Do organizations know more about their inventory and customers than their current and prospective workforce? The answer is a resounding yes for many companies. This simple question reveals quite a bit about the opportunity to better support the organization’s strategic business directives. What role can the talent acquisition function play to support today’s evolving organization? The mission and organizational value contribution is steeped in delivering a people response to the company’s strategic directives – either by supporting the pursuit of business opportunities or solving business problems. The mission is to understand and anticipate the organization’s talent needs in order to secure the right mix of talent with respect to knowledge, skills, abilities, potential and cultural fit at the right time to ensure business continuity. The talent acquisition function is a business solutions provider. This also implies that the talent acquisition function, along with talent management, has the greatest depth of knowledge within the organization with respect to finding, engaging, assessing, presenting, and securing talent in the context of the organization’s culture and operating environment.
Designing a strategy to service the organization’s talent needs has become increasingly complex. Shifts in the business climate decrease predictability and require the organization to be more agile and develop the ability to quickly identify changing talent needs to support the pursuit of new opportunities. The persistent introduction of new technologies, which often open new talent channels, requires the talent acquisition function to assess structure, roles and resource allocation more frequently to recalibrate quickly and develop a response capability to deliver results. The ability to evaluate which vendors, technologies and channels are “right-fit” to support the talent strategy require clarity, discipline and a new set of skills for the function. Agile thinking, curiosity and comfort with risk are required skills for talent acquisition leaders. Achieving clarity around the organization’s talent philosophy is critical to realizing alignment across the HR function, allowing talent acquisition to move quickly and unencumbered. An example of this is the resistance and / or lack of understanding around the value of social media. On one end of the spectrum doubt and fear persist, which is comparable to the response when the Internet arrived and offered up an opportunity for mainstream recruiting use. On the other end of the spectrum is the over zealous who partake in what I’ve referred to as “socializing” job postings and reducing an important strategic element to tactical application by seeing social channels as one more place to push out jobs without taking the time to understand either the nuances or risks.
Talent Acquisition as Talent Broker
If we agree that the mission of talent acquisition is to effectively resource the organization to solve business problems, support the pursuit of business opportunities, enable effective competition and sustain an appropriate level of momentum then an opportunity exists to assess how effectively the organization is resourced. Determining the current state of talent acquisition – talent philosophy, structure, resources, and technology, will be required to effectively develop the response capability to serve the organization’s needs.
Developing a talent community strategy can answer many of the organization’s resource needs. Depth of knowledge around the existing workforce and external talent market work in synergy to frame an effective strategy. Insight into the composition of the existing workforce – succession planning, skill gaps, competencies, employee interests and potential inform external recruitment needs when aligned and recalibrated with the strategic business plan. Identifying needs around skills, experience, level, geography and cultural fit offer a starting point. Developing a talent plan that identifies the type of talent – employee, contractor, contingent, or temporary, is what will further support the organization’s agility needs and allows the talent acquisition function to operate as a Talent Broker and business service provider. Today’s approach to managing this talent mix is often fragmented and doesn’t serve the organization, business leaders or Talent effectively. Designing a strategy that supports building a holistic community that allows Talent to identify the type of work relationship that interests them advances talent acquisition’s contribution in servicing the organization and delivers a more robust view into available talent. This approach also recognizes the shifting preferences of the workforce. Desire to have greater flexibility, mobility and choice in how and when people work and what they work on is increasing. Operating from a Talent Broker model allows leaders to have a single point of contact to find the right resource to support their business needs.
