Talent Acquisition is Back!

Talent Acquisition is Back!

10.7 min read

Julia Hill-Nichols

The job market is rebounding. Are you ready? Not everyone is…. If we were to take a hypothetical conversation between a hiring manager, whom we’ll call Dave, and his boss, we can imagine the conversation might go something like this: “Don’t worry. The candidate will wait for us to make our decision. We are the ones with the job and the job market is still tough” Three weeks later however, Dave would probably come back with something like “I really thought we had this hire – I mean, the position is a great opportunity and they wouldn’t have to relocate. Look, I’m sorry. I just didn’t think they would take the other job. I know it’s a loss – and to our competitor. I promise this will not happen again.”

One thing that is for certain is the tide is changing, or may have already changed. Talk with recruiters in the software arena to be specific and you can be sure, hiring is heating back up. And, because of these current hiring shifts now is the time to evaluate and tighten up your recruiting processes, if you haven’t already done so. A number of companies who may have had solid recruiting processes in the past have abandoned their practices over the last several years. The reasons are varied – a cut back of the recruiting team and HR, massive restructurings, and perhaps most significantly, companies simply losing their recruiting mentality. Organizations, just like the people in them, lose skills when not exercised.

So let’s take another look at Dave. The first mistake he made was that he thought he had plenty of time. Really good people, especially those candidates who are passive and not currently in the market for a new position, do not have to wait around for an opportunity. They are valuable in any market and will therefore have the opportunities that reflect this. His second and third mistakes go hand in hand: not having a solid interview process in place and not investing the time it takes to produce a quality result – a great hire. More than likely his interview tactic, resume review process, and communications with the candidates were not crisp, disciplined and thoughtful, as they should have been when making a significant investment for the company.

Let’s take this example one step further and think of it in this manner: if you were given $110,000 to buy a resource for your company, you would invest the due diligence required. You would be very clear on the requirements, specifications and needs that this new resource must fulfill and you would probably check references through other buyers. You would also understand that the price and availability of this specific resource may change if too much time passes. Bringing on a new professional should be thought of in these same terms and requires the same discipline.

Some objectives to keep in mind the next time you are in need of bringing on a new team member are: paint a picture; be very clear on the requirements and specifications of the position; assign a team of staff that consists of a few people who know the position and can be trained in effectively interviewing the candidates; and finally, develop a timeline for hiring and a communication plan both internally and externally for candidate review, acceptance and rejections.

Above, I list one of the helpful interview objectives as being “Paint the Picture.” I would like to take a moment to expand on this. Painting the picture for any position simply means establishing a context for the position you are about to hire. Painting the picture can be especially important for management positions that tend to be complex, fluid and placed within a matrix-ed organization. If you are hiring a high performer, they will be much more effective if you have articulated the vision. They need to understand the importance of their role, the key stakeholders involved and a definition of success for the position.

Years ago I was working with a company that had a revolving door of front desk receptionists. As a first step towards solving the situation, I asked the manager to define for me what he thought the job entailed. He replied the phone had to be answered within 3 rings, and that whoever came through the door was to be ‘dealt with’ by being pointed to the appropriate department. Sounds simple enough, yet the manager had never been satisfied with the performance of any of the previous hires. So in a step further, I asked him what was really important – what was the actual end result he desired from this position? He said he wanted the customers to feel they were calling into a professional organization that cared about them and their issues; a company that would go the extra mile to help solve problems and would really partner with them. He wanted that ‘high touch’ that would differentiate them from other software companies.

As we proceeded with the interview process (made with appropriate objectives and a disciplined process), the receptionist hired ended up being the epitome of his desired result. The effects were immediately noticeable and fulfilled the real reason the position had been created in the first place. The following example describes the effects of a successful hire crafted around clear objectives. It was a Friday afternoon. The company’s major client called in – experiencing some serious problems with the new software. The lead project manager had left for the day and could not be reached. The receptionist left her desk, tracked down another project manager who could help and assured the customer that the company would not leave them hanging.  The issue was resolved quickly and efficiently that evening. On the following Monday the client called back to the company’s CEO and said, “I just want you to know that the reason I am still a loyal client with you is because of your receptionist. She really represents what you say in your brochure.”

My point with these above stories is that none of this would have occurred if in his last hire, the boss had not painted the picture of his desired results.  Articulating how and what this position entails really matters. Match your expectations to your vision.

