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The wise man built his house upon the rock. How's the foundation of your human system?

My last posting established the model of the People Flow Continuum; how people progress during their life with an organization. The first point on the continuum, each person’s organizational point of origin is recruitment. Some may disagree with my claim that recruitment is THE FOUNDATION of your human system. The following should affirm this rationale. (That was the fluffy, cerebral version. The other way: Turnover sucks and is expensive, so here’s how to minimize it.)

In reflection, remember that the “variable” part of HR is one of your best opportunities to distinguish yourself. When understood, strategic and visionary recruitment is a major competitive advantage. Too often, recruitment is misunderstood, haphazard, or reactionary. I’ll be so bold as to say if you don’t have at least an above average recruitment function, you have virtually relegated yourself to have a mediocre organization.

I believe recruitment, in most settings, is more of a stepchild vs. strategic function. Remember, Cinderella was a stepchild; someone most saw as a maid doing the menial work. Is your recruitment paradigm keeping you from seeing the treasure lying beneath this often overlooked and squandered opportunity? Your recruiting function, do you see a maid or a princess? (…or a ditch digger or a prince…to keep me from ever be accused of being sexist)

Before throwing the C-suite under the bus, realize recruiting hasn’t always helped itself. There is no college degree in recruiting. Have you ever know anyone that went to college to become a recruiter? People typically fall into it; all different kinds of people. This is true both internal to organizations and in the outside recruiting industry. Internally, where does it fall on the org chart? The pay scale? There are no barriers to entry on the outside, and it can be a profitable business…..even if you aren’t that good at it.

Here’s a long story made short: Several years ago, I was at a national ASHHRA (American Society of Healthcare Human Resources Administration) meeting and after an “interesting” conversation, asked many HR leaders this question: “Given your experience, out of 10, how many (outside) recruiters would you contend understand recruitment and how it relates to your human system?” Stop and come up with your own answer. Think about it. “2” was the highest number I heard, many said NONE. Could there be a more pitiful commentary on an industry than the primary people you market a service to don’t think you functionally understand it? Think: would you use an accountant you didn’t think could do math, a physician that didn’t know anatomy? I came to a very acute understanding of why/how there were such barriers for those that truly are qualitiative.

Understand then, I’m throwing enough blame around for everyone to get a slice. There is a chicken/egg dynamic. However, considering the top leaders are supposed to be the brains and get the bigger $, the impetus lies there: to understand and embrace the value of strategic recruitment. So make sure you have a program, model, and the right people (or resource) to execute the initiative. The dot com world and its war for talent got this. The good news from that bubble bursting is there has been a greater matriculation (my 5 pt. word for the day) of “talent management” into healthcare.

Is there a leader you know of in healthcare today who has started with a blank canvass and said, “We are a human resource driven organization. I think the foundation of our human resources initiative should be recruitment.” Would you ever say this during an interview for a VP of HR position, a CEO role? (One you wanted) A new CEO comes to your organization, he/she asks you your core view of human resources, you tell him/her, “I believe that recruitment is the foundation and we need to invest most of our HR resources there first.” Could there be a quicker way to get fired? Do you see why I feel it is more of a challenge to make you a believer in such a concept? You aren’t programmed to believe this.

Wouldn’t it be much more acceptable to call training & development, motivation, or retention foundational initiatives? Are they yours? We could easily make a case for these. They deal with the “who you got”, not the “who you’re going to get.” Though these other initiatives are focused on the “who you got,” everyone was in the “who you are going to get” category at one time. You feel either blessed or stuck with the people you have in your organization; most likely some of both. Though you are stuck/blessed with the “who you got” today, strategic recruitment is your opportunity to make each piece of the future as good as it can be. Metamorphosis is not a snap-change thing; it is a perpetual evolution to something else. Thus, strategically focusing on the “who you get” will change your organization. You can have people that are resistant to all the training and development or motivation you could ever want to throw at them. But, you can make choices about the makeup of the people you bring in; better raw materials to work with.

