Dear Claudia,

What can recruiters do to change a business culture of hiring with your hair on fire?? I'm a recruiter in a small company and we're growing fast, but our managers have no concept of planning ahead. This means that I never know what hiring to expect in advance, and each requisition is a fire drill to fill. I don't know if the company likes it this way, but I hate it; is there anything I can do as an individual recruiter to help my company plan better?

Going Down in Flames


Dear GDIF,

What an awesome question! This problem is shared by many recruiters because workforce planning is often poorly communicated - or worse, just ignored. Your question brings up core issues of planning and how people react when someone moves their cheese; since you're growing rapidly it also hints at the probability that you're a very limited resource. In most organizations such planning is a tall order, and the answer to your question is simple: don't tell them, show them.

There is an art and science to workforce planning, and smarter people than me can fill you in on the details. However if you want to make a difference in the role you're in today, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Treat it like an experiment, or a project that needs planning and execution; if you do nothing more than bring some discipline to your business you'll have accomplished a tremendous amount. Here are the basics:

Find a Champion
Do you remember the old joke about how to eat an elephant? To serve this one up you're going to need the help of an ally; pick a hiring manager that you like working with and take her to lunch. Explain that you'd like her help with a 6 month experiment to demonstrate that planning ahead can yield shorter average time to hire, and a better resulting pool of candidates. What's that, she'll say? Faster and better candidates? Of course I'll help!

Make your Plan
Next, gather some basic information. What are the goals of her team for the next 2 quarters? What is the financial impact to the company if those goals aren't met? What are the most critical skills lacking in her team to meet those goals? How many people will she require with those skills? When will she need them? Are job descriptions available yet?

With this information in hand, continue to build your plan. Review your current recruiting ratios of source to interview; interview to offer; and offer to hire - and if you don't know them, estimate. How many candidates must you identify to build a pipeline? How long does it take to source one candidate? How long does it take to qualify one candidate? How much time will you need to find a sufficient number of qualified, interested, and affordable candidates for each future role?

Measure your Progress

Now comes the fun part. Anticipate that for this project you'll spend 80% of your week on your current requisitions, and 20% on building future candidate pipelines. Set goals based on the information you gathered above; your desired outcome is a pipeline of at least 5 pre-qualified candidates for each future role identified. Meet at least twice a month with your hiring manager to discuss the candidates you are finding, and rank them together. Track the time to hire stats for your current requisitions, and compare those to the speed of hiring candidates from your new pipeline development activity. After hire, ask your hiring manager to rate each for excellence in technical skills and cultural fit with the business.

At the end of six months, write a brief summary of your activity and your measured results, and share it with your hiring manager and your boss. At best, you'll have created a compelling argument to bring structured discipline to the hiring process; at worst, you'll have learned new discipline in just-in-time hiring to take with you to future employers. Best of luck to you!

**
In my day job, I’m the head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage engagement for competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

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Fantastic reply, Claudia.

I'd like to suggest a possible alternative: If you're always putting out fires get rid of the arsonists.
Excellent advice as always Claudia! GDIF, you are facing a classic dilemma. Most companies do not offer recruiters a seat at the strategic table. There's also this misconception that a ton of great candidates are arriving through the website everyday and all the recruiter has to do is make a few calls.

I would recommend educating managers as to the length of the hiring and integration process. Providing a timeline for sourcing, interviewing, candidate resignation, and onboarding may encourage the hiring managers at your company to provide you with hiring needs in advance.
Scott and Ami, thanks for adding your thoughts for GDIF.

@Scott: I strongly agree with you that educating one's business partners is a key element of driving change; without providing feedback, many hiring managers see the recruiter as no more than a glorified short order cook for candidates. Life in the transaction lane is brutal.

@Ami: Excellent alternate solution. :))

Claudia, I was thinking more of discretely referring the problem players' to an external recruiter and having my competition woo them away. That way everyone's happy and no-one gets their feelings hurt.

