When CEOs around the world are polled about the biggest challenges facing their business, personnel issues top the list — whether that means finding the right people, training them, or retaining them. So, talent professionals are in a position to make an unparalleled impact on the business, said Jennifer McClure, a former human resources exec and founder of Unbridled Talent.
“I say this with no irony whatsoever: I believe you are the most important employee in the organization,” Jennifer told a Talent Connect 2019 audience in Dallas.
“You should step into that.” To do that, she recommends thinking of yourself as a business leader first, one who happens to have skills in recruiting.
She outlined five approaches to recruiting that will help you transform your company — and yourself. Whether you’re a brand-new recruiter or a battle-tested veteran, Jennifer said, the fact that you are “identifying people with the right skills at the right place at the right time” means your work is absolutely critical.
1. Take a good, hard look at the data
People often talk about how important it is to know your business. But for HR leaders, that means something beyond understanding profit and loss; it means analyzing “the information that you have available to you,” Jennifer said, “regarding that most important resource, the humans that are either coming into your organization, are already there, or even those who have left. We sit on a mountain of data.”
In fact, 85 percent of talent professionals surveyed for LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2020 report cited people analytics as one of the most important trends in the industry. Analytics around retention, performance, leadership, and culture can have an immediate impact on the business and your recruiting approach.
Jennifer pointed to the example of a large financial services firm that brought in Deloitte to look into why they were having trouble retaining the employees they recruited right out of college, and why many of those new hires were not proving to be a good fit.
The company’s three must-have criteria for college hires were stellar references, a GPA of 3.5 or better, and a diploma from a select list of schools.
After analyzing thousands of resumes of people who were and weren’t successful in the organization, Deloitte found five factors correlated with success at the firm, including no typos on their resume, the ability to work productively with vague instruction, and — who would have guessed? — prior experience selling either real estate or cars.
The data also showed that three factors that had no correlation with success were high GPAs, glowing references, and where employees went to school.
“What are the success factors common for people who are successful in the key roles that you hire for?” Jennifer asked. What are the factors that may be predictive of people who are a good fit or of people who may bail out early? Crunch the numbers because the answers to these questions are the keys to your success.
2. Think beyond — way beyond — your department
“It’s very easy for us to think about recruiting, recruiting, recruiting, because that’s what we do,” Jennifer said. “But are you thinking about the biggest problems that the business faces and how recruiting talent acquisition and human resources can help deliver upon those?”
Jennifer noted that many people claim to be a strategic recruiter or a strategic HR leader. But what does that mean? “Strategic people in the business,” she said, “think about the business needs first.”
“Make sure you’re not playing small,” Jennifer advised. Don’t confuse tactics with strategy. She pointed out that goals to, say, reduce your time to fill by 25% or to cut your spend on recruitment marketing are tactics. Making a real impact on the business requires thinking beyond your department’s incremental goals.
“You may still do those things,” she said, “but your goals need to be how are we going to radically impact the business?”
She suggested challenging yourself and your team to focus on the business’s top-level strategic goals — increasing revenue, for example, or improving output or shareholder value — and thinking about what you can do differently to reach those goals.
Looking at the business with that kind of “10x mindset” forces you to think bigger about your department’s approach.
3. Grab 10 minutes with your leaders
One of the best ways to get to know your business on a deeper level is to spend time with its leaders. Start by requesting a quick meeting with the functional heads of each department in your organization.
In a 100,000-employee company, Jennifer said, it may be tough to get time with the top leaders, but aim to meet with the highest-level managers possible. Even a 10-minute chat can give you valuable insights.
Jennifer recommended asking leaders: “What are the top three challenges that you and your team are facing that could potentially prevent you from hitting our business objectives in 2020?” She also prefers questions that are designed to get a specific answer, instead of general answers, and that can involve creating a list. (For example, “What are the three problems you’re facing?” instead of “What is your biggest challenge?”)
“Their mind then goes to, I need to fill the list,” she said. Otherwise, she noted, you invite people to give you a story. “You don’t want to know the story,” Jennifer insisted. “You want people to think critically.”
The odds are that some, if not all, of those challenges will be employee-related — not having enough people, not having the right people, or not having the proper training tools.
You are in a position to help with that; go back to your team and come up with solutions to bring back to your leaders. By doing so, Jennifer said, “you are focused strategically on solving business problems and you are building great relationships with your peers and the leaders in your organization at the same time.”
And in the long run, she said, “To quote the great Zig Ziglar — if you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.”
4. Be a change-maker rather than a note-taker
Being a change-maker in your organization is all about the relationships you build and the influence you exert. “Do you have the voice,” Jennifer said, “and are they listening to you — that’s all that matters. It’s not your title, it’s not your position on the organization chart. It’s are you able to help people solve business problems.”
Sitting down with department heads and helping solve their problems, as mentioned above, goes a long way toward building influence. You can also make yourself indispensable to the organization by being unafraid.
When Jennifer talks to CEOs, they tell her again and again that they want HR and TA leaders who don’t just react but, she said, “have courage . . . who come to the table with their ideas.”
So rather than sitting back and taking notes in meetings, do your homework first and then come armed with data and ideas for new ways of doing things. And be open to other people’s ideas and willing to negotiate to find the best path forward.
“We’re often seen as the people who are the business prevention unit,” Jennifer said, “rather than the people who are throwing out ideas and getting dirty. When you are able to put an idea out on the table and allow people to attack it like it’s red meat . . . that’s the best way for your idea to get better.”
5. Expand your universe
To become a more innovative recruiter, grab a book. Plug into a podcast. Invite someone new to coffee. Take a class. Be curious and do things that expand your mindset.
Curiosity among employees as a whole has been linked to better business performance. “Leaders are readers,” said Jennifer, pointing to studies that show the most successful people in the world are those who make reading a daily habit.
And you don’t need to be reading industry books. “Read Harry Potter,” she suggested, “read books about romance, read books in general because there are studies that have been done that show you become a better communicator.”
Expanding your professional network in intentional ways can also help give you fresh perspectives. “You’re probably some of the most connected people out there,” Jennifer said, “whether it’s on LinkedIn or in your community or in your company. But how many of those people do you actually really get to know?”
For example, she suggested that when you attend a conference you make the effort to get to know and stay in touch with new people.
They can all open you up to different ways of looking at challenges, and your role as a talent manager.
Final thoughts: You can transform ‘disruption’ from a buzzword into a reality
The business world has recently seen an eruption of disruption. The word disruption is quite buzzy — and also fuzzy.
“To me,” Jennifer said, “disruption means you’re not satisfied with the status quo, even if the status quo is that things are fine. In fact, if things are fine, that’s the best time to be thinking about how you can take it to the next level.”
“I hope that in the future of HR,” Jennifer said, “that you are one of the most disruptive and highly influential people in your organization. Because we already know you’re one of the most important.”