Leaders talk about the importance of human resources to their firms and lay emphasis on attracting, developing and retaining talent as a strategic lever for their organization. Most commonly, HR Directors make compelling presentations to the leadership teams and the investors on the subject. Do we really see organizations walking this talk?
CXOs take a lot of interest in growing the revenues of the company and actively play a role in making sure that the firm has the right products and a robust sales and marketing strategy. How many of them really apply the marketing basics on talent? Do organizations define the target audience for their talent? Do they know what is unique about themselves that is appealing to their target audience? Do they have a coherent plan to communicate the same? Do they fulfil the promises made to the candidates who interview with them, the ones who accept their offer and those who ultimately join them? Do the senior leaders track the experience of their employees apart from the standard metrics like attrition rate and employee satisfaction score? Answers are obvious – most of us have a long way to go!
If we look at the best places to work, most respected companies and so on, we see a few things common amongst them. All of them care for their talent and it is visible right from the way they strategize till the last detail of execution of their plans to attract, develop and retain their talent.
Firstly, the senior leaders of the company need to walk the talk by owning up talent attraction. It is not the talent acquisition (TA) department within HR who should own it. This is a huge departure from the current practice in most large organizations – a radical thought! The TA team should just be the facilitator and the execution arm of the line managers like a shared services centre. Then only, the line managers take interest to define what they need and solve the problem of talent attraction.
Ideally, it should be the marketing department in a firm who should help the line managers define the target audience, the value proposition for an employee and the communication material. However, most often, the HR team keeps the marketing department at an arm’s length on the subject.
The TA team must stop telling their colleagues in the line function where to get the people from, define what is unique in their area of work and what to communicate to the partners who help them find people. In the true sense of partnership with the hiring manager, TA team or HR team must help them define their needs, targets, methodologies and partners. If people are a strategic lever for the company, every line manager in the company must spend some time and energy in the right way as they are expected to spend on another strategic agenda. Only then, the organization will find the right people for itself.
Secondly, it is the execution. Devil is often in details. It could be the best intention of the senior leaders to define a structure, lay down the processes to follow and the metrics to track. However, it’s the nuts and bolts that hold the things together while the machine works. These need constant attention to ensure that the specifications hold good and they are being followed. Many leaders do not take interest to check if the system is working well because they have more important things to look after! In the absence of periodic and preventive maintenance, things break down without any warning. In such situations, HR team or the TA team gets blamed.
The best action is that the HR team co-ordinates a meeting of the line managers and critically reviews what is working well and what needs a change. This process ensures that the ownership of talent attraction stays with the line function and execution firmly stays in the ambit of TA team as per the co-owned and co-created processes.
Last but not the least, organizations need to learn from the others within their industry sector as well as outside their industry or from different geographies. The CXOs and their teams must not cease to be a student – they need to learn on all topics that are of strategic importance to their roles and their business! This ensures that they do not outsource their worries on a strategic topic to someone else. Rather they own them up and evolve the solutions while their TA partner – external or internal or both, deliver the solutions!