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The Critical Mistakes Today's Recruiters Are Making

Cornerstone Editors

Skilled workers are hard to find in today's job market, and organizations offer everything from greater learning opportunities to free smoothie day to attract the right talent to fill their vacancies.

But most of the time, dangling free food at candidates won't solve the problem. Companies' recruiting challenges stem from many factors—though some are out of their control, others need to be tackled head on within their organization.

We sat down with Elaine Orler, CEO and founder of talent acquisition consulting firm Talent Function, to explore how organizations should begin to adapt their recruiting efforts for the state of the job market. Orler discussed what companies are doing wrong, what's out of their control and the techniques and tools that can strengthen their talent acquisition practices.

What are the biggest mistakes companies make today in their recruiting efforts?

There are two directions organizations go with their mistakes. One problem is the "wait and see" approach. Some organizations are so risk-averse and cautious in everything they do that it hinders their ability to deliver, and their company performance is suffering for it, whether they associate that with talent acquisition or not.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are organizations that experiment for experimentation's sake. At some point, there's a threshold for the number of new things you can try before you say, "I'm done." Organizations that don't hold an experiment long enough to get to adoption are constantly disrupting their ability to perform.

These are two extremes, but most organizations are making these mistakes to some degree—they've changed their business processes without changing their technology, they've changed their technology but didn't change their processes, or they've changed both without effectively conveying these changes to employees. If these factors don't align, there will be negative disruption in the business.

Are there outside factors inhibiting companies' recruiting efforts as well?

My best definition of what's happening in recruiting is choreographed chaos. We have the lowest unemployment numbers we've seen in our generation and the least amount of available talent and technically skilled people, coupled with the most job openings. The perfect storm is brewing as organizations need to get the right talent for their business.

The jobs themselves are also changing every six months, and jobs are being created that didn't exist six months ago. All of this rapid change is underpinning that an organization's talent acquisition needs to make a broader, stronger play.

How can organizations look within to strengthen their recruiting efforts?

Organizations must leverage what they know about people and their abilities and putting that into succession planning. They can tell people, "We know you've been in your current role for two years and you're likely to go past role A to role B or C. We want you to know we have B and C available. Are you open to talking in two months?" With this proactive way of moving people, they can control the direction of these positions.

If the economy shifts, they can proactively model out the differences in resources and roles versus taking the reactive approach—downsizing, then rushing to backfill the positions they budgeted out.

How can companies differentiate themselves to attract the right talent in today's job market?

For candidates, the differentiation is in the experience. It's not just how flashy and cool companies come across—it's how they treat people. I ask a proverbial question of every talent acquisition leader I meet: If it takes 30 minutes to apply on your website and that's a candidate's investment in an organization, where's your 30-minute investment back into them?

On average, 250 people apply to a [corporate] job opening. There's no way for recruiters to give all 250 candidates their 30 minutes back, but there are ways to communicate and set expectations that create a more valuable experience for candidates.

Organizations are also stuck in a cycle where one candidate is hired, and the rest are basically flushed out. Next time, they start over from scratch, but they should be able to reengage those candidates, especially the ones they've already interviewed and strongly considered. Why do we put them back at the starting line and make them race with a whole new team?

Can technology improve the talent acquisition process and help organizations overcome the challenges we've discussed?

There are some great opportunities for automation on two fronts. One is communicating with candidates effectively. Recruiters have to consider what kind of communication people expect. I'm in the generation that prefers email, but my kids prefer text, and soon they'll probably prefer something else. Once they know candidates' preferences, organizations have to be able to bring that forward through their systems—it's just a matter of settings, permissions and requests. Then they can respond accordingly in an automated way. It's an opportunity for us to meet people where they are.

The other important opportunity for automation is keeping track of candidates. Recruiters process volumes of information every day, from reading emails and scheduling meetings, to reviewing resumes. When you're hiring for a new role, your brain is often fried, but automated systems can add value through with useful reminders.