Cool stuff: Believe it or not, it is actually possible to create a scientific, empirical system for organizational mapping. You can integrate your recruiting/selection program and unless you lose a star performer, scientifically force your organization to become better every time there is turnover. Scale, repetitive function/role, are things you need to make it cost advantageous. I almost lead this for a large national healthcare system. They missed earnings, had some bad press…..the rest… “la histoire”.

With a shortage of workers in general, but especially the national focus on skill sets like nurses, pharmacists, allied health, etc. retention seems like a more logical “foundation” or point of emphasis for resources. Recruitment is talked about, yes, but I would call what usually happens busier or more aggressive recruitment, but not necessarily more strategic. Effort mistaken for progress….

For those who are going to dismiss this recruitment thing and want to the frosting of the cake, retention, I’m going to satisfy you for a minute.

  • Question: Do you know what your #1 retention strategy should be? What is yours? Is it a financial retention incentive? Compensation? Benefits? Take-your-birthday-off program? Bring a pet to work day?

(Understand turnover first: What is the #1 reason people stay or leave an organization? It is the relationship they have with their front line supervisor or manager.)

Answer: your #1 retention strategy should be your management/leadership recruitment strategy/program. Was that slick or what? Pulling you right back to recruitment. I’m telling you, as much as you don’t want it to be, recruitment IS the foundation. Now, what is yours built on?

What about selection? It is the interviewing, testing, referencing process, etc. that makes the decision on who to bring into the organization, right? Good argument, for a moment. I believe in quality selection systems, even sophisticated ones. However, you recruit a lousy batch of candidates and you may just select the best of a poor group. Your chance of a selection error is still high unless you have sourced a superior group of candidates. That is what we are talking about here, SOURCING. You must understand the distinction. Gathering the group of candidates is different than choosing between them; that is selection. If you recruit a best group of candidates, your chance of making selection errors goes down significantly. If you are resource conscious, you don’t have to have as sophisticated a selection process. Top tier groups of sourced individuals typically don’t come with intense training needs. They are more self-motivated and easier to retain by nature. Have I made my case yet?

Recruitment is very multifaceted, though most organizations treat it as one-size-fits-all. I believe there could/should be university level courses taught in it in the school of business or any human resources program. Instead, historically it has been a stepchild function/department.

Why the importance? Every individual in an organization is affected by either quality or sloppy recruiting. Each manager they have, each staff person they have, each peer is affected by how well the recruitment and selection process is handled. Reflect on your own experiences. For your own personal, selfish reasons, how would you want the recruitment of your boss to be handled? I call it “the golden rule of recruitment.”

Here is your golden nugget bonus of the day: do it this way for everyone and you just became THE employer of choice.

I mentioned recruitment being very multi-facetted. Some of these facets:

  • Who does your recruiting, is it centralized or decentralized? Is there dedicated staff for this?

  • Role of an internal recruiter. How do you view the skill set and competencies of a recruiter? As an administrative type person, an executive, a consultant, a sales person? What combination of these?

  • How should recruitment be done differently for different job families?

  • How should recruitment be done differently for different levels in the organization?

  • What about this external recruitment world? Is “professional recruiter” an oxymoron?

  • What about recruiting sources? Which provide value? (value being a function of time, quality and cost)

  • Who is responsible for selection systems and administration of them?

  • What is a written recruitment plan?

  • Does recruiting belong in human resources or the marketing department?

  • What about metrics? Cost per hire? What about cost of a bad hire? Cost of turnover?

These are the things I will explore in more depth in the future.

I invite your feedback, I would love to hear of your practices, thoughts, etc. I would love to know who/where is doing this progressively. Understand my disclaimer, I speak in normative groups. There are some of you that do this well. I would contend it is the exception vs. the rule, but it happens. Just don’t put yourself there too quickly.

We can all nod our heads in agreement, but it is the actual embracing of new practices that we are talking about. That takes commitment.

Choose to make yours a great week!

Don Rottman

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