Extending the Value of Community Management and Brand Engagement
The competition for flexible “project talent” will increase as organizations seek to achieve workforce strategies that are sustainable and adapt quickly and easily to shifting business needs. The influence of social technologies, ease of access to networks and desire to connect has made Talent a shared global resource. Keeping talent engaged and interested in your brand and business is not going to get easier. Building a holistic community strategy is a natural extension of sourcing. Leveraging smart, targeted reach to identify and attract targeted Talent into a community relationship is just the beginning. The artistry and value comes through developing strategies around engagement to keep Talent connected. Extending sourcing to include initial screening to assess for skills, cultural fit, interest and readiness to join the company provides recruiters with a valuable community from which to re-partner with sourcing when business needs arise requiring a talent response. Tracking deployment against active projects and accumulated experience results in rich and valuable talent profiles that not only allows recruiters to respond quickly to hiring managers but to also be proactive when working with their business partners on anticipated needs. However, Talent needs to be kept engaged and continuously reengaged. By pursuing an integrated community management approach that intersects with sourcing and recruiting, the talent acquisition function evolves to a new level. Crafting relevant communications and designing opportunities for Talent to further engage with the brand through co-creation programs, “idea labs” or collective innovation projects is what can differentiate the brand and a recruiters ability to learn more about Talent and identify key contributors. The talent community manager’s role is to coordinate the creation and dissemination of targeted content, facilitate conversation in partnership with internal stakeholders, and potentially identify Talent for recruiters to further engage with. This approach leverages the interdependent relationship between the organization’s business strategy, talent acquisition and Talent. New talent acquisition tools like CRM support Talent segmentation and targeted communication. Combined with social tools like Socialcast takes Talent’s experience to a new level, supporting further connection, learning, engagement and possibly even loyalty.
This approach doesn’t necessarily require additional resources. It does however require talent acquisition functions to restructure in order to leverage the value of social media and engage Talent at a more relevant and visceral level around the business. Reallocating recruiting advertising / marketing budgets and assessing existing people resources can support designing a new structure that supports a community – based talent strategy. The benefits are significant. The organization benefits from increased Talent agility and enhanced market awareness – who is interested in the brand, what are their ideas, what do they want to do and when do they want to do it. Engaging Talent around the “business of the brand” facilitates increased collaboration to drive innovative ideas. Talent benefits by having a fun, engaging experience with the company, continuous learning and the ability to share their interests to move in and out of the organization in alignment with their career objectives. The talent acquisition function benefits through a holistic view of Talent to resource the organization and advance to the role of Talent Broker to deliver additional value and support the organization’s strategy.
In closing, I can’t think of a better quote to sum up the opportunity for business and Talent to connect in a more meaningful way and for the talent acquisition function to assume the role of Talent Broker.
“We grew up isolated.
The future is connected.”
“I think this changes everything…
If we let it.” Seth Godin
Fall is a time of transitions. The weather changes slowly at first and then more dramatically. Trees light up spectacularly to deliver a magnificent display of color before revealing bare limbs. We begin to modify the way we dress and even nourish ourselves differently to acclimate and prepare for the coming winter. Seasonal transitions offer a time for reflection as we look back at how the year has progressed, what we want to accomplish before the year ends, and how we begin to frame goals for the coming year. During Fall 2009 I was in a state of reflection. I had given independent consulting a two-year run. During a tough economic environment I felt fortunate that I was able to not only build a stream of diversified revenue but also devote time to completing an intensive leadership program, enrich my personal yoga practice and complete a 200-hour residential teacher training program. I also made a discovery that led me to an important career decision – it was time to return to a corporate leadership role.
Gaining insight into what truly energizes you is an important discovery. I had come to realize that what truly energizes me, where my strengths lie and where I possess authentic passion were all pointing in a similar direction – leading a talent acquisition function again. I missed being closer to the heart and soul of an organization’s business. Being directly at the business : talent intersection, tapped into the daily pulse of the business, and being in a leadership position to deliver direct value through the talent acquisition function. I missed the opportunity to work with a team and collectively experience the ebb and flow of navigating the inherent challenges of delivering on and / or advancing talent strategies. And, celebrating success along the way. The future was calling. It was time to pursue an opportunity to broadly influence an organization’s talent acquisition orientation. Build an outstanding experience for job seekers, recruiters and business leaders. Support an organization’s strategic directives. And, help enable the future through the talent acquisition capability. Many of the same drivers that led me to transition from front-line business leadership to the HR function 12 years ago were pulling me back in. The opportunistic state of talent acquisition functions to deliver greater value to the business strategy. The candidate experience and void between recruiting and talent. And, the ability of technology to not only enable but also advance multi-dimensional relationships between organizations and talent.
