Recruiting goes from back office to boardroom

August 13, 2013

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

During my McKinsey days, we often talked about how all our assets (the consultants) walked out the door each night. If you rationalize this focus on talent and knowledge assets as something unique to consulting firms, you would be wrong.

While companies are investing in knowledge management and have better defined processes, talent should be the number one priority for each company.

For every genius such as Steve Jobs, it takes hundreds of highly productive engineers, user interface designers and product managers to make breakthrough products come to life.

Talent strategies at companies are fast evolving. At the centre of this change, is one firmly established trend – the need to have recruiting enter the boardroom with data-driven insights that enable executive teams to build strategic plans. For example, a Fortune 50 technology company uses insights into available talent pools before deciding on investments in facilities. In India, Biocon utilizes insights on who visits their employee profiles to enhance its employment brand.

According to LinkedIn’s India Recruiting Trends survey 2013, five out of 10 recruiters in India believe that their organization utilizes data effectively to make intelligent hiring decisions, which is more than twice the global average. While this may seem a pleasing statistic, over the years recruitment has been gradually relegated from a skill to a process at many Indian companies. Job openings are identified reactively, multiple job boards often hosting the same resumes are consulted as a matter of habit and companies hope the right talent will be available when they need it. Worse yet, this process mindset has come to mean that data is often mistakenly equated with data-driven insights.

Here are some ways to ensure the use of relevant data in elevating your HR function to being an integral part of the boardroom:

Efficient recruiting has to do with quality, not quantity. Instead of tracking the number of applicants to a position (quantity metric), we really should ask for the number of qualified candidates identified (quality metric). As leaders, we must do a better job of framing what is important to help run our business better (for example, track qualified leads not volume of leads in sales).

Boardrooms are generally preparing for the future, not investigating the past. The recent trend of building and nurturing your talent brand is a great example of HR using forward-looking insights in line with a company’s business needs. In an era of increasing transparency, consumers and candidates increasingly make decisions based not only on the quality of a company’s products, but also based on what’s behind it, be it the company’s mission, vision, culture or values. Companies are benefiting financially too – a stronger employment brand can halve your company’s cost-per-hire and re-energize your existing workforce.

Proactively identifying threats and opportunities for talent is critical. For example, mapping out talent flows to and from your company and competitors helps optimize existing priorities. Being aware of latest skill trends will allow you to adapt talent strategies ahead of the others, thus building a database of potential candidates to gain competitive advantage.

Just as the adoption of IT made everyone a technology company, increasing competition for top talent is making everyone a talent company. CEOs that prioritise the talent function will attract the best new talent and equip their organisations with the right information for better strategic decisions. Companies failing to embrace this reality will lose in this era of data-driven insights and boardrooms that respect the increasingly decentralized and participatory nature of talent management.

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