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Recruiting – what a pain in the #%@!

By October 23, 2012 No Comments

I read an article recently about a CEO who implemented  a creative solution to a very common problem – not being able to fill open seats in his organization in a timely fashion. UPDATE: I found the article – it was in the Philadelphia Business Journal (PBJ) of August 24-30, 2012. It’s title was Who Is On Your Farm Team?. If you are a PBJ subscriber you can read the whole article here. It was written by Eric Herrenkohl, the author of “How To Hire A-Players” which you can buy here on Amazon. Eric also runs Herrenkohl Consulting, an executive search and consulting firm in the Philadelphia area.

I believe the root cause to this problem is that most execs see recruiting as the core competency of the HR department or some external resource, like professional recruiting firms. While the latter is true, the former isn’t necessarily. Either case is costly in terms of time or money or both.

The CEO in this article decided to challenge his direct reports by insisting that they shoulder the responsibility of creating a pipeline of candidates for their departments. He proposed that they do this by reporting monthly to him how many face to face meetings they had with potential candidates. No excuses tolerated. At least one coffee a month, period.

How are we going to do this they complained? We don’t have time!  The people looking for work aren’t the ones we want. The great candidates aren’t looking for work. Etc. etc. etc.

He proposed they start by not looking for actual candidates, but rather for great people. He suggested that they ask their customers, their employees, their partners – who is the best sales rep (engineer, software developer, accountant, . . . ) you know? Not who is looking for work, just the best. Once you have a name, ask for an introduction for purposes of having a coffee to discuss “best practices” (industry trends, alternate compensation structures, whatever) and to meet one another.

It was not easy at first. Except for the VP of Sales, this was not something the execs were used to doing. But when the CEO made it clear that this wasn’t optional and he was going to continue to sit down  once a month and ask for their results, they kept at it. After a few months  most execs had at at least one solid “non candidate” with whom a relationship was being built. Vacant seats started to get filled more quickly as the coffee conversations turned to opportunities in the company and “what the perfect position would look like” for these “non candidates”. The execs started meeting with the best “non candidates” regularly.

Eventually HR suggested that they create a mailing list for “friends of the company” with periodic emails about successes at the company, etc. The VP’s started challenging their managers to have coffee meetings for key slots in their groups.  A year after the CEO started demanding his direct reports have one meeting a month, the “time to fill” metric for the company had fallen dramatically.

An unanticipated benefit to this activity was that the execs started to feel less concerned about addressing performance issues with their direct reports. With a pipeline of candidates it was less daunting to put an employee on a “performance improvement program”. They were no longer operating on the “some breath is better than no breath” principle.

Two years into this program, the people at the company were a key competitive advantage for it. Great people want to be with other great people.

EOS clients have a tool to implement this tactic. It’s called a scorecard. The scorecard tracks activities which, if executed successfully, lead to desired outcomes. Each item on the scorecard has an owner who is responsible for populating the result of the activity each week as well as the weekly goal for the activity. The exec team keeps a 13 week rolling version of all the items on the scorecard. It is very effective as an early warning system. You can download a copy of the scorecard here.

Photo credit: danperry.com

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