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Outsourcing and the Recruiting Function

February 2nd, 2011 No comments

Kevin Wheeler had an interesting post last week on ERE about internal recruiting teams vs. recruiting process outsourcing firms. It’s a good thought experiment about the value that internal recruiters bring, but I’m skeptical that RPOs will make the kind of headway that Wheeler’s piece suggests it could.

I began recruiting at an agency that supported a large outsourcing contract Compaq had with Microsoft managing one of Microsoft’s data centers. I barely knew what recruiting was when I started, so I didn’t question the arrangement, but as I started to get a clue and understand a more about IT, the contract struck me as odd. Wasn’t Microsoft a company that made products for data centers? Wouldn’t they have the knowledge to manage their own systems? More to the point, wouldn’t they want to keep that knowledge sharp?

I feel a little vindicated in my skepticism, because outsourcing hasn’t meant the wholesale elimination of internal IT functions. I think RPO will go the same direction, and here’s why:

  • Outsourcing is harder than it looks. Wheeler elides this point when he mentions “tough performance-based outsourcing agreements”. A business analyst I worked with said it well: to outsource something successfully, you need to know it inside and out. If organizations are struggling to get the most out of an internal recruiting function, they’ll struggle to work effectively with an RPO vendor.
  • Recruiting is too squishy. If create a process map of the hiring process, it looks pretty transactional and therefore easy to outsource. But navigating the Rorschach test of “culture fit” in any organization is subtle, and requires judgment and critical thinking. In my experience, outsourcing vendors have a hard time with those kinds of things.

This isn’t to say that RPO doesn’t have a role. Corporate IT has evolved so that most medium to large sized companies outsource some functions–typically commodity level, low value added activities. I think recruiting will do the same.

People persons vs Business persons

December 13th, 2010 2 comments

Ed Newman, in a guest appearance at The Cynical Girl, gives us a provactively titled post this morning.  I’m sympathetic to the spirit of the post, now watch me hedge my way through the details.

What I like:

  • In his “business person” response, Newman does a good job of show how performance problems should be evaluated in terms of outcomes and customer impact
  • Newman also rightly points out that HR is sometimes about negative outcomes; HR people need to recognize that and come to terms with it

What I don’t like:

  • The conflation of HR Person and People Person.  Newman seems to genuinely want HR to have more credibility, but sets up this discussion on the assumption that HR is mostly made up of People Persons.  I don’t need an exhaustive study, but some kind of backing for this position would be nice
  • The suggestion is that the business person will act quickly and decisively, and that’s the right way to react.  When someone needs to be fired quickly, no half-decent HR person will stand in the way. On the other hand, the HR person’s discussion points (which we’re supposed to shake our heads at) can help make sure the right person isn’t terminated in the wrong way, or the wrong person terminated in an embarassing way
  • I’m not clear on how the business person’s outcome is substantively different from the people person’s.  If the manager came to the people person and said “this person is harming our business every day they’re in role”, are we to believe the HR person would wait 3 weeks to act?

I’m all for improving the reputation of HR (and yes, I include recruiting in HR). But I think we do ourselves an injustice when we create false divisions between our function and other business functions.  People person, business person, I don’t care-give me an effective person and I’m happy.

So I think we need a blanket term to collect all our negative impressions of the paper-pushing, process administering, otherwise-useless HR people we’ve all worked with. My suggestions:

  • Personnel Specialist
  • HR Practitioner

2010 SMA Staffing Symposium Recap

September 24th, 2010 2 comments

I attended the SMA Staffing Symposium yesterday, and it was a good day overall.  Some thoughts on the presenters:

  • Carol Mahoney’s presentation was entertaining and engaging, but there weren’t a lot of tangible take-aways for me.  Good reminders though: do what you need to to keep engaged, get outside yourself and your role to stay fresh, etc.
  • Since I’m at a 450 person nonprofit, I generally don’t think I have a lot I can learn from Microsoft. But Scott Pitasky did a nice job of distilling his learnings from the last few years into things everyone can benefit from: goals are great but don’t let them get in the way of your strategy, let cost inform but not dictate your decisions, and make your work relevant to the businesses you support. Plus Scott is a very engaging speaker, one of my favorite sessions.
  • I admit I didn’t think I’d get much from Eric Jaquith’s presentation (I’m not much of a tools junkie).  But he introduced a few things I’ll explore: TimeBridge and Setster for scheduling, drop.io for file sharing, Jing for screen capture.
  • We went a little old school with Steve Lowisz. Billed as a primer on establishing credibility and being seen as a business partner, it was a reminder of the basic things we have to do to be good recruiters. Before you click this link, can you name the five steps in effective selling?
  • Elaine Orler gave what may have been the driest talk of the day, walking through the evolution of recruiting technology.  Only interesting if you like enterprise business systems, so I ate it up.
  • Laurie Ruettimannwrapped up the day with a typically irreverent performance. In order to be better recruiters, we need to be normal people, not caricatures of HR people.

And a few general observations:

  • For all the chatter about how recruiting will be revolutionized by [insert trend here], it was striking that every speaker talked about things that have always been true: credibility is earned not granted, recruiters must be good business partners, good recruiters are hard to find. I’m not holding my breath until the revolution arrives.
  • Seattle is a small town.  If you know the right person, you can be 2 degrees of separation or less from everyone in a room of 175.
  • Here’s something to think about if you’re certain social media is unavoidable in recruiting: maybe 75 of 175 attendees use Twitter.  In tech-crazy, recruiting-sophisticated Seattle.

Update (9/30): if you’re interested in each presenter’s slides, you can view them here.

Categories: hr, recruiting Tags: ,

Hiring and Social Media

August 30th, 2010 No comments

Last week German legislators introduced a bill to limit how employers could use publicly available information about candidates in their hiring decisions.  Although I have personal sympathies with the intent of the bill (more below), it’s ultimately a futile exercies.

Beyond the philosophical argument against this bill, there are the practical difficulties:

  • How will the German government differentiate between private social networking and job social networking? You can link your personal Twitter account to your LinkedIn account-does that put your whole LinkedIn profile out of bounds?  Lines will only become more blurry.
  • Candidates will have virtually no way to know if social media was consulted in their hiring decision.
  • How much enforcement resources will actually be devoted to this? If I were a German voter, I’d be disappointed if it were a lot-the government should have better things to do with its money.

From my perspective as an American this is all fairly moot, as I think our job market is far too neoliberal for something like this to ever pass.

One other point. As a I said above, I actually agree on some level with the intent behind this bill.  Social media is a poor evaluative tool in the hiring process. Lurking on someone’s Facebook page is akin to eavesdropping on conversations in a restaurant: at best you get a snapshot of someone’s life.  You simply don’t get enough information to draw strong conclusions about people.

So to recruiters and HR people that use social media as an informal reference check: please stop, you’re making us look like nosy fools.

Categories: hiring, hr Tags:

Managing People

August 9th, 2010 No comments

There is a lot of received wisdom around how to build a successful career, and one of the most common is that promotion to a leadership role is a requirement professional growth.  I’m skeptical.

This postfrom the Bayt blog (via Claudia) managed to get me nodding in agreement one sentence:

“…successful management requires skills entirely separate from the job skills that got you promoted.”

And irritated the next:

“In all likelihood, you have demonstrated these skills during the course of your career in order to secure the promotion in the first place.”

 Although it’s kind of obvious, I don’t think people realize that managing others performing a set of tasks is very different than actually performing those tasks.  Keeping people motivated, setting expectations, managing consequences are things you simply don’t have to do as an individual contributor.

Hence my frustration with the second sentiment.  HR folks and people in management roles conflate high performance with management potential, and they’re just two different things.  I can’t know if this particular person has leadership skills, but he or she certainly doesn’t seem to have thought much about it.  It’s just a part of advancing in the company.

What’s particularly concerning about this feeling that management = career growth is that it often elides the question of whether management is for everyone.  I’ve seen numerous examples in my career of people that were seen as good individual contributors, were promoted to leadership roles, and then failed. And they often took months and even years to rebuild their self confidence. 

The solution is pretty simple: you don’t have to manage others to be a successful, strong contributor. If you want to manage people, great. Let’s help prepare you. If you don’t, great. Let’s help make sure you stay challenged in your job.

None of this is helpful for this particular person, of course.  Theyr’e in the job-I hope they figure it out, and that the management thing works out.  That’s all I can do.

Categories: career, hr Tags: , ,