Although painting the picture is a vital part of successfully filling a position within your company, we are not done here. It is indeed important for the details and expectations of the role to be specified but, moving past this, providing your candidate with specific ‘course approaches’ is also essential for their success or, in other words ‘Charting the course’ for them.

Imagine one of your clients has left your company. Their complaint is “You just are not delivering what they need. The response in your head to their complaint is “You never stopped long enough to tell us what you really needed. We are not mind readers.”  In getting what you want, it is important that you clearly and effectively communicate it. People are lousy at mind reading, just ask your spouse or partner. You want to have an immediate, positive impact on a new employee’s success –right? You can assist this through effective communication. Providing objectives supports your context; think of it as giving color to the picture you have already painted.

Here is quick activity to help you ‘Chart the Course’ for success:

Begin by listing out the top 10 objectives for the next 12 months for this specific position. Under each objective, list 4 or 5 Actions Steps, which, if accomplished, will greatly help your new hire in achieving the above objectives. In this manner, you are helping to chart a course towards success for them. You have the knowledge because you have been on these waters before – but they have not. Fortunately through these action steps and your painted picture, you have set them up with successful means to accomplish the objectives.

I am reminded of a company I worked with that was tied into the financial industry – they had offices in over 20 locations, multiple divisions – and were in a very fast paced competitive environment. The CEO was on the road more often than not. In the process of hiring a new SVP (Senior Vice President), the company took the time to develop their top ten objectives and came up with the action steps. Guess what? When their new SVP started, he hit the ground running. He did not need the handholding or redirection that the previous SVP had required and he created no chaos within their own division or the divisions of others. Further, initiatives that had been stalled or shelved came back to life. They went from treading water to winning the race; and all this because their CEO took the time up front to chart the course.

Once you have your picture painted and the course for success has been charted, you are on a pretty solid path towards a successful hire. However, I believe there is one more area we should explore. Creating a culture of accountability is one more aspect that will further support your company culture and its success. It is important to hold ourselves and the people we work with accountable, and we are more capable to do so when the vision and expectations are clear.  Clarity about purpose goes far beyond a detailed list; it provides the framework in which individuals and teams can excel without constant direction. Our world is rapidly transforming, therefore how companies go about achieving their goals and objectives is also changing. Yet even with all these adjustments in technologies, environments, and markets we still need to achieve our targets.

In our world today, it seems we are surrounded by a lack of accountability – in our government, our schools, places we shop, our neighborhoods and in our homes.  I would make the argument, however, that it starts with us. Each of us needs to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask the question, do I live up to my commitments?  Do I hold myself accountable – especially when it’s tough? Open communication between ourselves and others about our levels and expectations of accountability is where it all starts. I believe an effective tool in developing a culture of individual and team accountability is this:

*Hold an Accountability Check-In once a month.
*Have a conversation between you and your staff related to accountability.
*Complete and share responses to these two statements:
*Here’s what you’re doing that’s helping me meet my commitments.
*Here’s what you’re doing that’s hampering me from meeting my commitments.

These two questions can also be important questions to ask yourself. What am I doing that is helping me meet my commitments and what am I doing that’s hampering me from meeting my commitments?

There are two books I would strongly recommend reading on the topic of accountability. The first is by one of my favorite authors, Patrick Lencioni. His book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, provides wonderful insight into the thought of accountability. The second book is The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. This is also an outstanding book that beautifully describes the complexities of our world and the tools needed to support individual and team accountability. I would wager that you will not be able to put either book down until you have read the last page.

So, what is the take-away? Does any of this really matter? The only way to build companies that have sustainable, economic value is to start with a team of smart, dedicated staff, driven by a clear purpose and held accountable for their results. The one factor that our competitors cannot duplicate is the depth and quality of contributions that our employees make – led by supervisors, managers, owners and boards of directors who view the attainment and retention of staff as an asset and not an expense. I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts on what I believe are critical factors in the talent acquisition world. I hope you have enjoyed reading this piece and have gleaned some helpful ideas.

About the author:

Julia Hill-Nichols, SPHR, is the founder of LeadersCove, LLC. With over 30 years experience in operations and human capital management. She has held the role of Senior Vice President, Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company, midsize companies and software start-ups. Much of her experience has been in the software, financial and insurance industries, representing significant merger, acquisition and divestiture activities. In addition, Julia has extensive experience with large, nonprofit organizations. You can find out more about Julia and her work at https://leaderscove.com/about.html

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  • Quote of the Day

    “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

    — Warren Bennis