One of the systemic errors that I see corporations and Recruiting departments making is that they are treating hiring as a "zero sum game".

The name comes from the fact that there are some games where the sum of the player's payoffs at the end of the game sum to zero. Poker is a good example. Imagine you and I play head's up poker. If at the end of the night I'm up $20 then, by definition, you are down $20. Our payoffs, plus $20 and minus $20, sum to zero. The point being that in zero sum games my wins define your losses (and visa versa).

By the definition of this game, no rational individual could look at recruiting and hiring as a zero sum game - the fact of the matter is that there is enough talent in the marketplace so that everyone can have theirs. My wins should not define your losses (and visa versa).

As a Recruiter, you may be rolling your eyes right now saying "no way Phil, I have to beat my competition for talent and steal what I need so they can't have it". I'm sorry for your neanderthal view of the world. It's 2009 and evolved organizations realize that the power of WE is much stronger than the power of ME.

Or at least they are "saying" they do.

To truly understand this concept, you have to have an introduction to the term "open source". Originally coined to describe the phenomenon of formerly proprietary (read Zero Sum) software companies realizing the amazing technological and financial benefits of sharing openly their software code. Now as a Recruiter, if you think you have a death grip on your candidates, it's nothing compared to software developers of the late '80's and early '90's (before Open Source) as it was once thought that is you shared this information it would kill your business.

The opposite is actually true.

Through collaboration and open sharing of information all parties win. Think of the iPhone and the thousands of applications being developed in basements around the world. Couldn't happen if Apple kept their source code under lock and key. Apple is a great example of eliminating the zero sum game (we have to develop all iPhone apps) and in place of it - creating networks of sharing and mutual gain.

No, it's not Utopian - it's web 2.0. and beyond. You may still be acting in a zero sum game mentality in recruiting - this is why you struggle each day/week/month/year to recruit and retain the best employees. You are limited in your ability to produce amazing results just like the software companies of yore were.

By harnessing the collective effort of an "open" recruiting system you will eventually hire better people faster and they'll be higher quality than you are hiring today.

But beware. There are companies who are trying to make you believe they are "sharing" candidates for the benefit of all. Check under the hood of any "candidate exchange" or proprietary talent network opportunities. If there are limitations (only people with certain ATS systems or only people associated with a particular company etc.) to who can participate in the program it can never be considered "OPEN" and is therefore a carefully hidden "Zero Sum Game

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Comment by Charles Van Heerden on September 23, 2009 at 3:07am
Very interesting points Phil, and I agree that win-win is a much better outcome. A few years ago I tried with some other HR Directors to create a pool of talent, the idea being that if one my good employees can get cross-company experience then it would benefit the cooperative (now here is resurrection of an old system!). We had mixed success and the real issue is that it is very difficult to create a system that is equitable. However, new and better ways is certainly the goal.
Comment by Bobby Whitehouse on September 27, 2009 at 1:05pm
When Apple shares their code for application creation, they benefit by having more options to offer their customers and there by sell more iPhones. They give their customer control to write the applications they want. Apple is getting more applications and data on what their customers like driving further innovation. Their profit is made from the original product that is continuously improving. Recruiting is a little more ambiguous, but I think if we treat the "talent" as the customer and give them more control then they will show us their preferred applications.


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