team engage in a strategic partnership with executive leadership.
To Distinguish Yourself, Learn the Executive Leader’s Corner of the World
Launch the partnering initiative with reconnaissance. Show up to the executive conversation informed. It is crucial to evolve a strong baseline knowledge (skills/success factors) of dozens of job families, roles, industries and disciplines, says McCabe. While learning this for each role within every department requires heavy lifting, the payoff is substantial, including added credibility with the executive leaders versus a weakening reputation by showing up ill-informed.
Differentiate yourself from peers through deep-dive needs assessment. Regularly meet with the executive leader to strengthen your understanding of the group’s goals; issues keeping the leader up at night; current team talent--their position on the nine box and why; past hiring misfires and the causes, etc. Attend departmental meetings, shadow team members, review current projects scope, ride-along with field staff and tour a production facility.
Ask questions and soak in learnings that will guide your recruitment effort. The invested effort won’t go unnoticed, assures McCabe.
Position Yourself as a Go-to Contact Among Industry Talent
Take recon to a more macro level by demonstrating knowledge of the industry in which your organization plays. This includes knowing the competitors, trends, leaders and followers, the overall ‘economic’ health of your industry, merger and acquisition activity and more.
For example, to support business development functions, establish relationships with sales, marketing and product management talent in your market. Doing so can position you as the go-to person for career opportunities. Introducing this talent to the executive leaders (and having them also assist with attracting and engaging your industry’s all-stars) is a great way to really plant your flag with executive leadership in your organization, continues McCabe.
Source tools like Glassdoor to benchmark your hiring metrics and candidate feedback against other companies and competitors. Endeavor to elevate your organization within the industry by creating a best-practices reputation for interviewing in partnership with your executive leadership team.
#2: Cement Your Partnership Role Through a Quality Focus
The talent acquisition team produces human capital, and this relies on the same Six Sigma quality control systems as any product rolling out of your organization’s lines. The service that helps deliver this product needs to be top-tier as well. An intimate knowledge of talent coupled with the right strategy to attract and engage is a set of skills as valuable as any in your organization. As you coach and counsel your executive leaders using data, anecdotal input and strong business cases for change, you help cement your role as a trusted and valued partner to them.
#3: Assume the Role of Coach + Strategic Business Partner
Assume Your Seat at the Table (vs. awaiting an invitation)
As a recruiter, you are armed with unique and strategic information, such as best brand communication practices to engage with talent communities, says McCabe. This is fueled with information on varying generational needs: what they seek and value in their career.
By coaching leaders to view the recruitment process through the candidate’s lens, you not only can shatter hiring practice paradigms, but you also can illuminate similarities to corporate marketing practices. After all, your marketing leader wouldn’t replicate brand messaging to a current and loyal customer with very low spend that they also used for a prospective large-cap whale who is not yet a customer but could double your revenue practically overnight.
Educate organizational leaders, and the management team below them, of the distinctions between active candidates (actively seeking employment and applying for several roles) and passive candidates (employed, fairly happy and engaged but curious) so they will tailor their marketing approach accordingly, continues McCabe.
Be Willing to Push Back
Moreover, as a recruitment leader, be prepared to challenge an executive who interjects into the recruiting process with a flawed idea. Whether the topic is interviewing, resume review or salary negotiation, you are the expert; push back, even when it feels intimidating. The alternative is executing on a poor idea, which not only erodes your reputation but also overlooks a golden partnering opportunity.
