Over my three-decade career, I have had the opportunity to work with many HR teams. Overall, if I had to grade HR’s effectiveness in bringing in the talent necessary for long term success, I’d give them a mixed review.

Even though many HR pros would argue that one of their key roles is recruitment, my observation is that HR teams tend to focus more on the administrative aspects of the role — managing payroll and benefits, coordinating training and development plans, ensuring compliance, and administering reward programs.

I was always concerned that HR leadership didn’t give a high enough priority to recruiting. Recruiting the best people means defining and acquiring the skills and competencies necessary to deliver superlative performance and to meet the challenges of a highly competitive environment.

I think HR can make a difference in discovering the best people and bringing them into the organization. But they have to change the way they work and approach their mandate differently.

Here are five ways HR leaders can redirect the HR team’s energy and produce better recruiting results.

Think About HR as a Strategic Player

Redefine human resources to be 80% strategic tool and 20% practitioner. Getting strategic means having a deep understanding of the strategic game plan of the organization and then translating it to what it specifically means to HR.

At many organizations, that might mean taking a hard turn away from practicing the discipline of HR, and starting a new role leading the execution of the people piece of the organization’s strategy.

As the president of the data and internet business unit for a major telecom organization, I held regular sessions with HR leadership to present and clarify not only the strategy for my business unit, but the strategy for the entire organization. My goal was to refocus their priorities away from practicing HR to serving as a strategic support. We invested considerable time in defining exactly what they should be doing to support the strategy and enable its success.

Define the New Skills You Need in Your Organization

Develop a specific people acquisition strategy with a focus on the new skills and competencies your organization will need to succeed in the future. It should be a strategy on its own rather than a component of the overall HR strategy and should outrank other more pedantic elements on the HR task list.

Then, move beyond strategy into doing. Make a tactical implementation plan to recruit new individuals and develop existing talent. Assign key milestones and accountabilities.

When my team implemented this process, we identified specific individuals we wanted to bring to the organization, as well as employees who should move laterally to apply their skills to different roles. We also had to make the tough call about employees whose skills were no longer relevant to the strategy of the organization.

Get Buy-In From Other Business Leaders

It’s important that the leaders responsible for delivering the overall strategy to the market understand and approve the people strategy. They are the clients of HR who depend on the right people with the right competencies being available at the right time.

All too often, HR views its client as the chief executive and other executive leaders when it should be focusing on the business leaders charged with executing the organization’s strategy.

As a leader, I made it a priority to engage HR in business matters and ask for their leadership to deliver a people plan that enabled my organization to achieve its business goals.

Dive Deep Into Your Target Talent Pools

Once you know what skills your organization needs, it’s time to actively engage with those talent communities. If, for example, software development skills are critical to delivering the organization’s plan, it’s HR’s job to find out where developers share their experiences and hone their competencies. They must embed themselves in those organizations and cultivate relationships with high-potential individuals who could be recruited at the appropriate time.

The end game for HR: build a brand of being the go-to organization for people with that skill set.

Change the Way You Measure HR Performance

How are you currently measuring performance? If bringing in new skills is a strategic priority, measure and reward it. Implement an internal report card that rates the performance of HR on strategic initiatives.

HR should not see themselves in the human resource management business. The prime objective of HR is to recruit the people with the skills and competencies needed to advance the organization’s strategic agenda. Period.

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