Recruiting highly skilled talent has become a top priority for executives as they worry over whether they can find the talent they need to meet their growth goals for the coming year.
And they are right to worry. More than one-third of employers say they want to increase full-time, permanent head count in 2015, according to CareerBuilder’s most recent “U.S. Job Forecast,” though they will likely have trouble meeting that goal. According to Bullhorn Inc.’s 2015 recruiting trends report, 75 percent of recruiting professionals report a skills shortage in the industries for which they recruit, up from 71 percent in 2014.
Three out of four companies believe that using people analytics is “important,” but just 8 percent believe their organization is “strong” in this area — almost exactly the same percentage as in 2014, according to Deloitte’s research.
These pressures make it tempting to just throw warm bodies at empty seats and hope they can do the job, but that can be a costly shortcut, warned Peter Gundy, managing director of talent and rewards for Towers Watson & Co. He added that the current cost of turnover can be as much as 200 percent of an employee’s salary, and that doesn’t include lost productivity or the effect on morale of a bad hire. “As companies get leaner, the impact of turnover increases, so it’s important to get it right.”
In order to fill open positions with the right people in today’s market, recruiters need to be sure their strategies and branding messages are as good as they can possibly be, said Robin Erickson, a vice president at Bersin by Deloitte. “The goal is to hire better so you can retain longer.”
More than 60 percent of executives say they rely on social tools for sourcing and advertising positions.
The best recruiting programs begin with a talent acquisition strategy that directly supports the company’s business goals, she said. It should include plans for effective employee branding, improving the candidate experience, and being sure you are using the right technology to engage and attract passive candidates. “The actual recruiting process comes after all of that.” Indeed, many companies are now actively reviewing and improving their approach to talent acquisition in an effort to get ahead of the rising demand for talent. Deloitte’s 2015 Global Human Capital Trends survey shows that 66 percent of global leaders say they are currently updating their retention and engagement strategies, or have done so in the past 18 months. However less than half of respondents consider their program capabilities to be good or excellent, which suggests there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Are You Ready?
For many companies, improvements to the talent acquisition process are focused around harnessing technology and social media to attract and retain the best people and to make sure they have both the skills and personality to fit the position. “Culture fit is just as important as skills,” Erickson said.
SWC Builds Talent Acquisition Program From Scratch
When Fran Peters joined SWC Technology Partners nine years ago, she was the only employee in the human resources department. “I did everything — recruiting,employee engagement, benefits. It was just me,” she said. But the company was growing quickly, and her lack of a team or any talent management software made it nearly impossible to do the job well. So she built an entire recruiting and talent management process from scratch.
Peters started with an applicant tracking system to automate the résumé flow and screening process, which she had formally done via email and spreadsheets. “That saved a lot of time and money and made us more compliant,” she said. Compliance was critical as SWC had recently become a government vendor and had to align with strict recruiting criteria.
Then Peters partnered with the company’s marketing department to build an employment brand that would help attract more candidates. “We wanted people to be able to find our career site and quickly see who we are and what we value,” she said. The strategy included creating a series of lighthearted videos, including a piece showing SWC engineers dancing with toy robots to reflect the company’s culture message that ‘happy consultants equal happy clients.’ “Video is a very important part of our talent acquisition strategy,” she said.
Working with the marketing team, they also generated blog posts, marketing campaigns, social media ads and referral campaigns to further bolster traffic to the site. To be sure these efforts pay off, Peters reviews monthly metrics through the ATS to see where candidates are coming from and whether they are good fits for the company. For example, recent metrics showed her that the company’s branded LinkedIn ads weren’t getting the responses she wanted, but that sponsored job posts drove a lot of traffic. “The metrics showed us what worked so we can use LinkedIn more effectively.”
Today, SWC has more than 160 employees and is still growing. Thanks to Peters’ efforts to streamline the recruiting program and build an effective corporate brand, she is confident they will be able to attract the best candidates to the company and maintain that growth trajectory. “If you take the time to create a process and brand, and build ideal candidate profiles, you can find the right people — at least 90 percent of the time.”
But companies should also pay attention to the skills and needs of their recruiting team. Deloitte research shows that development programs for recruiting staff are the top predictor of talent acquisitions performance, Erickson said. “The companies that invest in recruiter training programs get the right candidates faster than companies that skimp on training.”
Recruiters also need to work closely with hiring managers — ahead of the hiring process — to develop a recruiting strategy that includes clear expectations for the manager’s role in assessing and interviewing candidates, and making decisions promptly. “Building collaborative relationships with hiring managers is another top predictor of talent acquisitions performance,” Erickson said, noting that these relationships are four times more influential than other recruiting effort in delivering successful hires.
Create a brand: Your employment brand sends a message to potential recruits about what it will be like to work for your company, so think about what you want them to know, said Madeline Laurano, research director of human capital media acquisition for Aberdeen Group. Your brand might tell them you offer a fast-paced environment with room for growth, a fun place to work where they will love their job and make friends, or a startup environment where they can have a lot of responsibilities right out of the gate. “Your employee brand should be tied to your core values but separate from the corporate brand,” she said. “It needs to be front and center of all your hiring communications, from social media postings and job ads to career-site messaging and videos.”
Define what you need: You can’t hire good people unless you know what you are looking for. Ideally a company will proactively develop profiles for every critical role in the company. These profiles can be assembled through interviews with managers and employees. A review of the characteristics of high performers can also be used as a benchmark for “what good looks like.”