#4: Renovate Leaderships’ Mindset Around Talent Acquisition
An extension of the third approach, this area focuses on modernizing outdated and ineffective talent strategies. The talent acquisition team must take accountability to coach and educate executives on how recent-years’ market shifts have evolved talent strategies. This education includes convincing executives to shift their mindsets in the following ways:
a) Start thinking about the long game. “Internships and rotational programs are sometimes difficult to sell because of the deferred results. Everyone wants a plug and play mega-star and to think in the ‘now,’ but in this incredibly competitive landscape, you need to pick the fruit right off the tree sometimes instead of going to the market,” asserts McCabe.
b) Value retirees: “I think the way in which corporate America handles retiring workers is to concede what they think is unavoidable; e.g., ‘They’ll retire. We’ll lose a good seasoned person. That’s the way it goes. Did everyone sign the card? Good Luck,’” McCabe says. However, recruiters can help turn this ship of thinking by understanding the value retirees can bring.
Before they exit, discuss options with them: bring them back part-time, allow them to work remotely, mentor junior members of the team, act as process improvement consultant answering only to the CEO or work in a reduced capacity (individual contributor vs. management), expands McCabe.
c) Ignite candidate relationships ahead of need. Interview an ideal candidate that approaches you, even when the position is not (yet) available. Rally the executive team to proactively support this initiative.
d) Communicate using contemporary methods. CRM-style text software allows for a slick, automated way of reaching candidates. Still emailing candidates under age 35? The reason they’re not responding is that they have an email account for the sole purpose of logging into apps and websites. Guide your leaders in this shift in thinking, and show them that there’s value in change, asserts McCabe.
Moreover, at the click of their smartphone, candidates expect to be wooed by your brand versus having to dig deep to understand your company’s value proposition. By educating executive leadership on the necessity of having a robust digital presence, you can ensure your brand doesn’t get left behind. Among the methods to achieve this are Glassdoor’s company and brand spotlights features as well as reviews capabilities, platforms to tout your organization’s unique value.
#5: Stop Sending Resumes
“I once supported an HR leader and hired about 10 director-level HR candidates,” shared McCabe. “I quickly got to a point where I was in such a rhythm with this leader that he said, ‘Stop sending resumes. If you vet them out, just line up the interview, and I’ll be there.’ THAT is when you know you’ve reached a partnership with a senior leader. This should be the goal every time. Period,” McCabe said emphatically.
#6: Don’t Let Good Be the Enemy of Great
“Yes, I realize this may seem reversed. No disrespect to Voltaire, but since recruitment is a 21st century business process and not French Enlightenment, executives sometimes need to be pushed to hire someone better – even wait for something they’ve yet to see,” urges McCabe.
Hard-pressed to meld hiring teams’ unrealistic expectations with tight time-frames, recruiters sometimes settle for a ‘merely good’ candidate. However, according to McCabe, they should avoid doing so and instead steam forward with confidence as a strategic partner that will lead the talent acquisition function to highest quality hiring destination.
#7: Give Your Opinion When It’s Not Requested
“For effective partnering with your executive leadership team, NEVER ask permission to weigh in,” asserts McCabe.
If your talent acquisition team recommends four candidates to a senior leader, list them in preferred order – even if it doesn’t jive with the executive/their manager’s candidate priorities.
“If your team sends a ‘stop what you’re doing and speak to this person in the few days they have left on the market’ candidate, advocate for that candidate. Don’t wait for the ‘green light,’” urges McCabe. Instead, calendar the candidate on the executive’s schedule and cajole a conversation, even during off hours.
Cut to the chase: When an executive is drawn to an industry referral that is ill-informed (didn’t research the company); rude (twice rescheduled calls at the last minute); and vulgar in language, then convince them to pass on the candidate.
If you are participating in a debrief meeting after a panel interview, speak first. Don’t wait for the executive to weigh in and let it alter your opinion. Be bold. Don’t be a subordinate; be a strategic business partner, says McCabe.
“Partnering isn’t acquiescence. It’s about having an equal share in the outcome,” asserts McCabe.
By educating yourself on the goals of the executive leadership team and activating a series of initiatives that build knowledge, trust and momentum, the talent acquisition team can cultivate a true partnering relationship. As a result, you will experience a mind shift from recruiting talent for your executive leaders rather than because of them, concludes McCabe.j