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Developing a Staffing Strategy Requires Partnership

August 1, 1998
Related Topics: Partnership, Candidate Sourcing, Workforce Planning, Featured Article
Remember the days when 20 applicants walked through the door for every one position you had open? Those days, of course, are gone, and with them have gone old recruiting methods carried out by HR generalists. "Today, if companies are smart, they still have HR generalists, but not as many. Instead, they have recruiting teams solely involved with recruiting to proactively recruit within a timely manner," says Reginald Barefield, executive director of Talent Resources & Recruitment Technology at Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana Inc.

However, that doesn't mean that recruiters should work in isolation. The most successful recruitment functions are partnered with hiring managers from initial planning stages through strategy assessment. Here's what some recruiters have to say about these relationships.

Develop recruiter and manager teams.
According to our experts, recruiting operations are most successful meeting their companies' business goals when the function is centralized, but individual recruiters are assigned to particular work units or functions. "Teaming up recruiters with hiring managers allows recruiters to explain to managers what's crucial -- help them set priorities instead of developing wish lists," says Diane Tunick Morello, research director for Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner Group Research and Advisory Services.

The value is clear, say recruiting managers from companies that have put such structures in place. Barefield, for example, cut the cost of recruiting at Humana by $7 million by building a more efficient recruiting process, which included aligning recruiters with functional areas.

Involve many in assessing staffing needs.
By having recruiters aligned with business units or specific functions, it's much easier to evaluate current and future staffing needs.

At Humana, recruiters meet with hiring managers early in the year to develop a forecasting plan. The team looks at what and how many positions were filled the previous year, how they were filled (such as by internal or external candidates), and what the key business drivers are for the upcoming year. It reassesses these factors quarterly.

This is important, as Gordon Markley, assist-ant director of staffing at Plano, Texas-based EDS can attest to. EDS currently has $70 billion worth of potential new business in the pipeline, with each business unit anticipating a specific amount. "If we don't get the business, we can't have people on the bench," says Markley. "On the other hand, the day the piece of business is assigned [to a work unit], that customer needs people. We [the recruiters] need to work with the unit to prepare for that what-if scenario."

Part of working with business units is evaluating what has been effective for them before. Eva Fujan, vice president of technical recruiting for Omaha, Nebraska-based Inacom Corp. spent close to three months evaluating the company's previous strategy before developing a recruitment plan. She met with nearly 600 district managers, sales managers and area vice presidents to learn about their best practices. "A lot of the ideas I came up with were from listening to them," says Fujan.

Specify recruiters' and managers' roles.
It's important to remember that even though hiring managers can tell you what has worked for them in the past, the burden shouldn't be put on them to develop ongoing recruitment strategies. Says Tunick Morello: "Hiring managers need to give input, but I don't think it's the hiring managers' responsibility to figure out a recruiters' job."

It is the hiring managers' job to hire, however -- and recruiters can help them fulfill that role. At Humana, talent resources (recruiting) managers have responsibility for the position-filling process, from staff forecasting to getting a new hire on board. If there's a breakdown in the process anywhere, they work with their hiring manager partners to fix it. If a hiring manager sits on resumes and draws out the interviewing process, the talent resource manager assigned to his or her unit will suggest alternative processes -- creating a panel for interviewing, for example, or bringing all candidates in on the same day. "We consult with [hiring managers] to show them the dollars and cents they're losing, show them the cost factor," says Barefield.

Helping hiring managers do their part also requires putting the right tools in place. At EDS, hiring managers input their recruitment requests into an electronic system linked throughout the entire North American organization. As soon as the request gets approved, it routes to the hiring managers' recruitment partners.

Conversely, when open positions are posted on the company's Web site, responses can go directly to the hiring managers, enabling them to take immediate action.

Evaluate the success of your strategy.
Once a recruitment strategy has been put in place, all our experts agree it's imperative to evaluate what's working and what's not. Much of this can be done through recruiting software. At Humana, for example, each recruitment method has a source code. Using the resume-tracking system, recruiters can identify how many candidates came from each recruiting method.

The company is also in the process of integrating the resume-tracking system with the HRMS system. This integration will help recruiters extract data regarding productivity, which they can then link back to hiring methods to determine where successful hires came from.

But technology can't give you the whole picture on recruiting effectiveness. To ensure they're hitting the right marks, recruiters should, once again, consult with their hiring manager partners.

Inacom ensures this happens by making it a part of recruiters' bonus criteria. Recruiters are eligible for quarterly bonuses if they satisfy five criteria, four of which can't be met unless the recruiter understands his or her customer's needs. The criteria are:

  1. Target numbers. These are determined based on the needs of the recruiters' regions.
  2. Partnerships with colleges. This criterium doesn't hinge as much on current customer (hiring manager) needs as the others, but ensures long-term staffing ability, instead.
  3. Customer satisfaction survey. This is the hiring managers' opportunity to give direct feedback about the hiring process.
  4. Turnover percentage for the recruiters' regions. The recruiters must understand their customer's business in order to hire the right workers.
  5. Specific regional goals. For example, a particular region may have a goal to focus on salespeople or to find specifically skilled professionals. These goals are spelled out for the recruiters at the beginning of the quarter so they know precisely what they need to do to get their bonuses.

Understand business goals.
Experts also emphasize that the role of recruiters isn't just to please hiring managers but to ensure their company's long-term competitive advantage. Therefore, they also must understand overall business goals. Says Barefield: "They're helping the company meet goals by hiring quality talent to help the company sustain growth."

Fujan believes this is so critical that she doesn't even use the term staffing to describe bringing in people. "It's building intellectual capital, building the company," she says.

With that in mind, spend time working with your hiring managers to develop a staffing strategy. Your company's growth depends on it.

Workforce, August 1998, Vol. 77, No. 8, pp. 81-82.

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