Sometimes change agents have to be just that.
As always, Rayanne, your wisdom shines. Thank you for the gentle reminder that -- no matter the system to manage or even build business cases -- trust and relationship drive community. Where more important to build this valuable asset than inside of your own company?
Line Recruiters themselves are not going to be able to shift an entire corporate culture or attitude towards hiring. Sure, one person can make a difference, but if you're a line-employee (or troop in the trenches) . . . upper management (or top-brass) aren't going to listen to or heed all of your suggestions. In fact, you might wind up labeled as a complainer with thin skin (we've all seen the course of illogical and unwarranted groupthink). Even you yourself referred to yourself as having minimal influence in how you presented your question: "is there anything I can do as an individual recruiter . . . " If you continue to look through the eyes of just an "individual recruiter", others in your organization will sense that and steamroll this trait as weakness.

My recommendation is this: If you want to reverse this trend and actually have some real clout, sit down with the upper mgmt of your small firm and tell them you want the title of 'Recruiting Manager', 'Recruiting Leader', or if you truly have the gumption, 'VP of Talent Acquisition'. Why would the VP in your title be advantageous? Because VP = Respect. VP = Ears & Eyeballs. Most U.S. employees believe that positional power really means something (i.e .power that is given by authority, not necessarily earned). Resolve to fix the situation, ask for the power to get it done, and ensure top mgmt is behind the cultural transition. When top brass backs an initiative, it's uncanny how things seem to fall in place and the supposed tough-guy managers who wouldn't give you the time of day finally fall in line like little toy soldiers.

Now, if that doesn't work and you find yourself losing sleep at night and thinking about work 24/7 . . . leave. Yeah, that seems like the "easy way out", right? Well, sometimes the easy way out is the smartest way out. :)

Sorry to come at this with less of a diplomatic approach, but not everything can be handled through diplomacy. Sometimes, you have to resolve to fix a problem and not everybody is going to be your best friend when you decide to lead instead of follow.
Oh, Josh. How rude the truth can be.
Josh, some of what you suggest makes sense in that there are many roads to most destinations. However I disagree that staging a military coup is either the answer to the question at hand, or the wisest first choice in this situation.

My basic assumption is that the business wins when ideas are tested and implemented with collaboration; changing who drives the bus is a separate, and sometimes secondary activity. Let's look at what we know about GDIF from the question, and then question your assumptions in light of that knowledge:

1. The business hires according to need, but without a plan visible to Line Recruiting.

2. GDIF sees this as an opportunity to bring about change within his/her current scope of responsibility; specifically, the question was: "is there anything I can do as an individual recruiter to help my company plan better?"

Without knowing more about GDIF's career aspirations, I think it is fair to adress that specific question. I also think that whatever GDIF chooses to do, new questions will arise about the outcome. For example, will business leaders wonder why the Recruiting or HR Manager isn't using his or her current scope of influence to drive this kind of change? By working at the grassroots level to demonstrate a better outcome, will GDIF put her own job at risk by pissing off the Recruiting Manager? Or will that Manager take GDIF's success and market it internally as his/her own? Sounds like a soap opera, but it is in fact the daily fare of getting work done by committee -- also known as working in a corporate setting.

Let me add a few additional comments to yours:

Line Recruiters themselves are not going to be able to shift an entire corporate culture or attitude towards hiring.
I disagree. Keep in mind that shifting an entire corporate culture is the journey of a thousand miles. The first step is choosing an ally and keeping a riveted focus on one manager's pain to start. It's the bowling alley approach that Geoffrey Moore speaks of in "Inside the Tornado." Show that "how we do things around here" can be done better in one business area, and then another, and then another. To Rayanne's point, GDIF will have to rely on community -- what I just called collaboration -- to start the engine of change.


Why would the VP in your title be advantageous? Because VP = Respect. VP = Ears & Eyeballs.
With respect Josh, and as we both know this by having reading a few resumes to date, titles alone mean nothing. "Associate Vice President" is an entry level title at most banks. It is the combination of title and results that garners respect in most companies. And it is so easy to smell a fraud, or lack of confidence, that words without supporting behavior are the death of reputation.

When top brass backs an initiative, it's uncanny how things seem to fall in place...
Couldn't agree more. GDIF needs an ally, the Recruiting or HR Manager isn't acting in that capacity, so it's time to go directly to the business for collaboration.

