5 Ways To Rock Star HR Leadership

One of the dirty little secrets of HR – Human Resources as a professional practice – is that it’s not always about the people and humanizing brands. Not really, anyway. Some HR professionals have more in common with the Governance, Risk and Control department of the enterprise. HR sometimes gets a bad rap for being more concerned with limiting risk to the corporation than it is with making sure the employees – people, everyone – are working well and that the company’s culture can sustain its people in a fast-paced business. As a talent management practitioner and speaker, I spend a lot of time living HR topics. I’m one too: a flavor of HR professional. Let it be known I’m in love with HR Technology. We still need to find ways to measure data and stay human as leaders.

Getting from A to B is still a challenge for many leaders as we look for ways to innovate and stay human.

I learned this lesson years ago, at the start of my career, working closely as a Recruiter with a client in a HR department of a technology firm (and many of these kinds of relationships later btw). This company had a mix of union employees, engineers, field service folks, marketers and executives. At the time, it was a huge part of the business of a corporation which still exists, albeit in different businesses. This was at a time when HR and Recruiting weren’t yet strategically partnering in the awesome ways we are now.

The HR people in this company certainly seemed nice enough, warm and reasonably friendly, mostly effective. But up close it was different. One time, HR directed the company to put speed bumps in the parking lot, for safety of course. This, in reaction to an employee who had, in his small car, gone over a speed bump too fast, hitting his head on the roof and taking out his muffler. However, the discussion that day was not about whether or not the employee was OK after the accident. It was purely concerned with if he would sue after the company refused to help defray the cost of the new muffler. Plans were laid to terminate the employee for a different reason.

Those HR friends of mine were limiting risk, in a very short-sighted way. Guess what happens to company, team creativity now? They looked for a solution to a problem but it had nothing to do with helping the employee, helping the employee’s work group, or thinking innovatively about how to adapt the corporation’s environment (It turned out the speed bump was too tall and didn’t meet code). They missed an opportunity to make the company a better place to work. They failed some major tests: leadership, innovativeness, and putting people first. They sacrificed a person for an HR mistake, which was not the best idea.

Of course, although we’d like to believe differently, this happens all the time. HR limits damage and lowers risk, and in doing so, slows and sometimes dumbs, everything down. How can HR keep up with the pace of business, if all systems and policies are geared to slowing processes down, to pushing all decisions to the lowest common denominator?

We tell ourselves HR technology speeds things up, that resume-sorting software, and phone screens followed by more phone screens, followed by group interviews, limit the risk of hiring the wrong person. We believe putting a lot of process in place around time tracking and attendance helps. We think old school vacation calculation and benefit formulas help. We think these systems free us to act quickly, to interact with people, to develop innovative solutions to HR problems.

What if this is exactly wrong? Is the reason why HR is seen by some as less innovative?

Don’t be the person who chooses to be short-sighted. Use these five inter-related ideas to bring innovation and speed back to HR:

1) Stop counting things – hours, days, degrees, recommendations – just start talking to people. Find out what really matters to employees, what managers really need in terms of skilled employees. Ask questions!

2) Listen. Active listening gets a lot of airtime but it’s a woefully underutilized skill. If you don’t know how to do it take a class, practice on family and friends, and begin by listening to your inner dialogue. Everyone has a conversation running 24/7 with themselves. It’s not the Voice in Your Head, it’s the pearl at the center of your soul. Pay attention.

3) Be silent. This is really part B of active listening. Listen to what people say. Listen to how often they repeat what others say, what verbs they use (active or passive), how many first-person pronouns they use. Listen to see who mimics the cadence of another’s speech patterns. You’ll spot the leaders in a group quickly and be able to determine the tenor of their contributions to the health of the organization.

4) Observe non-verbal signs. Many people speak more clearly with gestures, expressions and how closely or far apart they sit or stand from others. You can spot a poor-performance group by how they move around each other, how much interaction there is, who speaks first and who rolls eyes or grimaces.

5) Don’t be a friend. Be a leader. Too many HR people think they can be a friend to all and be in a leadership role. This is not always true. Pick one at a time.

These suggestions may seem to be less about innovation and more about common sense, which is exactly my point. Common sense is the innovation. Being human, acting like a normal person and being social, is the innovation. Sure, HR technology can be useful, it can speed up discrete, proscribed, limited activities. But it won’t help HR professionals and leaders to think like innovators, solve complex problems, and deal with other people.

Only by living fully in yourself will you be free you to think, and act, as an innovator.

A version of this post was first published on on 10/7/12.

Photo Credit: Conceptualise via Compfight cc

6 Recruitment Marketing Trends Changing Talent Acquisition

It’s a very exciting time to be a talent acquisition professional: Talent acquisition is becoming more strategic, adding new responsibilities and investing in new technologies. It’s not just about the job anymore, it’s about the brand. It’s not just about hiring talent, it’s about measuring and predicting business impact. It’s not just about applicants, it’s about finding and engaging leads to start relationships earlier. And it’s not just about today’s reqs, it’s about building pipelines for the future.

We really are transforming the way we find and attract talent, inspired by core marketing best practices like branding, nurture, content marketing and lead generation.

Recruitment marketing is at the core of this transformation. This front end of the recruiting funnel is an arena talent acquisition hasn’t even considered in the past. But with unemployment low, the competition for talent high and the savviness of candidates increasing, organizations must shift the way think about recruitment and invest in new ways to communicate and build relationships with candidate leads.

To stay ahead of this wave of innovation in this space, take a closer look at how you can understand and address these six major trends in recruitment marketing.