Say you open a new job requisition and it's similar to jobs you filled six months ago, but you forgot. The system can remind you and say: "This is a similar job to the three jobs you filled six months ago, and here are all of the silver-medal candidates." This kind of prompt gives you the ability to get that position filled quicker and demonstrates to candidates that you're paying attention to them.

Photo: Creative Commons

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A New Poseidon Adventure: Flipping Succession Planning Upside Down

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A New Poseidon Adventure: Flipping Succession Planning Upside Down

Organizations make significant investments in efforts to hire the right candidates – the people who have the right experience and cultural fit. By carefully managing the performance and potential of these people over time, the organization can grow its leadership pipeline, keep a steady inventory of needed skills and competencies and remain nimble in the face of change (which we have plenty of all around us these day) – all of which can have serious impact on the bottom line. However, much of this pie-in-the-sky stuff relies on being able to locate and cultivate high-potential and high-performing talent across the board. Without an integrated succession management solution, recognizing and developing talent can be an ever-elusive process. The questions we are seeing asked today include: does the traditional top-down approach to succession management still make enough of a difference? Does managing succession for a slim strata of senior executives take full advantage of the kinds of talent data we now have at our fingertips? It doesn’t have to be so. Succession management can be an interactive process between senior leadership, managers and employees at all levels of the organization. And, if we trust them, we can actually let employees become active participants in their own career development. (Shudder.) Career Management (Succession Planning Flipped Upside Down) This "bottom-up" approach is gaining momentum because who better to tell us about employee career path preferences than employees themselves. Organizations actually have talent management and other HR systems in place that allow for collecting and analyzing a whole slew of data around: Career history Career preferences Mobility preferences Professional and special skills Education achieved Competency ratings Performance scores Goal achievement Training and certifications Etc. In short, pretty much everything we’d want to know to make well-informed succession planning and talent pooling decisions. For some, the leap is simply putting some power into the employee’s hands. The talent management system of 2011 is capable of displaying a clear internal career path for employees and then, on the basis of all that data bulleted out above, showing a "Readiness Gap" – what do you need to do to make the step to the next level? And if your talent management environment comes armed with a real Learning Management System, you can take it to the next level with a dynamically generated development plan that gets the employee on the right path to actually closing those gaps. Faster development, faster mobility. Organizations that seriously favor internal mobility don’t just make employees stick on pre-defined career paths – they can search for ANY job in the company and check their Readiness levels. I might be in accounting today, but what I really want to do is move to marketing. Giving employees the chance to explore various career avenues within the organization helps assure that "water finds its level" – that is, that the right people with the right skills and the right levels of motivation and engagement find the right job roles internally. Employee participation is key, but make no mistake – managers play an important role in this interactive process. They must be prepared to provide career coaching, identify development opportunities and recommend employees for job openings. The candid discussions require that employees have open access to information so they can best understand the criteria necessary to move to the next level. A Two-Way Street Employee-driven career management is just one tool. The more traditional top-down approach to succession management remains indispensable. But organizations that value talent mobility and the ability to be able to shift and mobilize talent resources quickly will find that attention to career pathing can be vital. For employees, of course, the impacts are immediate and include boosted levels of engagement, higher retention, increased productivity and more.

The Hidden Costs of Ignoring Your Talent Management Strategy

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The Hidden Costs of Ignoring Your Talent Management Strategy

