Written by OMERS Ventures talent director Sara Cooper
Last week I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel called Robots vs Recruiters: AI and The Future of Recruitment coordinated by the team at TalentMinded. One of the questions posed was how AI will impact the role of a Recruiter and how to survive the “Robot Apocalypse”. My answer touched on AI taking over tactical tasks (screening resumes for example) leaving Recruiters to partner with the business on long term talent planning and strategy in addition to immediate hiring needs. I used an example of a Recruiter understanding the business so deeply they’ll know that their CEO is considering stepping aside in five years and will start thinking NOW about how to replace them.
A few people came up to me after the panel to ask how this approach would work and whether it was realistic to start sourcing for a role five years out. There were enough questions that I wanted to expand on my initial answer and provide guidance on how to tackle this type of situation.
The first step is to shift the definition of a Recruiter from “seat fillers” who just post positions, sort resumes and conduct phone screens. A strategic Talent Acquisition professional isn’t only focused on today’s roles; they are thinking months and even years out. They have worked to develop an in-depth understanding of the business including product strategy and growth plans. They have a long-term view of how the current employee base will be able to support those goals versus where the gaps are and work with their colleagues across the Talent function to mitigate risk.
To use the CEO example above — the Recruiter has knowledge of the CEO’s planned departure in about five years. The first thing that should happen is a review of current employees with the rest of the Talent team. Who are the potential successors? Are they ready or will they be ready five years from now? What support, training and development needs to occur for the succession plan to be successful?
As a back-up to the internal succession plan, an external candidate pool should also be created. The approach to this search is very different than one taken when there is an immediate opportunity. The focus should be on people who have the potential to grow into the role given the amount of time that will elapse between first contact and the actual requirement. There’s a bit of a crystal ball aspect to this so research the backgrounds of the current CEO as well as CEOs of comparable companies and concentrate the search on people who are a few years behind but following similar paths. Another approach is to look at the people who report directly into those comparable CEOs and target them.
When reaching out to these individuals be clear that the aim of the message is to connect and build a relationship rather than pitch an opportunity. Remember, not everyone will be either an immediate or longer term fit, but they may still be a valuable connection for a myriad of other reasons (i.e. introductions). Provide value to them as well by touching base every few months, counselling them on their career and discussing other opportunities they’re considering. Consider also advising them on hiring objectives for their own teams or how to best approach a search that they’re struggling with internally. Be the person they think of when they think of their career and the job market in general.
This method can (and should) be used for all high impact roles to mitigate risk of departures. Prioritize roles that have the highest identified risk and start with a goal of reaching out to one new connection a week. This is more than manageable in addition to hiring those immediate openings and should still result in a strong pool by the time there’s a confirmed need. Taking this approach is one of the best ways to add impact and prove value to both the company and potential candidates. Remember — the strategic and thoughtful Recruiter won’t just survive the Robot Apocalypse, they’ll flourish!