We’re working with a client to solve a problem with their talent pipeline.  They have a steady (if slightly unpredictable) need to find one or two very expensive, very “hard to find” people every month.

I live to solve problems like this.   Ask me about FMLA or the tax implications of a Flexible Benefit plan and I’m utterly adrift.   But talk to me about a systemic recruiting problem and I’m all over it.   (If you are like me, your mind is already working on the problem and you are thinking of where to find pockets of candidates, thinking of what outreach strategies to use and figuring out how you might use various social media strategies to engage them in a conversation?  Ok, well, maybe that’s not you and just the voices in my head talking…)

Anyway, it’s a great gig.   The CEO totally “gets it.”   He knows that the candidate experience needs to be consistent from awareness building, through initial contact, through cultivation, through the entire recruiting process, through the offer/acceptance/onboarding process, through the performance management /compensation process, through the employee referral process.  One cohesive, authentic experience that conveys “You are important to us a person, you are important to our success, and your personal success is important to us.”

When we get the recruiting strategy right, he wins.  Get it wrong he loses.  Because the right people are at the very center of his growth plans.

The CEO knows his current uncertain, unpredictable talent pipeline means several (very bad) things to this firm long term:

  • His first line managers are tempted to settle for mediocre people because the flow of good ones is so uncertain.  So senior managers have to watch hiring much more closely to avoid the mistakes that come from settling for Mr. Right Now, instead of Mr. Right.
  • More time is wasted in the interview sequence because managers are currently choosing from the “best of the worst” instead of the best of the best.
  • Work piles up, deadlines get missed, teams get stressed and customer service suffers as positions go unfilled longer.
  • Managers are very reluctant to manage performance tightly because everyone is so hard to replace.
  • The sales team is not emboldened because “yes but how will we staff it?” lurks in the back of everyone’s mind.
  • Teams are burdened with low performers, because, well, someone is better than no one right?  And loyal top performers pick up the slack without complaining…up to a point, and then they start to look around…and the death spiral of lowered expectations starts in earnest.
  • Employee referrals are a tiny fraction of what they could be, because, nobody asked, and well, you don’t want your friends to be put off by a lousy, uncertain hiring process, and burdened with slacker teams now do you?
  • Oh, and millions of dollars ride on the outcome.

So yeah, my client and I both think effective recruiting is really important, and its’ importance is not diminished one iota during a recession.  Because great people never line up around the block to work for anyone.  Someone needs to know exactly who they are looking for and draw them into a conversation first.

We HR blogniscenti love to debate active vs. passive job seekers, social media vs job boards, xraying Linkedin,  using boolean searches, cold calling techniques, etc…  It’s a great education and a spirited debate, but for me, it’s only entertainment until I can apply that knowledge to solve a real world problem for a CEO who “gets it”  and have a transformational impact on the success of his firm.