Building and maintaining a successful company hinges on having the right people to execute projects and drive results. People, we hear time and again, are your company's most valuable asset. But their success — and HR's ability to recruit, engage and retain them — depends on HR pros who are strategic decision-makers, armed with the proper tools to let them excel at their jobs. Modern HR professionals manage much more than payroll and benefits. But their technology tools, in many cases, haven't evolved past basic productivity software like email or Microsoft Word. HR simply can't be strategic with old-school tools that reduce people to statistics and give little insight into what the numbers mean. Emails and spreadsheets were not designed to deliver meaningful insights into people's performance, suggest when employees should be promoted or highlight skills gaps in a company. For that, HR needs a broader, more strategic set of talent management tools, which lets professionals manage every aspect of the workforce, from training and performance reviews to collaboration and succession planning. Yet, research shows that less than 25% of companies use a unified, holistic approach to their talent management. The Real Costs of "Doing Nothing" As a Talent Management Strategy The critical relationship between business strategy and HR strategy too often gets overlooked by senior leadership. While it may seem like the company is saving money by managing recruiting, training, performance and succession via manual and paper-based processes, in reality it’s costing your business more than you know. For example: Without a talent management strategy, a company with 2,000 employees is losing almost $2 million every year in preventable turnover alone. Businesses that don’t invest in learning suffer from decreased employee performance and engagement to such a degree that they can expect to realize less than half the median revenue per employee. That’s a direct impact on the business. In employee performance management, organizations without a focused strategy waste up to 34 days each year managing underperformers and realize lower net income. To learn more about the business impact of talent management and how to start building out your strategy, check out the eBook Why Your Nonexistent Talent Management Strategy is Costing You Money (And How to Fix It) and register for the March 19th webinar, Building the Business Case for Talent Management.

The Return of the Moderate Merit Budget – Wreaking Havoc on Pay for Performance

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The Return of the Moderate Merit Budget – Wreaking Havoc on Pay for Performance

With the economy now on steadier ground, most organizations have returned to administering a merit budget to the pre-recession levels of 3 to 3.5%. In the years immediately following the economic downturn, many merit budgets were eliminated entirely or were reduced significantly and reserved for a select segment of the employee population. Pay for performance has become a necessity for many organizations that are expected to accomplish more with fewer resources. I often get asked: "How can I truly award my top performers with such a limited budget? Should I do so at the expense of my ’Meets Expectations’ performers? What if I need to retain my ’Meets Expectations’ performers and giving them 0% to 2% increase puts me at great risk for turnover? But if I don’t recognize my top performers, don’t I risk losing them...?" These are difficult questions to answer, however you can determine the best solution for your organization by considering the following: Are your employees paid at market pay levels? Is your organization’s performance management process mature? Does your organization have other compensation programs in place to reward top performers (e.g. variable pay)? Market Pay If turnover is a concern, and your organization needs to maintain ’bench strength’ in order to achieve its strategic objectives, your biggest priority should be to ensure that you are paying your employees at market pay levels. Why? Historically, as the labor market strengthens, organizations become vulnerable in terms of losing people. Hiring and onboarding replacement talent is not only costly to the organization, but can also cause dissension among existing employees since new hires may be getting paid more. Be sure to stay abreast of market pay levels and trends, and use the merit budget to correct disparities. Performance Management Process Organizations vary significantly in terms of the maturity of their performance management process. Closely examine your organization’s process and look for ways to improve it. If there is a perception that one management team is an ’easier grader’ than the others, the process is inherently flawed and any pay for performance program will not be viewed as credible and fair by employees. A good place to start is to get a calibration process in place and communicate broad guidelines on expected distribution ratings. Variable Pay Programs Variable pay programs (e.g. bonuses) have become increasingly more popular across all industries and career levels. These programs provide the opportunity for employees to share in the organization’s success while not adding to fixed payroll costs. Some plans have an individual performance component which can be a very effective means to recognize top performers. However, in order for this type of program to be successful, individual goals and targets must be well documented and communicated. Again, this is largely based on the maturity of the organization’s performance management process which takes time to evolve. What are the best steps to avoid wreaking havoc on your pay for performance process? First ensure your pay levels are keeping pace with the market Continue to evolve your performance programs with calibration among managers and a rigorous goal setting process Promote variable pay plans to reward high performers without adding to fixed pay roll costs It’s not always an easy journey but, in the end, it’s best to use a measured approach that is based on business needs and a realistic assessment of your current programs and processes.

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