Nobody should ever think of HR as a cost center.

You are the folks who bring in the drivers of your business.

Insights from the Conference Board Talent Acquisition Conference: Moving from Tactical to Strategic Talent Acquisition

We’re in the middle of a work revolution, and that means a hiring revolution.

  • The labor market is tightening, due to baby boomer retirements and weak GDP growth. Today, job seekers and not employers are in charge.
  • The organizational chart developed in the 1940s is obsolete. People don’t work in structured little boxes anymore.
  • Hiring talent today has about as much to do with hiring talent 20 years ago as Match.com has to do with medieval courtship rituals.
  • Work has changed, too, from a well-defined transactional task-for-money proposition to a more fluid activity, in which workers feel a sense of purpose about their jobs rather than loyalty to corporations.

To hire top talent, don’t just post and pray — become a predator (or a seducer) instead.

  • You should be hunting for people who are even better than the people you have today. And the likelihood is that those people are not looking for you.
  • Use social media to identify high potentials at other companies: people who are interacting with their leaders, getting promoted, getting paid well, and not looking for new jobs.
  • Top companies have learned that they must actively recruit the passive candidate.
  • Once you’ve found the person who can change the game for you, you must do everything you can to make him or her fall in love with your company.
A multinational company that makes fast food knows that in terms of brand attractiveness, it must work hard to compete with banking, consulting, and accounting firms. So it leverages external partners to connect with top MBA students, and it makes emotional connections with job candidates, building relationships with them before, during, and after hiring. The thought behind these efforts: If you can get change-the-game talent, you can win.

How do the top predators in the talent food chain find their prey? They use a variety of tools:

  • Start a “mulligan file.” That’s a list of people who didn’t accept your job offer. One day the timing for them may be right, and you will have already done the screening.
  • Start “poach lists.” Ask your key people, “Who could do your job tomorrow if you quit?” That will give you internal candidates to poach. Fill out your poach list with people working for your direct competitors and people holding similar positions in unrelated industries.
  • Identify potential hires the way your sales staff identifies potential customers. Scan newsletters, listen to webinars, and attend conferences. Do targeted advertising on social media. Formalize scouting by sending recruiters to conferences.
  • In terms of talent acquisition tools, the future is now. Instead of sending candidates a static job description, send a microsite of the team that is hiring, complete with office tour and leader interview. Then, using heat-map technology, you can see where job seekers go on the site and tweak accordingly.
A major cosmetics firm ran a campus contest for MBA students. Entrants wrote a business plan; the prize was a free vacation. The contest gave the company a close look at many potential hires. And a major insurance company used a suite of online games to analyze students’ traits and attributes, amassing a pool of likely candidates. That company hired a dance and engineering double-major as a result.

Of course you have assessment tools. But are they assessing the right things?

  • It’s easy to discern whether job candidates have the “right” educational credentials and job experience; what’s harder is to know if they’re the right fit for your corporate culture.
  • Thanks to the accelerated pace of change, what candidates know is far less important than how they apply their knowledge in new contexts.
  • To create a predictive assessment tool for use on potential hires, companies must know what matters to leaders and test for it; use external partners and the expertise of in-house functions such as legal to create the tool; and continually revalidate the tool to keep it current.
A venerable and successful financial services firm wanted to know as much as possible about people before hiring them. The firm created a prescreening assessment tool that tested for such behavioral competencies as collaboration and moral compass. Applicants take the assessment before they speak to a human being. The vast majority pass, but those who fail must wait two months before reapplying — and take the assessment again. The test is the same for administrative assistants and executive vice presidents. The company believes the tool has increased the overall performance of new hires by 12 percent.

Your corporate brand is not the same as your employer brand.

  • Your corporate brand is how you describe your company to the public. Your employer brand is what people say about you when you leave the room — and it’s how you get a leg up when competing for good hires.
  • Employer brands use social media, among a host of communications tools, to advertise companies as good places to work. They tell prospective hires what their job will be like: people, culture, remuneration and advancement, what they will actually do all day, and whether they will have any fun.
  • Branding your company as “fun” is fine, but it’s most important to be authentic. If you pay good salaries, you provide steady employment, and you give people the space to grow, you don’t have to have ping-pong tables in the office.
  • Keep it real, but keep it attractive. Supermodels as part of your employer brand are probably inauthentic, but bloated old Barry, eating cake in his cubicle, is perhaps too authentic.
  • Are there KPIs for an employer brand? You bet. Calculate your brand’s effectiveness by measuring social-media follower quality, talent response rate, applicant quality, shortened time to hiring, offer acceptance rate increases, retention, and the number of employee brand advocates you have.
Over a six-month period, many people were hired by a media company, but only three of them posted online that they were hired. “That,” says a brand manager at the media company, “is like having a birthday party and only having your aunt, grandma, and neighbor show up.” The company immediately set about strengthening its employer brand. They created a toolkit for brand ambassadors to share, a career center on their social media platforms to attract and engage talent. They began using a hashtag that included the company name, and they began quoting the CEO and other top leaders on Instagram and Twitter.

Tips for making your company seem like a cool place to work:

  • Divorce yourself from the official marketing language. You need better advertising than that for your jobs. Marketing won’t like it, but you’ll be getting 100 “likes” to their 10 on social media.
  • Get around legal issues by using a platform that has employees using sanitized material to talk about their jobs. Eventually, you may be able to talk management into a dedicated compliance approver for social media.
  • Once your recruiters are up and on social media, don’t worry too much about managing their personal brands. If they are attracting positive attention on various platforms, they are attracting potential job candidates. Let them be.
  • When you’re tweeting, posting, and otherwise promoting your employer brand in-house or on outside social media, go beyond static exchanges that contain such phrases as, “I love working here.” Keep talking until the employee you’re interviewing says something funny about her cell phone or her snacking habits. This humanizes your company.

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