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Organisations need to recruit strategically to survive

Being strategic is not an optional extra

Any organisation on any continent will be facing different challenges and opportunities now than they did 5 years ago. In 2011 the marketplace will have changed again and yet the chances are high that the type of people being employed in your organisation will remain the same.

Will your recruitment strategy have evolved in anticipation of these changes?

Recent research* highlighted that globally most CEOs recognise that the volatility and unpredictability of the marketplace is here to stay and in fact will probably increase. The implications for organisations is significant because the old reliable and predictable products, services, processes and structures can no longer be relied upon to generate new profits, lead to new products and services, provide guaranteed employment or career opportunities.

So, why is strategic recruitment even more important now than ever before if the world of work is seemingly becoming so haphazard? Simply put, it is because people adapt and not organisations that recruiters who rely on legacy job descriptions and risk avoidance candidate profiles are starving organisations of the possibility of recruiting individuals who have a courageous, outward looking view of the world who are able to not only embrace uncertainty but are also able to see and respond to emerging opportunities.

Too often, recruitment seeks to perpetuate the illusion of predictability and certainty and this is no longer healthy for organisations or for people being recruited.

Strategy is all about opportunities and risks

Opportunities and risks are the ‘name of the game’ for business leaders when devising and planning their business strategies. Organisations (and therefore its People) have choices to make in respect of how they respond to such changes as: developing new markets; creating new products / services; responding to regional instabilities; dealing with natural resources constraints; greater pricing transparency; increased competition; using technology to improve their competitive advantage etc...

All of these market forces impact how and what the recruitment strategy should be to best support the business strategy. As People (employees) implement strategies, the organisational secret recruiters need to uncover is how to translate the business strategy into personal objectives. By demonstrating this strategic and systematic link, recruiters are basically re-defining and evolving the recruitment profile so that it is in line with and anticipates the emerging organisational realities.

Based on CourageousHR’s experience of working with business clients to develop business aligned People Strategies it has identified four key phases to how recruitment can become a ‘future-proof’ strategic offering:
Understanding the key drivers for change and knowing what are the main HR implications of these changes and challenges

  • Creating a business aligned HR Function which can effectively and strategically partner the business
  • Work with business leaders to create a People Strategy which supports the Business Strategy and informs the HR Strategy
  • Ensure the capability and credibility of the HR Function is sufficient to support the business to deliver the People Strategy and implement the HR Strategy

How well do recruiters know the business?

Recruitment is a service to the business and everything it does has to be centred on the actual or anticipated business need. The fundamental questions Recruiters need to ask are:

  • What are the implications of the key drivers for change for our organisation’s services, products and structure? How could these affect the HR Strategy and core HR Deliverables – specifically recruitment?
  • What are the core business challenges, what are the implications for the People Strategy and how do these impact on the recruitment priorities?

Recruiters do not need to understand the business as well as the line managers but it does need to know enough to gain insight into the people implications of the changes and challenges which are shaping and informing the business.

Creating the Business – People – HR Strategic Chain

The purpose of a strategy is to provide a roadmap to the future, articulate an organisation’s direction, create a benchmark to assess alternatives and prioritise resources, provide a measure of success as well as create a psychological sense of purpose for employees.

As a strategy is so important and it has so many uses it is strange that in most cases the people implications are rarely thought through - the emphasis is on capital investments, resource implications, marketing, sales, lead times etc......

Where the business comes unstuck is not putting sufficient emphasis, thought and investment into the people implications of the business strategy, in other words the People Strategy. The People Strategy is the ‘meeting place’ between the business vision and employee actions and where recruitment can really demonstrate how it can add and create value.

In essence, the People Strategy is where Recruiters can work with business leaders to explore, understand and plan what set of programmes and activities are needed to ensure the organisation’s people know what they need to do to achieve the business strategy. Creating this Business – People – HR Strategic Chain forces the business and HR to work together to think through the people implications, develop joint responsibility and ensures the practical implications of implementing it are considered and action plans agreed.

The Recruitment Strategy is therefore an outcome and output from the People Strategy – it is not a separate activity divorced from the business reality. Its focus, priorities and the core Deliverables are clearly linked to the business strategy, reflects the emerging market conditions, has involved business leaders and its success can be linked to business measures. This is what true business partnership looks like.

Developing capable and credible strategic Recruitment Professionals

For Recruiters to be strategic it needs a good scattering of strategic expertise amongst its mid and senior ranking Professionals. Strategic competence does not automatically go hand in hand with seniority, for many it has to be worked at and developed. From our experience at CourageousHR we have identified a number of strategic orientation traits which are the core ingredients for strategic success:

  • Inquisitiveness: Genuine interest in what’s going on in their business, organisation, industry and wider business environment.
  • Flexibility: The ability to adapt approaches and shift ideas when new information suggests they need to do so.
  • Future focus: Constantly considering how the conditions in which their business and organisation operates may change in the coming months and years. They look for opportunities that may prove valuable in the future—as well as emerging /potential threats that may be on the horizon.
  • Positive outlook: Challenges are viewed as opportunities and they have a belief that success is possible.
  • Openness: Welcome new ideas from their managers, peers, employees, and outside stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, and business partners. They take criticism well and do not react in a defensive manner.
  • Breadth: Continually work to broaden their knowledge and experience in able to see connections and patterns across seemingly unrelated fields of knowledge.

In addition, Recruiters also need to demonstrate specific behaviours and attitudes, which we have call the strategic orientation competency.

  • The ability to think beyond their own area. Strategic thinking can be applied to a function or process, a product and market, a business unit or a corporate entity involving various businesses. This competency requires complex thinking abilities, incorporating both analytical and conceptual abilities.

Therefore, ‘being strategic’ requires Recruiters to have and develop a set of personal characteristics that drives them to look beyond their immediate role / objectives and seek to understand and apply their knowledge in a proactive manner for the good of the organisation.

Being strategic is not an option for Recruiters - it is a must

The business world is more unpredictable now than at any other time. It is because of this volatility that increasingly organisations’ success will be determined by how engaged, productive and innovative their people (employees) are. Therefore, as people are increasingly being recognised as the only true competitive advantage for all organisations the quality and robustness of the Business – People – HR Strategy Chain is becoming more and more critical.

Recruiters have the opportunity to develop its strategic capability and become a strategic partner to the business. However, HR has to work at it, be patient, take risks and believe that it has a legitimate right for its voice to be heard and actioned.

* Five forces reshaping the global economy, McKinsey & Company, March 2010