The labor market is humming right along, and competition for good workers is stiff. Is your talent-acquisition process also humming like a finely tuned machine, or are you pointing fingers at each other because you can’t recruit good employees?
This week on #WorkTrends, we’re talking to Tim Sackett about ways to improve talent acquisition. Sackett is a 20-year HR professional who has led HR organizations and worked for HR tech vendors.
You can listen to the full episode below, or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends. His new book, “The Talent Fix,” is a guide for building a better talent-acquisition team.
The Talent Ownership Question
Who owns talent right now? Sackett says that’s the one question he really tries to force every head of HR or talent acquisition to ask their executive team. Most executives will assume you want their vote of confidence and will say, “You do, you’re the person who owns it.” However, he says that’s the wrong answer, and that this type of thinking will lead to failure. Ownership has to belong to the people who actually make the selection — it has to be the hiring managers at the ground level.
“If you took your team out on a team-building exercise tomorrow and you guys got hit by a train and everybody died, your organization wouldn’t stop,” Sackett says. “The hiring manager would attend your funeral and mourn your loss and then say, ‘By the way, we have to fill this developer position.’ ” And they would go through the process of trying to find someone.
While that’s a worst-case scenario, Sackett says the goal of every company should be to let hiring managers own their own team, and own their own talent. The role of HR and talent acquisition should be a partner that provides assistance. When you’re in a meeting and someone asks, “Hey Mary, why aren’t you filling that position on your team?” and the response is that TA isn’t finding anyone, that’s an epic fail. “Executives should look Mary in the face and say, ‘What are you talking about recruiting for? Your job is to fill your team. What are you doing?’ ”
What Talent Ownership Looks Like
If you’re not familiar with this concept, it might seem inconceivable, but there are companies successfully using these principles. “I ran TA for Applebee’s, which has roughly 2,000 restaurants and 125,000 employees,” Sackett says. He notes the chain has a general manager who is the top person at each location. “They tell every GM that ‘you’re not going to be a victim; you’re never going to complain about not having enough talent, because talent acquisition is your responsibility.’ ”
Complaining about staffing is seen as saying, “You need to replace me, I’m no good at my job,” because that’s their No. 1 job, Sackett says. So a GM needs to be great at recruiting or great at retention, and they can ask HR and TA for help. “They’ll prop you up and they will give you every resource they have to help you, but you have to own it,” Sackett says.
Building the Right Talent-Acquisition Team
Sackett has worked in recruiting, so he’s been on both sides of the desk. He runs a staffing firm and worked in staffing, but also spent about a decade on the corporate TA side. One thing he said he has noticed is that half of these team members really aren’t recruiters. “They love being a recruiter in a corporate job, they love that $85,000 salary, and they love working 9 to 5 and not taking work home — but they’re not recruiters.” He says they may be doing
administrative recruiting, such as posting a job on their career site, but then they sit around waiting for somebody to apply before plowing that person through their process, and that’s not real recruiting.
But Sackett says that when he talks to TA leaders, they don’t want to let these non-recruiters go because they’re “great people.” “I’m not saying they’re bad people — I’m saying they’re not recruiters, and you want to recruit a team but you’re asking people who don’t want to recruit to be recruiters,” he says.
He says it’s like being a hunter who doesn’t want to kill — but hunters have to kill. “Recruiting is all about going out and finding the best talent. It’s not about filtering through the talent that is available that wants to come to work for your average pay, your average benefits and your average location.”
Also, even if you get great people, you can’t bring them into the organization and ask them to do the same administrative job as the previous employees. “You have to change the culture internally to make it more of a marketing-/sales-driven culture, more of an activity-based culture,” he says. “You actually have to have really great measurables and actually hold them accountable to those, so it’s basic performance management.”
Talent Acquisition Isn’t Technology
In addition, Sackett cautions against looking to HR technology as a savior. Often, he says, the new tech you might look at probably will do 90 percent to 95 percent of what your old tech does. “If you already suck at recruiting, the technology’s just going to make you suck faster, because that’s what technology does” — it allows you to move faster and more efficiently, but it doesn’t make you better at your job. “You already have to be good at recruiting, and then technology will actually make you better at it,” he says.
Continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.