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Getting on the Recruiting Treadmill

Posted by Colin Kingsbury

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Feb 18, 2007 12:29:00 PM

describe the imageMoises over at the Sourcing Corner asks whether there is some sort of corporate fitness program out there to get businesses into shape:
In another article, by Luke Johnson titled "The truth about the HR department", Mr. Johnson says: "Companies should start getting fit right now. As Albert Einstein said: 'Bureaucracy is the death of any achievement.' When it is a question of survival, there is no room for the non-essential."

This articles caused my head to spin, thinking; how are we to take hold of our talent management programs? How do companies get "fit"? I mean, is there some kind of treadmill for companies?
Well, actually there is--it's called "the competition," and if you don't beat it, it beats you.

Companies, like people, tend to respond more acutely to tangible pain than to abstract future rewards. Most of the people who go to the gym regularly and eat a healthy diet do so because they actually enjoy it. Sure, there's that promise of a longer, healthier life in a more-attractive body, but after a long day dealing with hiring managers, how many of us really look forward to sore muscles and a nice plate of steamed broccoli?

The challenge for managers who wish to be successful is to not wait until they suffer the corporate equivalent of a heart attack to change their ways. Those positions that can take months to fill today? Make that a year, and throw a 10-25% salary increase on there too, because that might be what you need to convince someone to leave a job they're quite happy with to take a chance on you. Change will certainly come when plans to open a new branch office hit a wall, or when you can't bid on new projects because you know you won't be able to staff them.

Now it's possible that in a year or two when this hits your business, those CxOs and hiring managers will admit you were right and start doing what you've been telling them to do all along. The big question is whether you'll be there to enjoy it. When people don't like their burger, they're liable to blame the cook before they blame the cow. OK, sorry, I know I'm preaching to the choir while you're out there trying to convert the heathen. You need a plan, not a pep talk.

The key for you is to draw the problem out into the open and put numbers on it. As Rodney Dangerfield once said, "Want to feel skinny? Hang around with fat people." So, put your hiring managers on the scale. Show them the time-to-hire reports, the number of applicants per position, and the starting salaries over the past two years. Don't put lipstick on the pig and hope that makes them think nicer things about you; roll it in the mud before you bring it into their office. Tell them that you need their support to get your new budget/project approved or else things are going to get really ugly. If management thinks the current numbers are still tolerable enough to shoot you down, ask them what would be intolerable so you know when to come back.

For some companies, the shooting has already begun. Ask our client Technip USA, one of the world's premier gas and oil engineering firms, how hard it is to fill many of their most important positions. A recession will definitely make it easier to hire a receptionist or entry-level IT person, but it won't increase the number of Senior Subsea Commissioning Engineers. Whether it's salespeople, tax accountants, AJAX developers, or what have you, there are probably a number of revenue-critical positions in your organization for which a recession will have little to no effect on the supply of talent. The good news is that you're not the only recruiter fighting an uphill battle. Chances are your competitors are mostly doing the same, which means the door is still open for you to gain a key competitive advantage.