The Search….in brief
I intentionally chose not to be fully public in my search. I chose to take a quieter search approach than many may agree with, especially in our connected, social environment. I reached out across my network and persistently scoured a number of sources, which probably resulted in a longer search. But I thought it was important to avoid unnecessary risk to existing and potential clients and to secure all possible revenue. I also wanted to fully absorb the job seeker experience. No surprise that the job search itself was not only interesting and informative but disappointing, to say the least, during a time of great opportunity for organizations. From an analytical perspective, my search revealed the long-term vulnerabilities across organizations of various size, industry, and brand stature inherently tagged to the organization’s brand through poor recruiting practices. Yes, it continues to amaze me how companies can invest heavily in areas like marketing, R&D, and customer development only to allow the recruiting process to dilute those very same investments through the job seeker / candidate experiences. My friends say it shouldn’t continue to surprise me. But, until someone tells me that there is no connection between talent and “business success”, and that talent is not “our most important asset,” I’ll continue to be amazed. Executive search has its own challenges and there are but a few true gems within a sea of transactionally-driven, “close the deal”, recruiters.
Perspective and Framework
From the job seeker perspective, it’s quite challenging to balance a strong desire to move forward with the patience, resilience and gut instinct to stay focused on the right opportunity, which for me included role, company, geography, leadership and, most importantly, culture. Its probably the one thing I can’t emphasize enough to anyone I speak with who is in a job search or considering making a move. Trust your intuition. Know your self well enough to know what you value and where compromises can be made. Most of what is learned during the interview process is only going to reveal part of reality and that part better be strongly aligned with who you are and what you want. Reflect on past experiences to clarify what energizes you and what drains you. Define the environment in which you can thrive and create a guiding framework. Then, be aware of what drains you to make smart compromises. A few things that comprised my framework:
- Enterprise-wide leadership role with broad scope and responsibility encompassing all aspects of talent acquisition
- Reporting line directly to the head of HR / Talent, who is a progressive leader
- A culture of and commitment to progressive talent strategies across the HR organization
- Commitment to, and / or desire to achieve excellence in talent acquisition practices across the organization
- An HR organization that recognizes COE interdependencies and respects the inherent SME value.
- Owning my budget
Stepping Into the Future
Around the end of September, I accepted a new role and just finished my first month as Director of Talent Acquisition with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). BPA is a self-financed, federal agency based in Portland – which also means I get to stay in one of the greatest cities in the country! BPA generates and transmits emission-free power to support about 33% of the Northwest, as well as transmitting wind energy to California. I’m already fully immersed in the benefit and challenge of learning the energy industry along with government practices. In my new role, I’ll be leading talent acquisition, internal talent movement, university recruitment, and diversity. I’ll also have the opportunity to further develop and execute on the Obama Administration’s Hiring Reform Memorandum, which by design enables government agencies to compete more effectively with private industry for talent. My own experience in applying for the job – 8 hours to complete the application – responding to a series of essay questions and short answers, resulting in a 9-page document, was quite revealing. At the same time, there are a number of good, transparent touch points within federal hiring and workplace practices that are well aligned with job seeker and employee preferences.
This is one of those unique opportunities to design a holistic strategy, develop a high-performing talent acquisition function, and enable the function to thrive and align with a critical business mission, which in this case will literally help keep the lights on! I’ll also be continuing with some outside work that doesn’t present a direct conflict or interfere with my role. The Talent Synchronicity blog will stay active and as I get settled will allocate more time to write. Talent Camp is still a possibility for 2011 so stay tuned and cheers to Transitions!
