Recruitment is the new management development

Good work leads to productivity and business performance

The Work Foundation findings published in May this year find in favour of “good work”  for boosting business performance and identify a number of organisational processes and dynamics that shape “good work”.  One way of explaining the concept of good work is Eurofound:

  • Secure and interesting jobs that employees find fulfilling, which contribute to the achievement of high performance and sustainable business success
  • A style and ethos of management that is based on high levels of trust and recognises that managing people fairly and effectively is crucial to skilled work and high performance
  • Choice, flexibility and control over working hours
  • Autonomy and control over the pace of work and the working environment
  • Voice for employees in the critical employer decisions that affect their futures

I guess no surprises here; more reinforcement that management and leadership behaviour is the most significant factor in shaping organisational performance.

Here’s something that grabbed my attention – their findings under inequalities talk about the importance of recruitment:

Gender, and other, inequalities persist in the workplace – but the underlying causes are as likely to be in processes and culture that set expectations which perpetuate disadvantage, as in the pay structures:
Tackling inequality means exploring whether the design of recruitment, assessment and promotion processes and procedures, often unintentionally, mitigate against equal chances of progressing through the organisation.”

Umm, what’s going on with recruitment ?

So here’s the thing I wanted to write about – recruitment.

“The REC’s Medium Term Forecast predicts the recruitment industry’s annual growth at 3.6 per cent next year (2011/12) followed by 4.7 per cent in 2012/13, rising to 7.1 per cent for 2013/14 and 7.3 per cent in 2014/15. This represents a return to single figure growth over the next four years to reach a new peak of £30.8 billion in 2014/15.” From the Recruitment and Employment Confederation website.  

You say what??

The skills of recruiting when undertaken by the recruiting manager is in my view one of the most important learning activities that managers can do that is directly transferrable into all managerial work.

Here are some facts and some observations – how many of them do you agree/disagree with?

  • People leave their jobs primarily because they are dissatisfied with their relationship with their manager/opportunities to discover and fulfil their potential
  • People are the most expensive resource in the majority of organisations
  • A workforce who feels valued and included is likely to be more motivated.
  • A motivated workforce has more potential than a disenfranchised workforce.
  • Difficult conversations, uncomfortable relationships are the most time consuming and complex problems many people have to deal with at work.
  • Women are still paid less than men and there are less of them in senior roles that there could be.
  • We have an ageing workforce
  • Having a disability should not be a disadvantage.
  • Recruiting the wrong person is costly and has negative impact.
  • Recruiting the right person is costly and brings about benefits.

If you agree with just some of these, it begs the question of why we outsource recruitment of this most precious and important, time consuming and costly resource.

There’s a lot being discussed and written about recruitment at the moment.      The candidate experience is really variable and often poor (I’m being nice)-  you just need to talk to anyone looking for job.  Filtering systems are subjective (the list of things that annoy recruiters is long and wide, just google it) and therefore open to discriminatory practices.  More than 90% of HR professionals think that inequality is still rife in the workplace, particularly between the sexes,.  Changing this surely must start right at the beginning of the process, flushing out unconscious bias at conception.  Employers too seem to see recruiters as a necessary evil, and yet are spending £30bn – a costly complaint.

I wonder too how all this outsourcing transfers to underlying attitudes towards staff – are they seen as commodity with a monetary value or a person with whom their manager feels both emotional and financial investment?     Outsourcing doesn’t create accountability, just provides someone to blame if it doesn’t work out,  and most central to my argument, managers don’t learn anything from it.

Do it yourself

Here’s why I believe recruitment if it sits with managers brings about amazing benefits:

At each stage, there are rich experiences that will be directly transferred into day to day work and skills for the recruiting manager.

  • Understanding the commercial aspects of recruiting, the time, energy, costs by designing and implementing the end to end process.
  • Having to know the law on equalities at the outset, helps understand their own filters and  prejudices and this insight gets transferred into every day decisions, choices and programme design.
  • Undertaking interviews, learning to ask exploratory, probing questions, directly applicable to performance management, providing skilled constructive feedback and making evidence based decisions.
  • Observing at assessment centres/evaluating other data collected through the interview process  increases capability to collect objective evidence and increase capability to be fact based when providing feedback
  • And importantly ownership and investment in the person recruited.  One mistake and more care will be invested in this timely and costly process.
  • Oh, and HR should get less trouble shooting as recruiting decisions will be more carefully thought out, owned, managed and learned from.

I’m not suggesting that there is never a place for outsourcing; for bulk seasonal roles, for specialist search, for interim/FTC roles, and when you just have to,  but currently managers are not getting the opportunity to develop these core skills.

Recruiting skills are transferable into all aspects of their work and financially, I can’t see how the time it takes to put into the recruitment won’t give an ROI as the emotional and economic investment is so much greater into the person they have recruited.

I know there are recruiters out there who are totally committed to professional standards and who are equally frustrated with some of the poor practice.  These I am sure are delivering both a great candidate experience (don’t hear lots of these I have to say) and providing wisdom and guidance through ethical and businesslike processes.    Managers will make better partnering choices when they decide to outsource, if they understand,  care about, and feel responsible for recruitment which should mean that recruiters become not the problem but the solution.

