Include or Engage – Dont They Mean the Same Thing?

[tweetmeme source=”GaryFranklin”]

Last Friday there were a lot of Tweets using the #HFCHAT – this stands for HireFriday Chat and takes place online surprisingly on Fridays. I confess I’ve not paid too much attention to it so cannot offer any thoughts, however on Friday last week there were a number or tweets using the hashtag that seemed to follow a theme.

One in particular from Steve Levy @levyrecruits caught my eye

@levyrecruits Companies and Recruiters: I know you’re reading this… STOP RECRUITING TO EXCLUDE PEOPLE; find ways to include them #hfchat

This got me thinking.

Was this referring to the linear CV sifting process or was it talking about community and engagement? Could apply to both.

Let quickly look at the former first.

The problem that many in-house teams or HR generalists face is the lack time and the lack of engagement. The teams either don’t have the resources to afford the time or they are not afforded the time by the hiring managers to fully understand what it is they need. Very few in-house recruiters are given the opportunity to actively partner and engage at a business level with their hiring managers. There could be many reasons for this; managers not respecting what recruiting function could do if engaged properly, recruiters not having the commercial awareness to be anything other than transactional, HR Managers and BP’s marginalising the recruiting function and operating in a culture of elitism, where only they have access to the hiring manager community. There are I suspect a few more valid reasons. None acceptable to me, but valid nonetheless. All of these are common and familiar. None of them help the company or its ability to identify good talent from amongst the dozens, maybe hundreds of applications received for each position. And none of them help the candidate community get to know about the company.

Companies can be spoiled by the volume of applications received per vacancy, the vast majority of which are irrelevant. Irrelevant applications are received all of the time; because of wishful thinking or belief that they can genuinely do the job, stupidity or because of a lack of information provided by the company. Whatever the reason for the application, relevant or otherwise the overburdened recruiter will typically follow a linear process. At this stage they are looking to exclude people in order to identify those they want to include. Even once they have spent the time to create a decent long list they have their minds focused on finding perfect fits or best fits and therefore look to include only those that fit the predefined criteria and to exclude those that clearly don’t. It’s a process of elimination until they arrive a suitable shortlist of candidates that are worthy of further time, consideration and interview. It happens this way, it has always happened this way and it will always continue to happen this way.

But what happens if the shortlist doesn’t contain that many people or that they don’t have the “perfect fit” attributes required as briefed? How many companies and their leaders and their recruiters have the time, maturity and sense, as well as the understanding of the business function they are recruiting for, to look at what transferable skills the candidates might have and how they can be applied to the role being recruited for? Very few I would suspect. Could this be the point that Steve was making in his tweet?

If we replace the use of the word “include”, in Steve’s Tweet with “engage” we address the latter thought above and move closer to where both candidates and companies will gain greatest value and benefit.

Recruiting teams must be allowed to partner with the business if they want to become anything other than administrators. In order to add value to the business they need to understand it. Understanding the business and the functions of the individual business unit therein is the first step in transitioning a recruiting team away from being an administrative support function to one that is a valuable extension to it. It will give the individual recruiters the knowledge and confidence to engage properly with a target candidate community/group/pool and proactively identify suitable people. It will give them the opportunity to sell through conversation and inclusion and be able to speak with authority and knowledge. Not possible when kept at arms-length

I agree whole heartedly with Steve in respect that we shouldn’t be sitting back waiting for the applications to arrive in our inbox or ATS and then select through a process of elimination based on buzz word matching or like-for-like experience matching we need to look at all attributes, if that is what he meant.

By including and fully engaging with recruiter the hiring managers equip them to properly represent their department, function and job to the world. It also enables them to confidently engage with targeted or open communities, whether they are online or offline. In doing so employers and potential employees have the opportunity to come together to explore each other without commitment or obligation. I would suspect that good people will be identified or at least stand out much easier and at the same time many of the irrelevant applications will be eliminated.

There are two things then we need to get better at – well there are many but in the context of this post – we need to be better equipped and willing to identify transferable skills and think about what we can teach and what we can learn from a hire. We also need to be more open and transparent and fully engage with our internal customer community to enable us to engage with their potential candidate communities.

The discussions that can result in transparency and engagement could lead anywhere. Why miss that opportunity?

  1. Gary,

    Spot on. For all the information that is available online, for all the software available to support recruitment, all the effort is wasted if you don’t understand the nature and scope of the role to be filled and the characters involved. Good recruitment starts with a proper brief, which is not simply a job description. It should describe the business, its goals, and how the role to be filled supports those. Recruiters need to understand the culture, i.e. how the business is set up to operate, what skills and behaviours it values etc. A good brief describes what success in the role is going to look like, and what potential barriers there may be to success. You can’t get this information second or third hand.

    All good recruiters know that they are only as successful as their clients allow them to be, so there is an onus internally for hiring managers to engage properly with the recruitment process. As you point out, this is often a problem.

    The more interaction recruitment has with a business managers, the better it is able to understand how ‘talent’ is defined by the business, where the skills gaps may be, what sort of person is going to be successful.

    Armed with this information, recruiting teams can with confidence spend more time seeking out candidates they want to be talking to, rather than wasting time weeding out those they do not.

    • Steve Bulman
    • August 24th, 2011

    Gary – excellent observation – can I take this one step further without sounding too soap boxy?

    I have worked in an onsite operational recruitment role where it is commonplace to load one recruiter with as many as 80 permanent vacancies due to lack of budget to hire further recruiters, or the belief that a recruitment function is transactional and should not add value.

    I have fought against this time and again – as I always sought to add true value to the hiring process by implementing effective assessment techniques and driving the hiring community to evaluate from the outcome of these, rather than CV = Job spec = hire.

    This situation above is exarcerbated when an corporate recruitment function then needs to engage with an 3rd party recruitment partner. The lack of information provided often leads to confusion about the need and the disconnect between recruiters and the hiring community means that no clear feedback is given. An extension of the elitism mentioned above, can lead to the onsite team treating their recruitment partners with disdain, overlooking where they can add value.

    A better flow of information can only be beneficial for the organisation making the hire – resulting in a more positive impact on the employer brand, as more candidates who would otherwise be discarded would be engaged and spoken with – it would in turn enable the 3rd party agency as and when required to effectively communicate the message that hiring manager wanted to convey in the first instance. We are hiring! We are an exciting place to work…etc

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