Now, if that doesn't work and you find yourself losing sleep at night and thinking about work 24/7 . . . leave.
My way or the highway, is it? There is a time to jump a sinking ship, to be sure -- but GDIF smells an opportunity for impact. Why not explore that until GDIF is convinced that the opportunity no longer exists?

Thanks for playing, Josh...it's always fun to hear your thoughts.
A “military coup”? – Ouch. My suggestion that having the cajones to be a leader and take charge of a sinking ship wasn’t suggested as a militaristic notion (such as a ‘coup’). I’m not saying to kill off the current leader – I was under the impression that since this was a small, growing company, there wasn’t one yet. I didn’t write the question, so I was answering it based on the little background and attitude of the person who presented it (who came across like a ‘mouse’). I don’t know if you meant the question to come across that way, but the way it was presented, there seemed to be an issue of helplessness or insecurity in GDIF’s approach.

Now, if there does happen to be a leader in place, well . . . somebody has to be accountable. It’s the leader’s role to be the catalyst for change – hey, I believe in collaboration . . . but collaboration minus someone to drive a new initiative forward is a fatal flaw. I like the idea of a huge “hug party” at work where we tweet each other all our random thoughts all day long, theorizing what our little community “could be” . . . but at some point, somebody has to pick up the ball and run with it. [That’s a joke, everyone – please don’t take tweeting all day literally!]

You know my style – I’m not a social worker or psychotherapist . . . but I’m not too shabby at cutting through the noise to find the real issues. Instead of focusing on a band-aid, I would rather look deeper. What’s the ‘real issue’ at play here?

To your arguments against my suggestions:

Line Recruiters themselves are not going to be able to shift an entire corporate culture or attitude towards hiring.
Looks like we agree to disagree here, and that’s ok. My take is that you need top-down buy-in to the shift in process or culture. Can it be done without it? Sure, but I’d rather get senior-level commitment first. Many smaller issues seem to work themselves out when the Big Dogs back initiatives.

As far as Geoffrey Moore’s thoughts on Corporate Culture, I remember his works (particularly “Inside the Tornado”, “Crossing the Chasm”, and “Living on the Fault Line”) being more about marketing strategy relative to the point at which your product falls on the technology adoption lifecycle. I read the bowling alley analogy to be more about target market selection and prioritization, although I do believe this analogy can also be utilized within mgmt thinking (in certain cases.)

Why would the VP in your title be advantageous? Because VP = Respect. VP = Ears & Eyeballs.
Again, I'll agree to disagree. Titles matter – I don’t think they should as much as they do . . . but they do. If a VP makes a recommendation, more people listen than an individual line employee. I’m not saying it’s right – I’m just saying it’s reality. [Note: I’m also not saying the title has to be ‘VP’ per se’, what I’m saying is that positional authority matters.] And if there is anyone who knows that “words without supporting behavior are the death of reputation”, it’s me. I’ve been through more leadership courses and training (in extremely harsh environments under very trying conditions) than I can shake a stick at, so again, I agree. Leaders lead by setting the example.

When top brass backs an initiative, it's uncanny how things seem to fall in place...
I’m glad we agree here.

Now, if that doesn't work and you find yourself losing sleep at night and thinking about work 24/7 . . . leave.
I’m not suggesting that it’s a “my way or the highway” mentality. What I am saying is that I think diplomacy is great, but some situations are beyond a pow-wow (sp?). It comes down to what personally makes people tick. If you like stress, then stay there . . . but if you don’t, then maybe it’s not in the best interest of you health to stick around. Please don’t think I feel this way when it comes to personal things like marriage – what I’m suggesting is that we have more control over our lives and the situations we put ou
Finishing my post as Ning truncated it:

Please don’t think I feel this way when it comes to personal things like marriage – what I’m suggesting is that we have more control over our lives and the situations we put ourselves in within the "rat race."

[Note: I didn't read your initial response to your question, so my suggestions were not to debunk or counter yours or anyone's whatsoever. They were just my thoughts and my input. I'm not the expert here - I'm just a little member of the RBC community. But, hey, I'm glad we agreed on one of my suggestions.]

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