Is this just me then?


9 thoughts on “Recruitment is the new management development

  1. I agree with all your observations and benefits… Recruitment is broken… there is a role for either (a) outsourcing part of the recruitment piece to recruiters that can facilitate the manager-as-recruiter paradigm or (b) technology that facilitates that paradigm and breaks the current recruitment model forever. I know there are terrific recruiters out there that aspire to great things, but I think b is more likely than a.

    1. Thanks for commenting Jason. I think that it is a paradigm smash that’s needed. It’s a fundamental that’s absolutely at the core of running an effective organisation and the skills that managers gain cover pretty much everything from employment law through to understanding human behaviour and everything in between. I’m not sure I understand your point about the technology – can you say more?

  2. Great post 🙂

    My view is that there is a place for a partner to managers who can really understand the need, challenge if necessary and support and guide them through the recruitment & selection process. Unfortunately that doesn’t describe the majority of recruiters. Whether internal or external, recruitment as a function is more often stuck in a service centre, given crappy briefs and measured on how quickly and cheaply they get bums on seats, without ever looking at whether they’re the right bums (or even the right seats), or whether what they are doing aligns with the wider talent & development strategy.

    A perennial challenge with recruitment & selection is that no-one likes to think they’re bad at it, and so don’t recognise that they might need development in that area. ( I’ve also met some HR people who are terrible at recruitment) It’s a rarer skill than we would hope.

    The answer? For me businesses could do well to recognise the value that highly skilled recruiters can bring, make them a key part of HR and the wider business, make sure they have the remit to coach and challenge managers and that they are completely joined up with the talent & development piece. If you have to measure them, do it on candidate experience and quality of hire (I’ve used new recruits annual performance scores vs the average in previous roles) and, yes, how well they develop managers’ capabilities to recruit too.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts Lorna. I wonder if the first step is the reappraisal of recruitment – is it a transaction to be outsourced and a financial burden, or is it a foundation stone, a core organisational skill and something which is seen as value adding?

      I’m not sure I see it as a specialist role that sits in HR. I think it should be something that managers specialise in. HR at their most effective are there setting good practice standards, providing guidance and support, and ensuring that standards are achieved. Poor recruiting is going to mean poor management; you’re not going to have a manager that’s great at managing productivity and morale that makes poor selection choices.

  3. It’s a foundation stone, absolutely. Mistaking it for a transaction is a dangerous thing to do. But just as I see managers’ resoonsibility for developing their people not superseding the need for L&D specialists, neither do I think needing managers to be brilliant at recruiting precludes the need for specialists to work with them there to guide them & provide the infrastructure & expertise that enables them to recruit well.

    I suppose recruitment is a word used to describe a variety of activities & skills – job evaluation & analysis, attraction, managing talent pools, assessment, selection. If HR aren’t setting good practice standards, providing guidance & ensuring standards are achieved in all of that, then who else would? That’s what I mean by needing specialists.

    I don’t think recruitment consultants working in agencies fit that description by the way, neither do I think every in-house recruiter (whether RPO or genuine in-house) does, and I’m yet to be convinced that it’s a skill set really embedded in HR. But it’s necessary, in my view 🙂

  4. Perhaps for another blog (half written!) – the function HR has in organisational life comes into question here and this may be where we disagree.

    It’s my view (and experience) than an effective HR function has a fairly equally distributed expertise across the team in all things management and operational HR. It’s whole system HR. It’s tight, lean and smart and it’s agile. Separating out recruitment, or other aspects of HR as something other than the most basic and fundamental aspect of people management doesn’t make sense. HR people are specialists in HR. All of it, of course you have lead people but once you bracket something as a specialist skill as opposed to a core skill, you then divert ownership away and deskill people.

    I guess the bigger an organisation gets, the more requirement to centralise and control. But that’s a whole other subject.

  5. I like the concept of whole system HR, so I’m not in complete disagreement and am currently in a role where I’d describe what I do as such. But I work in a smaller business currently and I do wonder whether in practice it’s scaleable. Maybe it’s a difference in personal experiences – I’ve worked with specialists who complement and enhance the generalists’ experience with neither ‘de skilling’ line managers along the way. Finish the other blog post! 🙂

  6. You have raised a very important issue, especially bearing in mind that having the right people is critical to organisational success. Having been involved in outsourcing, insourcing and also managing the recruitment function in the past, l believe that the real issue is how seriously an organisation or the leadership treat people selection. We all know of organisations where the leadership don’t pay enough or any attention to the recruitment function.

    My point is, whether recruitment is managed internally by HR, managers or outsourced, ultimately how strongly recruitment is linked and treated as part of an organisation’s strategic plan will determine the required standard of performance for people selection.

    1. Thanks for commenting. I’m not sure whether we’re agreeing or disagreeing!

      My argument I suppose is that the act of bringing people in creates learning and develops a core set of organisational skills that are directly transferrable. Outsourcing recruitment – whether internally or externally dilutes management skill. We don’t want to de-skill our managers but that’s what we are doing. I think too that recruitment is about so much more than selecting the right people.

      I’m staggered too that we’re spending so much on this.

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