In the spirit of pushing the boundaries of an unconference for the recruiting community, the first Recruitfest was a small, grass roots event in Toronto. It was a funky gig by all accounts but it was transformative. As a session leader I had the joy of engaging three groups in free flowing dialogue around talent acquisition practices to build a compilation of the trends, influencers and desired outcomes that were shaping the talent landscape. As only Jason Davis could do, the event wrapped with a drum circle and party at Jason’s home. Imagine that! Jason and Michelle, his wife, opening up their home to everyone that attended.
Having just wrapped my second Recruitfest experience I feel like this was another first. Two years and the maturing of RecruitingBlogs has made a tremendous difference to the scope and format but the spirit was the same. Perhaps two years ago Recruitfest was like a rebellious teenager and this year it was more like a spunky, young adult not content with the status quo and still pulsing with the persistent determination to make a difference and carve a new, experiential path to learning. Jason’s team has grown to include Miles Jennings and Ashley Saddul – the genius behind the quality live stream. Personally, I like events that push the talent agenda and serve as a format for discussion and learning, and Recruitfest 2010 certainly delivered. In partnership with Monster and through the support of a number of sponsors, the Recruitfest live stream reached thousands of people globally – 38 countries, and every state in the U.S.
Eric Weingardner was invaluable as coordinator and host. His passion and wit delivered engaging commentary throughout the day. Eric’s and Jason’s onsite teams delivered a flawlessly executed event. Is there room for more, sure! Enhancing the virtual experience by making it more interactive or hosting simultaneous live stream events that bounce from geo to geo will come. But, the value and meaning of Recruitfest cannot be underestimated.
Three areas that made a difference:
The people and the conversation. The mix of presenters brought a diverse, progressive and dynamic dialogue to life. The panel discussions were some of the best I’ve seen and participated in. They were unscripted, candid, authentic and dynamic. Real and raw. It was the fishbowl concept and it worked beautifully.
The reach. We are part of a global community. Talent is increasingly a global marketplace. Pushing the conversation globally to challenge the state of talent acquisition to share, learn and advance the practice is not only timely but necessary. After all, our work is about people and business. Its about the passion and ability to enable both to accomplish more together than is possibly otherwise.
Purpose. What was perhaps most energizing for me about Recruitfest 2010 was the raw authenticity. There was a common thread of people and purpose, something that all too often gets lost in the crazy, day-to-day pressure of recruiting. And, that is also the problem. We cannot lose sight of people and the power of connecting people to purpose and business to people. Yes, we have the persistent emergence of new tools and technology to manage. But, when the focus on people is lost we dilute the value of our profession and dilute the value of our brand, whether it be the individuals or organizations.
The event kicked off with Chris Hoyt of PepsiCo speaking about their glocal brand strategy and the power of a simple question – “Why do you do what you do? The Candidate’s Bill of Rights Panel with Gerry Crispin, Chris Hoyt, Charlie Judy, Jason Lauritsen and Mike Ramer could have continued for days, which demonstrated the critical importance of getting refocused on the candidate experience. I think too often the importance of the candidate experience gets overcomplicated. My question – what’s getting in the way? Is it the very essence of the talent philosophy, the technology and embedded functionality, or how the function is resourced? If you want to get to the heart of what gets in the way start with these three areas.
Sarah White and John Nykolaiszyn led a discussion on the importance of blending and articulating personal and organizational brand, which has quickly become a topic worthy of more time, understanding and intention. Tim Dineen’s quick hit preso on SEO to enable better search results demonstrated the continued importance of a topic and technique the industry has room to leverage further.
