So much has been written over the years about leadership that it is virtually impossible to break new ground. The topic of recruitment leadership, however, appears to be still somewhat untapped.
I suspect the reason for the limited content on recruitment leadership is that so much energy goes into either the actual practice of recruitment, which is very helpful, or upon what industry pundits view as leadership, such as their limited take on who the so-called stars in our profession are, or how big their company is or who they know as opposed to any real support for their abilities to provide real business recruitment leadership.
In 1996, I was very lucky to join a great company called Keane. I inherited a terrific group of Recruiters and Managers. Some of the best I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Prior to joining Keane, I was more of a Sales and Business guy with a smattering of recruitment. Maybe that is what helped me, with the help of my great team, re-frame recruitment as a business function. I did not know any other way and that ignorance and naïveté may have played an important role in both elevating the function and holding it accountable in the same manor of a sales operation.
So, we started with measurement and I think this is a critical element of providing leadership. Metrics were a relatively new concept, particularly in the area of recruitment. So, we began publishing monthly reports on key metrics down to the individual level to provide organizational visibility on the recruitment function and a certain level of uncomfortable scrutiny on each Recruiters performance.
New at that time, I think measurement remains critical today in providing recruitment leadership. It is critical to set clear goals, per management 101, and then measure performance towards those goals. It is also critical to establish reward systems that recognize outstanding performance publicly and in a meaningful way. We did that at Keane by creating a President’s Club-like program called the Leadership Circle that recognized the top Recruiters each year with awards and a nice trip to a warm climate.
Next, and in support of the now very measured and aggressive recruitment goals, we provided tools, technology and best practices. It is critical to provide the material needed by Recruiters to achieve the goals that have been laid out. This remains true today. At Keane, and at TalentFusion, we took some of our best practitioners into a think tank environment to contemplate and then provide the “best practices” as they relate to all facets of the recruiting function. This led to a stream of innovations and published tips and techniques that enabled continuous learning and systemic improvements to the process. This enabled further improvement in the performance and elevation of the recruiting function.
From a leadership perspective it is critical to align all this activity with senior management. That is a very important job for executive recruitment leadership. It also takes a lot of time, energy and even some personal risk. If we are going to treat recruiting as a business function then it needs to take on a share of the risk that the business feels. That needs to be communicated and committed to at the highest possible levels of the organization.
For TalentFusion and other RPO providers, that business alignment is somewhat natural. Recruiting is our business and therefore, the function is already aligned with business by definition. By the way, this is one driving force behind outsourcing as it allows organizations to outsource a business process that may be important but is not core to a firm for whom it is both.
In the corporate world it may prove a little more difficult but still very necessary and do-able. If you are in a position of recruitment leadership, I would encourage you to spend energy here. Alignment with the business is key. Are you meeting with your business leaders? Do you or your boss report to one? Are you communicating to the business what your recruiting strategy is and seeking their input? Are you demonstrating to those leaders that you are driving recruitment the same way they drive their business function?
There is a lot to leadership. It is complex. There are all the intangibles like motivation, presentation, speaking skills, negotiations, strategic thinking and maneuver just name a few.
Having said that, if you are in a position of recruitment leadership you will make huge strides forward if you measure, enable and align the function with the business. Just those three things, which are no easy task, will elevate the function to a business level and separate you from much of the pack.
More to come in later discussions on other areas of recruitment leadership.