What 4,000 Talent Leaders Believe About the Industry (and Why They are Wrong)

I’ve just taken a deep read into LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2017 research report. LinkedIn surveyed more than 4,000 talent leaders from around the world to uncover their challenges, thoughts and future plans. However, I just went to LinkedIn’s Talent Connect 2016 in Las Vegas in October and what I heard and learned there was at odds with some of the more important survey findings.

It’s important to recognize that a survey like LinkedIn’s is not research into what should be done but a pulse of what is actually being done. Given these disparities, I’ve decided to chime in with my perspective on how to resolve these conflicting messages.

The biggest finding: Leaders believe talent acquisition is an important aspect of every company’s growth plans and talent acquisition wants and has a seat at the executive table.

Talent acquisition has been important since long before I entered the workforce almost 50 years ago. I lucked out early in my career to be part of the corporate financial team of a Fortune 50 company. Not only were we put into important stretch roles we were also responsible for MBA recruiting and finding our replacements. I learned quickly that the right talent acquisition strategy, or any strategy for that matter, needs to be the driver of tactical planning and process design, not the other way around.

This “strategy drives tactics” concept is the basis for the graphic and the Catch-22 Staffing Spiral of Doom video I did with LinkedIn a few years ago.

The big idea behind this is that a left to right process built under the assumption that there is a surplus of talent strategy will fail when a surplus of talent doesn’t exist. Job boards, ATSs and most related hiring technologies are designed with this left to right “weed out the weak” mindset.

In a talent scarcity situation, a right to left “attract the best” model is a superior approach. This emphasizes what the person will do and could become and deemphasizes the laundry list of prerequisites. This maps directly to the findings of the LinkedIn research highlighting that the best candidates want to understand the career opportunity before becoming serious candidates.

From an assessment point the logic is that if the person can do the work, he/she will clearly have the appropriate levels of skills and experience.

In my opinion, not recognizing these surplus vs. scarcity process design differences is the root cause of most of the problems uncovered in the survey.

Finding: Leaders believe quality of hire and time to fill were considered the most important metrics.

From my perspective, there is no question that quality of hire is a critical metric since it represents the measure of success of the entire hiring process. However, companies continue to struggle with even figuring out how to measure this.

Measuring quality of hire is not difficult when the job is defined as a series of performance objectives – the “DO” part of the graphic. Assessing it starts by asking candidates to describe (in great detail) their most comparable accomplishments for each task. Mapping these to real job needs using the performance-based assessment approach I suggest then becomes the measure of pre-hire quality.

After the hire, track the new person’s performance against the same targets. If the targets haven’t changed, then the pre and post measures of quality should align closely. If not, then it’s an indication the interviewing process wasn’t conducted properly.

As the survey pointed out, there is no question that time to fill is an important metric. But the solution, in my opinion, is not to be more efficient, but to rethink the problem. In this case, the obvious solution is improved workforce planning. Knowing hiring needs 6-9 months in the future allows a company to move from a reactive to a more proactive just-in-time hiring sourcing approach.

Finding: Leaders believe employee referrals are the best source of talent.

Also, as the survey pointed out – and what’s been long known – employee referrals a top source of talent. Generating these referrals is the hidden strength of LinkedIn Recruiter that I believe is underutilized. One way to do this is to implement a proactive employee referral program where recruiters search on their co-workers’ connections seeking out the best talent and then asking for the referral.

The role of the Hiring Manager

Regardless of any of the changes advised, without the full support and engagement of the hiring manager, success is problematic. So when a hiring manager balks at replacing the traditional job description with one describing performance objectives, I suggest a simple A vs. B test. This involves asking the hiring manager to compare two groups of candidates – those who have all of the skills to those who have done comparable work.

This is all of the proof needed to demonstrate that improving quality of hire, reducing time to fill, improving on-the-job performance and increasing new hire job satisfaction starts with the right strategy. Being more efficient doing the wrong things mistakes activity for progress and in my mind that’s what the LinkedIn survey actually revealed.