I was honored to participate in a discussion with Joe Gerstandt, China Gorman and Jason Lauritsen on the true value of social recruiting. If you didn’t catch us live I’ll give you a hint – its not just about the technology. In fact, the over emphasis on technology has resulted in minimizing the power of social recruiting to just another tactical tool – watch for the video archive to be released. I also had the pleasure of presenting with Master Burnett on the future of the talent acquisition function. Apparently my comment on just-in-time (JIT) recruiting too resulting in just-behind recruiting caused a few sparks. I suppose that’s the risk of a 20 minute teaser conversation. With respect and admiration to Glenn, he is one of the few who frames JIT with specifics and intention so I can understand his response, although we definitely need to have a conversation on the value of talent communities! Well, let me clarify again the context of JIT during my preso. When recruiting functions operate with an “in the moment” on demand philosophy or approach it has been called JIT, absent of course a complete reference to the full significance of the model. When recruiting operates as a reactive function JIT becomes just-behind because its just that – reactive, and your behind by the time you begin given the process time and absence of an anticipatory approach and alignment with the business strategy and a workforce plan. A proactive approach can also be framed as an adaptive strategy.
Oh, and my take on the future of the talent acquisition function? The Function is positioned to be the talent broker for the organization but only if its pursued with intention, strategic action and alignment with the business strategy – more to come!
Recruiting is filled with structural issues. I’m not referring to the internal structural challenges that can impede functional excellence. I am referring to the very essence of recruiting – finding the talent you need, when you need it, where you need it, and with the skills and cultural fit that is right for your organization. The talent market is inefficient and the structural issues of this recession have made it even more so. Navigating through the inefficiencies and structural issues presents a unique challenge that is so significant it could slow the recovery, impact the Country’s ability to compete effectively in global markets and permanently impact organizations of all sizes, industries and levels of success. I was struck by the irony in a series of articles over the past week. The articles captured the growing gap between the types of jobs available, what people are looking for in work – and willing to settle for, or not, and some of the elements that are making the impact of this recession on the labor force quite difficult. The NYTs, Jobless and Staying That Way, and WSJs, Some Firms Struggle to Hire Despite High Unemployment, captured many of the challenges. The Forbes article, The Unemployment Dilemma, misses the reality of the situation and instead assumes people enjoy being unemployed and should be happy to have any work at all. This strikes me as being in direct conflict with what we have come to value and appreciate about our relationship with work – which has been about self-improvement to contribute and accomplish more than previous generations. Unemployment is a transitioning tool and is not sufficient to sustain a standard of living, nor should it be.
At the root of the irony is a serious issue that needs to be solved for the health of both individuals and business. As I thought about the issues behind the irony, there are four that I feel capture the essence of what is going on.
- Talent Mobility
- The Engagement – Meaning gap
- Embracing an Anticipatory mindset
- Moving Beyond the Round-peg Syndrome
Talent mobility has been a mounting challenge. People are particular about where they want to live and place a higher value on this choice than they have in the past. Lifestyle is valued more than ever and people are willing to stand firm with their preferences. While leading talent acquisition at Waggener Edstrom we encountered this scenario often. The company had corporate offices in Seattle and Portland. Both cities are in the Northwest but they offer very different styles of living. It was a benefit to our recruitment strategy that, in most cases, we could present both cities as options. People typically didn’t waiver and found that one city more than the other met their preferences. I think Portland was winning, but maybe I’m biased.
Beyond choice, a significant mobility issue for people today is their housing situation. The economics of the housing market make it very difficult for people to disengage from their investment. Homeowners are looking at either reduced value or taking a sizeable loss on their investment. While companies are not in a situation to cover losses many have chosen to do nothing at tall, except keep jobs open longer and longer trying to find a local candidate. I have to wonder in this case how these companies value either time or the importance of the role itself. Part of a workforce planning strategy should be understanding which roles must sit in a specific geographical location. If it isn’t a requirement, like retail sales or many manufacturing roles, then why let geography interfere with getting the best Talent? Leverage technology and institute distributed workforce programs to close the distance gap.