Define your value proposition. Recruiting isn’t just about the salary, Tower Watson’s Grundy said. “To win great talent you have to be able to provide them with a robust employment proposition, great culture and career opportunities.” In-house or outsource: Before you can start recruiting, you need to decide who will do your recruiting. Some companies outsource, others build an in-house team, and many use a combination of both. There are pros and cons to each model, Laurano said. The benefit of staying in-house is that those recruiters tend to understand the culture better, they have stronger relationships with hiring managers, and they are focused on finding great people for your company — without worrying about the needs of other clients.
But if hiring isn’t your strong suit, or you don’t have the resources, network or ongoing need to have a full-time recruiting staff, outsourcing is an easy way to secure good candidates with little effort.
Choose your tools: Recruiting technologies, including applicant tracking systems, automated screening, video interviewing and analytics tools add efficiencies to every stage of the process.
Define your process: Creating a consistent hiring experience across the organization ensures that managers and recruiters know what is expected of them and recruits have a positive experience.
A good recruiting plan requires:
- A process for opening a position. As part of this process, the hiring manager should assess the skills identified for the role and talk to recruiters about their timeline and goals for hiring.
- A sourcing strategy. Based on the position, and past successes filling similar roles, recruiters should know where to post job openings and look for passive candidates, including social networks, job boards, campuses, association sites and their own career websites.“Being active in the social media space is instrumental in branding your organization and attracting talent, as the sites all aid in the effort to create awareness around your organization and touch points with potential talent,” said Terri McClements, U.S. human capital leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
- A referral program: Employee referrals are the strongest base for recruiting among internal sources, according to SilkRoad’s 2015 “Top Sources of Hire” report. Internal sources yield 61 percent of all hires.
- Aprocess for narrowing the candidate list. This step may include automated prescreening, background checks or initial interviews to narrow the pool to a short list of candidates.
- An interview process. Get commitment from managers for a set amount of time to do interviews, and let candidates know what the interview process will involve.
- A final decision-making process. Make it clear to everyone involved in decision-making how quickly they will be expected to make a choice.
Participate in workforce planning: An effective recruiting strategy begins with workforce planning to make sure your talent acquisition plan supports the strategic goals of the business, Gundy said. “Recruiting isn’t just a strategy to source candidates, it is the way companies build lasting productivity to achieve business goals.”
“Remember you are selling this job as an opportunity to the candidates,” said Futurestep’s Jonathan Brown. When organizations act like they are doing recruits a favor by interviewing them, it can turn good people off.
Start with a rough idea of how many people you expect to hire for the year, and then:
- Identify titles and locations of the positions.
- Set deadlines for when critical roles need to be filled.
- Look at past hiring data and industry research to determine how long it is likely to take to fill each position.
- Create an annual budget, taking into account salaries and cost of hiring.
Create a timeline: Using your workforce planning data, make a rough plan for the year, keeping in mind that every role requires a slightly different hiring strategy and schedule. Remember this is just a rough plan, and not something that can be succinctly broken into 12 identical chunks, said Jonathan Brown, vice president of global solutions at Futurestep, a Korn Ferry company. “Some months recruiters will have nothing to do and others they will be swamped.”
Recurly’s Sarah Mascardo said a good rule of thumb is that you have to reach out to 100 people to find four top candidates and one quality hire.
Get your name out there: Build talent communities around all the candidates you come in contact with, and connect with them through periodic emails, articles and updates about openings, Erickson said. “The most effective talent communities stay engaged with candidates on a regular basis.”
Start looking: When positions open, talk to the hiring manager about their expectations, to create a timeline and profile for the new hire, then set your expectations for how quickly they will interview candidates and make decisions.
Build a short list: Use automated screening tools, background checks, application reviews and initial interviews to narrow your candidate list, then schedule interviews.
Make an offer — promptly: If you force candidates to wait for weeks for an answer, they will likely find a position somewhere else.
Follow up: After the hiring process is completed, interview managers and new hires to get a sense of the recruiting experience and what could be improved.
When asked what they want most from a job, millennials cited the ability to make an impact on the business and a clear path for advancement as their top two choices, according to a 2015 survey from Futurestep, a Korn Ferry company. Income came in fourth place.
Track your metrics: Reviewing time to hire, cost to hire, turnover among hires and where candidates come from will let you know what’s working and what isn’t, Towers Watson’s Gundy said. “Not a lot of companies are doing this step successfully.”
Report back: “Create checkpoints in your talent acquisition cycle to review how you are doing compared to your targets, and report that to senior leadership,” Brown said. Then use that data, including lessons learned about what worked and what didn’t, to shape your acquisition goals for the next 12 months.
Plan, Do, Review
- Define an employment brand that embodies your workplace culture and make it part of every recruiting message.
- Define abilities for key roles, using past performance data, high-potential profiles and interviews with managers and workers.
- Choose an application tracking system and other technologies to support your recruiting efforts.
- Update your career page with content and videos that convey the culture of the company.
- Establish a clear hiring process, including formal steps for opening a position, sourcing candidates, reviewing applications, interviewing and making offers.
- Define recruiting metrics, such as time-to-hire, that align with goals.
- Participate in annual workforce planning to align recruiting plans with goals.
- Interview hiring managers about their expectations for new candidates.
- Conduct your search using social media, job boards, internal referrals and any other sources that promise strong candidates.
- Narrow the application pool using automated screening and/or first interviews to create a short list of possible hires.
- Build candidate communities so you can stay engaged with potential future hires.
- Get manager commitment for prompt interviews and decision-making.
- Follow up with managers and new hires to get their feedback about the recruiting experience.
- Regularly analyze recruiting metrics to prove results, identify problems and analyze lessons learned.
- Report results to senior leadership to demonstrate the value of the program.
- Use results to shape future recruiting efforts.