Blog Post

How Recruiters Can Embrace the Pace of Innovation

Ira S. Wolfe

President, Success Performance Solutions

Maybe Franz Kafka had it right: "In a fight between you and the world, bet on the world." The accelerating pace of innovation has humbled nearly everyone, even the experts.

Just a few weeks ago this headline caught my attention: "J.Crew's Mickey Drexler Confesses: I Underestimated How Tech Would Upend Retail." You might not recognize the name, but Drexler is a legend in the retail industry. He redefined Gap Inc. in the 1990s and turned J.Crew into a household name. But like so many other storied executives, Drexler finds himself and the organization he leads scrambling. "I've never seen the speed of change as it is today," he told the Wall Street Journal in May 2017.

In another article, former Walmart CEO Mike Duke said that his biggest regret as CEO was not investing more in e-commerce to better compete with Amazon. Duke said, "I wish we had moved faster. We've proven ourselves to be successful in many areas, and I simply wonder why we didn't move more quickly."

Stories like these will just keep coming. No matter how exhaustive the effort we seem to make to keep up with change, the accelerating rate of innovation is disrupting every convention and norm. I worry how many more business leaders and government officials underestimate exponential change. My concerns quickly trickle down to HR and recruiting.

A massive shift is underway. It's changing how work is done, jobs are defined, workplaces are designed and people are managed. It's particularly impacting how companies approach recruiting strategy in the age of "googlization": 68 percent of employers report they have open positions they can't fill, the highest levels since the turn of the century. The time-to-fill these openings hit an all-time high in April. Today, talent acquisition is an essential part of stimulating business growth—but when ignored, it becomes a liability impeding growth.

Despite the unprecedented difficulty in attracting (and retaining) top talent, there are a few ways to overcome such a formidable adversary and attain the upper hand.

Look to the Numbers

The future isn't coming. It's here. It's no longer a matter if you will be affected, but when and by how much. When competitors aren't targeting your best employees, exponential change is lurking right behind to disrupt and maybe even take over your talent pipeline. It should come as no surprise then that one of the smartest recruitment strategies is owned by Google.

What's behind their secret for success? "Real science and data," according to their former SVP of People Operations Lazlo Bock. A bold recruiting strategy without data is full of risks; with analytics and evidence, disruptions and uncertainty may still exist but the element of surprise is removed.

Embrace Champions of Change

Identify and embrace champions of change. Not every idea is a winner. But creativity and innovation are critical components of contemporary company culture. This is the perfect opportunity to engage the maligned Millennials and Gen Z. Instead of pointing fingers at them, get them involved in sharing job opportunities through their social networks. As a talent acquisition expert, encourage them to share stories about your company culture, what it's like to work for your company and what new opportunities have opened up for them while working there.

Cultivate Diversity of Thought

Be an information sponge. The lethal blow to your bestselling product or time-tested business model is not likely to come from a known competitor, and this new player could easily steal your top talent when it enters the scene. Businesses like Netflix, Uber, AirBnb, Amazon and Apple all disrupted industries once deemed untouchable by cross-pollinating ideas with no regard to the conventions and norms of past success.

As a recruiter, combat convention and stay competitive by sourcing candidates with diverse backgrounds who can break the mold at your organization and provide fresh ideas. You should also look for inspiration from leaders and thinkers you respect—even if they're not in the HR space. Follow the lead of Priceline co-founder Jeff Hoffman, who takes a few minutes each morning to read an article or listen to a podcast from a completely unrelated business or industry and ask "How can this be applied to our company?"

Photo: Creative Commons

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