The Engagement-Meaning Gap
Why are people willing to invest time in creating apps, blog content, videos and more with no direct return for their time. Or potentially any return for their time. Primarily because it provides them meaning and they get to do something they enjoy. Companies spend millions trying to engage their workforce while the systemic forces inherent in the organization work against engagement. And, high performing employees will tend to disengage more quickly. Which problems need to be solved in the organization and how can the company create a culture of collaboration and innovation that rewards people for great ideas and contributions?
People want to be engaged in their work. They want their work to have meaning and their contribution to be valued. They also want work that aligns with their skill-set and personal values. This is no mystery. We’ve created a societal culture of choice. So, its no surprise that people are willing to hold out until they find a job that makes them feel good about the time they spend at work. Or, find one that is “manageable” as they seek other avenues to fill the void. Periods of great change present opportunities for exploration and we are experiencing significant shifts across the business landscape that are impacting the type of work available, career options and choice – all of which will take time to settle as people readjust. The perceived loyalty gap, of companies towards employees, is perhaps deeper now than it every has been given the rise of transparency. Because the loyalty gap has deepened, people are more particular about the risks they’ll assume with a company and ultimately the choices they’ll make about employment. While it may be quite challenging to work through financial situations the emotional toll of a bad job fit is potentially worse. Needless to say, companies benefit from a strong cultural and job fit as well.
We know that there are plenty of jobs that will never return. And, in some cases, people caught in the middle of the recession may never attain the status and income they had previously. While that in and of itself is emotionally challenging, people are resilient and can adjust in amazing ways when faced with obstacles – and have more choices than ever to pursue. Perhaps more important than the financial component though is the emotional need of finding meaningful work that is challenging and leverages their capabilities and potential. Personally, I think this is one of the greatest obstacles to our recovery – as individuals, as a country and as contributors to global economic success.
Embracing an Anticipatory Mindset
While it’s clear that many jobs will not come back to pre-recession levels, new jobs are being created and other’s are being retooled that require new skills. It’s true that in some instances these jobs require significant training and education. However, in many jobs the skill gap can be closed through on-the-job training or short-term coursework if companies can get better at anticipating their needs and assessing the supply of talent where those skills exist. If the nature of a business is changing and new tools, methods or processes are being developed and implemented to produce a product or service, chances are there will be a skills gap. Our educational system is not designed to effectively reskill, although it could be. Depending on the job level and skill need there could be a variety of options. Ideally, an academic : business relationship would be most effective. We saw this occur during the .com boom years when companies would do everything and anything to get the talent they needed. Many companies established partnerships with universities to create intensive sessions designed to enhance skills and prepare new college graduates for a successful career with their company. Programs were designed to help Liberal Arts students who needed to be taught business and computer skills but possessed other skills that would be valuable to their career success. While this is still an important concept for new graduates it can and should be for experienced talent as well.
If someone with a bachelors degree or MBA wanted to update their skills and pursue a career in sustainable business practices what options are available? Typically, for this and similar situations, the options are very short, 3 – 5 day intensives or full graduate programs. What about a 3 or 6 month intensive? Community colleges are also important avenues and they are working to meet demand. However, without a coordinated and intentional effort between businesses and colleges / universities there is a risk of preparing people for the wrong types of work and / or not addressing the critical skill gaps. Companies can, and are, taking on reskilling within their own environment. But is this happening to the extent needed. Businesses can’t wait for another talent crisis to pursue more creative partnerships and investments, even if they are pursued at a moderate level for now.
