Future-proofing recruitment strategy: why recruit at all?

I love challenging conventional wisdom. So while this may sound paradoxical for a recruiter, I want to question the value of employing staff. Is there a perhaps a natural bias or knee-jerk tendency to think that employing someone to do the job is the best way forward rather than exploring other options? I feel someone needs to ask the question,“why recruit?”

The recession and globalisation have proved that those businesses that survive won’t necessarily be just the quickest or most intelligent, but the most adaptable. This in turn means our views on resourcing must also change, because long-term employment relationships may no longer be relevant. Employees who solve today’s problems might not be the right people to solve the problems of tomorrow.

Certainly companies can train staff to adapt to new business needs. But after the recession, many employees now accept that if they aren’t adding value and meeting the business objectives, they cannot expect to be retained just for the sake of it. So, if employees now realise a job is no longer for life, maybe companies should also realise that when their business objectives change, so must their staff.

This may be overly simplistic, but I find keeping everything focused on fulfilling the business objectives is more constructive for both the employee and employer.

One obvious approach to increasing adaptability is using contractors and temporary staff. Another is ‘crowdsourcing’, where work is outsourced to a large community on a pay-as-you-go basis. Already, companies such as Amazon are deriving huge benefits from accessing this employee model; they are able to complete a project in days rather than weeks and without the hassle of recruiting.

I would also argue that a lot of recruitment mistakes have been made by throwing people at the problem. A new project comes up – recruit someone. An employee leaves – recruit someone else. If they don’t work out, find yet more staff.

Instead, I would recommend revisiting Pareto’s Law – the ‘law of the vital few’ – that argues 20% of activity generates 80% of value. If a person leaves our organisation, we wait approximately two weeks to see if anyone notices. If our systems don’t break or our customers don’t notice, then we know the role has little value and therefore don’t replace. This saves us a fortune, recruiting and managing, a fortune in today’s business climate that can be probably better spent adding value elsewhere.

I would also recommend that wherever possible you consider automating tasks. So many procedures can be automated. Either third party software already exists or can be developed, whether it is enabling customers to administer their accounts themselves, or getting a better telephone system, rather than recruiting a telephonist.

This raises the question as to whether HR departments or those in charge of recruitment are the best people to go about assessing how to meet business needs.

At the moment, HSBC is making 30,000 people redundant, but it has also announced that it is going to recruit. Time after time, we hear similar stories as employers axe staff after a recession. It is a classic example of an organisation realising that many of the people it employs do not have the skills or experience to deal with a new business environment.

If HR professionals want to future-proof roles and future-proof people, then they should be asking themselves, ‘why recruit, if this role may no longer exist in two years?’ Are there other ways to resolve the resourcing issue or, if recruitment is the only choice, are you recruiting individuals with the multiplicity of skills needed to deal with the New Normal business environment?

Unnecessary recruitment can also be avoided if HR keeps on top of ongoing assessment and development needs as well as lateral career development opportunities, so that when business requirements change there is the flexibility on tap to meet new resourcing needs.

For example, a business might have a 30% customer-facing requirement which in 18 months is likely to grow to 70%. If a new member of staff has customer-facing skills alongside other skills, when the balance changes there will be no need to recruit again.

Contextually, this advice will not be relevant to everyone. But for many companies, regardless of their size or sector, by focusing on the business objectives and first asking ‘why recruit?’, they will be in a better position to deal with today’s complex and fast-changing environment, while putting in place the best sustainable building blocks for tomorrow.

Geoff Newman, Recruitment Genius

About elaineonyc

HR generalist who is passionate about the benefits of good HR practice. Experienced in delivering strategic and operational HR initiatives to clients in both public and private sectors. Specialises in working with SMEs.
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