  1. EVP is King

The Employee Value Proposition is not new, but it’s never been more important. As people are becoming savvier job seekers, standing out as a great company to work for is the key differentiator.

  • Employee amplification makes your EVP real. When you invest in your EVP, your employees inherently believe you’re a great company to work for, which means they will be more engaged. Your great, engaged employees know other great people, and when they believe in your EVP, they are more likely to amplify your message and refer other great talent.
  • Brand over job. A strong EVP attracts talent to your company, not your jobs. The future of recruitment marketing is about attracting the right talent to your company first and then matching them to a position. You have to think brand first and always answer, “Why is it great to work for this company, and why do other amazing people work here?”
  1. Candidate Journey is Not Linear

The candidate experience is no longer linear. Over a decade ago, it was, and it went like this: “I need a job. I look at job ads. I send in my resume.” Today, there are so many influences on a candidate’s decision to even apply, let alone accept a job offer.

  • There is no single path to apply (or hire!). A report from Google and Inmar revealed that it takes consumers 12 touchpoints before they make a purchase decision. We can expect a similar path for candidates today. Different candidates move through touchpoints in different ways at different times. These sources of influence drive relationships and a better candidate experience and are just as important as source of hire.
  • Don’t miss a touchpoint. All your recruitment marketing channels ─ mobile, social media, events, Glassdoor, career site, job boards ─ are opportunities to create a relationship. If you miss one, it could cost you a candidate. With the right technology, automation can allow for high-tech and high-touch, helping recruiters be more efficient, taking over simple actions that can help create a more seamless candidate experience. More touchpoints don’t have to mean more work!
  1. It’s All About the (Candidate) Leads

The candidate journeyJust like marketers, talent acquisition has started looking at the buyer’s (or candidate’s) journey and the marketing (or talent acquisition) funnel. And at the very top of the funnel comes leads, a new focus for the talent acquisition function that has traditionally only prioritized applicants.

  • Not everyone is ready to apply today. For most companies, apply is the only call-to-action they offer a candidate―but 74 percent of candidates who start the application process drop off before they complete it (SmashFly data, 2015). This means there needs to be another way interested candidates can opt in to learn more without applying: a talent network.
  • Candidates are like consumers. Both Gartner and Forrester say that 80 percent of the “buying process” happens without any human contact. Candidates’ assessment about your company and your employer brand is made in the top half of the funnel, in every touchpoint pre-apply: social media, career site, Glassdoor, job boards, events, a mobile experience, a referral. Using a talent network can capture these leads and enable you to nurture them with the right content so they can learn more about you. 
  1. Fill for Now and Later

Filling open positions will always be a priority, but there needs to be a shift in thinking from reactionary to strategic. Talent acquisition teams need to also focus on building pipelines of talent for the future.

  • Reqs and pipeline go hand-in-hand. Why focus on only one of these goals when you can focus on both? The recruitment marketing channels you’re using to fill immediate open reqs will also help you generate pipelines for future roles. Filling positions is a lot easier when you can source from a strong pipeline of talent who you’ve already paid to attract.
  • Use technology to automate. Two goals sound like more work, but it doesn’t have to be. Using technology like a Recruitment Marketing Platform to help you build talent networks, automate processes and track all of your efforts will help you see huge returns on the growth of your own database, which means less reliance on third parties liked LinkedIn.
  1. Measure Like Marketers

We need to measure quality! Hires and source of hire is not all that we should care about. We need to care about good hires! Companies who are spending more money on talent acquisition retain hires longer, which means they likely become stronger brand advocates and refer more often. Plus, we don’t have to refill positions and start the process all over again.

  • We can’t just act like marketers. We have to measure like them too. We’ll see a shift in metrics that prove ROI of your entire recruitment marketing strategy, like time to find, source of influence, cost per quality lead, the size and health of the talent pipeline, source of quality and conversion rates by tactic.
  • What is your agnostic source of truth? Technology needs to be holistic and accurate. Compiling data from multiple sources and comparing apples to oranges will not give you the insight into how your tactics are performing side-by-side. We’ll see a shift away from point solutions and instead to a holistic, one-platform software like a Recruitment Marketing Platform that can be an agnostic source of truth for all of your data in and out.
  1. Rise of Specialization

Recruitment marketing is an emerging profession, and it will follow the track of most professions. In marketing, there was initially a marketing director that oversaw every single aspect of the marketing function. But as the discipline became more savvy, more specialized and more important, roles became specialized for digital, social media, content, data, product, communications, demand generation and more.

  • Take baby steps. What does that mean for recruitment marketing this year? Don’t be scared! Now, there is an HR generalist or a talent acquisition leader. But we are starting to see roles specifically for recruitment marketing and employer branding and talent advisors. The next evolution will be ERP managers, data analysts, social recruiting and content. Take one role at a time or add a specialization to a current role.
  • Test and learn. This is a new frontier―you can make mistakes. Recruitment marketing is a new way of thinking in talent acquisition, and there is no perfect path to success. Test nuanced messaging. Be bold in social media. Show some personality on your career site. Be transparent. But make sure you can track how new messaging or tactics work.

Which of these trends do you think will have the biggest impact on talent acquisition this year?

Listen to the live webinar recording that inspired this post, featuring SmashFly’s Director of Recruitment Marketing Tracey Parsons and Co-founder of Aptitude Research Madeline Laurano.

photo credit: Week 6 via photopin (license)


SmashFly is a client of TalentCulture and sponsored this post.