Moving Beyond the Round-peg Syndrome
Influenced in part by myth and in part by risk aversion, companies have adopted an even more conservative mentality to their hiring practices than usual. Hiring managers believe there is plenty of talent available (the first myth) so recruiters should be able to match exact job requirements, most of which don’t take into consideration where the company is going – only where its been, and often lack a compelling reason to consider the role and join the company. Too often, both hiring managers and recruiters believe that only those individuals currently employed are worth pursuing (the second myth). While I agree with this mindset during normal times, this is not the case today. Considering people who have been unemployed for longer durations does require a different approach, which could be quite revealing depending on the interview questions and answers, but can be quite valuable for the company. Risk aversion, while understandable during difficult economic times, can also impede a company’s long-term success. Risk aversion comes into play when companies fail to incorporate an “opportunistic” element into their recruitment strategy, especially during down-trending economic cycles, and perpetuates the problem. Honoring the myths and assuming a risk averse mentality often means allocating more dollars to hire or keeping jobs open longer than necessary to find the round peg, both of which have an associated cost.
The real loss here is that companies are missing out on opportunities to further diversify their workforce and build loyalty. Considering talent adjacencies or assessing for “potential” and cultural fit could deliver considerable value. Pursuing an “opportunistic” approach provides companies with greater skill agility, which is important and valuable in uncertain business environments, which we’re sure to see for some time. Applying the additional time and dollars spent on a candidate search to on-the-job development, where possible, also helps diversify the company’s workforce. And, imagine what could be realized in employee loyalty! How much loyalty could employers gain if they invested in unemployed job seekers? What’s the brand value of that move? Additionally, in the time it may take a company to find their round peg they could have successfully on-boarded an opportunistic hire.
One way to think of this is like an apprentice or internship program. A simple approach to opportunistic hiring can be accomplished through planning and a series of coordinated steps:
- determine which roles in the company are appropriate and could benefit from a mix of diverse skill sets and experiences
- reach agreement with hiring managers on a percentage of total roles / hires that could participate in opportunistic hiring and partner with your CFO
- partner with business unit leaders who will be champions of the program
- recognize and reward business partners who’s business units participate
- develop an ROI that demonstrates a reallocation of dollars and lost time to on-boarding, training and development – and ideally contribution and success
- partner with SME’s and the training group, in advance, to identify and/or develop a fast-track development curriculum, including experiential learning
- hire ahead of the curve so there’s time for the hiring manager to support a successful orientation. This is critical to support success and why its important to partner with the CFO. Hiring managers are less likely to be supportive if they’re under-resourced and scrambling to get work done because they have an open role. Help make them successful so they can effectively support the new hire. You can recoup the cost of an early hire and demonstrate the value in your ROI.
Add all this up and incorporate the challenges recruiting departments are encountering as hiring picks up and you’ll see a perfect storm brewing. How many good people are overlooked because recruiting teams are overwhelmed with applications and they lack the resources and/or tools to effectively cull through resumes to find the right-fit applicant? How many people never hear back after applying for a job? How will that impact the company’s hiring in the future? Recruiting will always have structural issues and market inefficiencies. The opportunity is to be creative and proactive to limit the issues outside of your control.
Managing a financial portfolio takes increasing skill, risk tolerance and foresight. Whether you’re working with a financial advisor or not, active participation is required. Decisions are not easy but one thing is clear when it comes to good financial planning – diversifying your portfolio is a smart thing to do. In uncertain times it’s even more important.
Similarities can be drawn between portfolio diversification and designing smart talent strategies to develop a diversified talent portfolio. Most importantly, it’s the absence of risk that adds risk. In a financial portfolio, risk avoidance can lead to missing out on significant gains or realizing significant losses. Taking the time to clarify your goals, be honest about the level of risk your willing to assume, design a diversified portfolio, make ongoing contributions, pursue a long-term strategy, periodically reassess and rebalance the portfolio, and leave room to play (so you can take advantage of interesting opportunities) will help to ensure you realize your financial future and keep you engaged in the journey.
Risk-smart of risk-averse
Now, let’s look at the similarities in how talent strategies are designed. In an effort to avoid risk, companies make narrowly defined decisions about how, where and when they invest in talent. Developing clearly stated goals around talent acquisition is often the first obstacle to overcome. Without an integrated workforce planning capability, decisions are often reactive, expensive, and lead to either not enough of the right talent at the right time or too much of the wrong talent at the wrong time. But, lets assume there is a workforce plan in place. Is the plan risk-smart or risk-averse? Here’s the difference. A risk-averse plan would identify the talent needed to support attrition, succession planning, growth, reinvestment in existing talent, and decisions around when, where and how to invest in talent acquisition. If the strategy is progressive, there’s also a talent-pooling component. Keep in mind that very few organizations pursue this level of strategy and planning. The risk-averse plan sounds pretty good, right? So what’s the risk-smart plan? In the risk-averse plan the talent function is doing many of the right things to deliver value to the organization. The key difference? The risk-smart plan includes a very important distinction – diversification.
Talent portfolio diversification
Identifying a goal for the percent of talent you’ll recruit in to the organization that will come from varied backgrounds, skills, and experiences moves the organization towards a risk-smart talent portfolio. This same thinking can and should be applied to internal talent movement. The advantage a risk-smart approach brings to the organization is a subset of Talent who have the potential to bring different perspectives to the business and can help fuel innovation and breakthrough thinking. Too often, hiring managers and recruiters pursue people who have been in the exact job that is open. That’s fine, to a point, but often it results in applying the same thinking, which doesn’t always help to inspire new ideas, broaden perspective and drive innovation. Recall the Einstein quote, “You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.” By not diversifying the company’s talent portfolio organizations can impede their own progress and assume a riskier trajectory over time in their effort to reduce risk.
Here’s an example from the HR space. Many technology companies only want to hire HR leaders who have come from technology companies. The same story can easily play out in healthcare, entertainment, financial services, consumer package goods, retail……get the picture. The main point is this – someone who has experience in other industries, or even other functional areas, brings a more expansive knowledge-base that results in something many technology companies cherish – innovative practices. Diversified, creative thinking has often been at the heart of the company’s birth. Yet at some point they become increasingly risk-averse, especially in HR. As I’ve heard the “why” described it is often not that different than how other companies would describe their unique challenges. Will there be an initial learning curve? Yes! Are there specifics to the business that are unique? Yes? But, the right person can get up to speed quickly and new skills can be developed. Along the way, if the person brings the required leadership skills, has a proven track-record and is a cultural fit, the individual, team and company are transformed and all will benefit. It’s through this immersion and learning process that amazing things can happen. New questions are asked. New insights are made. New discoveries unfold and new opportunities are identified. Current thinking and processes are challenged. The world is looked at through a new lens and the opportunity for transformational change is enhanced. Operating in an uncertain world undergoing dramatic change requires a diversified perspective fueled my fresh thinking. Holding on to “what is” while everything around you is changing will not help the organization realize its potential.
Diversifying a talent portfolio requires building strong partnerships and trust with business leaders and the CFO. Start small and find internal champions. Help prepare them by developing a strong on-boarding process and immersion to enculturate new talent. Partner with the CFO to gain support and mitigate risk. This is one aspect of defining an opportunity cost of talent, which focuses on the benefits derived by the business rather than on expense. Take the time to think about talent adjacencies, how to assess experiences that led to differentiated business results, benefits gained through work on special projects, and demonstrated ability to ramp-up quickly. Each of these are indicators of future potential and can be quite valuable to the overall talent portfolio. Looking at each of these indicators and then mapping talent to the organization’s cultural will help ensure success.
The end game
What better time than now to think more broadly about talent and begin developing a risk-smart portfolio. The breadth of talent on the market today and your company’s ability to capture attention and engage a diverse mix of prospects can align more easily than during highly competitive environments. You’ll also be helping to position your company for long-term success. Start slow, identify your champions and demonstrate how you’ll support the strategy. In the end, by being risk-averse there is potentially greater risk in the talent strategy, which ultimately transfers to the business strategy and the organization’s long–term success. After all, is your talent strategy focused solely on today or where the company wants to be tomorrow?