Begin at the beginning
Step 1: Begin at the beginning; organize all data and data sources.
Understanding the data and its sources is where I would start any talent acquisition process.
At the business level, we want answers to the following questions:
- What do we want to achieve as a company?
- Why do we want to do it?
- How quickly do we want to do it?
- What resources are available?
At the hiring level, we dig deeper:
- How long does it take to hire for each function, like engineering, sales, marketing?
- What is a standard source of hire?
- How strong is our brand?
- What is the organizational structure?
- What is the compensation philosophy?
- What is the attrition rate?
I want to highlight that last bullet point: attrition rate. We need to understand how quickly (or slowly) an organization loses employees.
Prioritize and sequence right
When I plan my talent acquisition for a year, I spend quite a bit of time with HR to predict how many roles I have to backfill. The lack of attrition data broken down by role and department messes up hiring plans. It has happened to every talent acquisition leader I know.
Today, attrition rate and all the other data I mentioned is siloed across multiple tools and people, so it will require persistence to gather. But it’s the talent leader’s foremost job.
Step 2: Prioritize and sequence hiring correctly.
Equally important is the sequencing of hires.
I once led talent acquisition in an organization where we were hiring both sales and engineering people.
The easiest and fastest to hire are sales people. We did a phenomenal job of hiring incredibly productive sales people across eight countries.
But we made the mistake of hiring great sales people before the product support team. We were selling to customers that we couldn't support.
Ultimately, we had to pause and even let go of some of those regions because we couldn't keep up with customer demand.
There’s nothing worse than overhiring and having to let people go. It affects people’s lives more than simply the bottom line. Therefore, I am always conscious of organizational-level visibility into how hiring affects the business.
I make sure that we are sequencing our hiring in a way that supports the overall business. As with all of these processes, I need to work with executives from all departments who can cover my blindspots and see the impact of hiring decisions.
This input is critical to scaling effectively.
Step 3: Collaborate meaningfully with Finance, HR, Hiring Managers, and other leaders.
As I mentioned, talent acquisition leaders need to work closely with several organizational leaders who all have different needs and goals.
The head of finance needs to forecast expenses, manage budgets, and measure performance against revenue.
A department leader wants to hire fast and meet their goals.
The CIO wants to know who is working out of which location so they can manage onboarding tools, equipment, technologies, geographies, and infrastructure.
The CHRO is interested in payroll, benefits, budgeting, DE&I, and employee engagement and support.
As head of talent acquisition, you have to triangulate all of those different lenses and solve for them all at the same time. It's an extraordinarily complex process, and having the correct data is fundamental to making this happen.
Great collaboration with other stakeholders will enable you to create a hiring plan that is achievable within the given time frame and budget.
Where the process breaks down
My three-step process is tried and true, but it isn’t perfect. Typically, I’ve experienced one or more of these three challenges along the way.
1. The org doesn’t understand what’s at stake.
Talent acquisition is more than simply hiring the right person for the job. Yet, sometimes companies do not understand what’s at stake.
Understand the consequences
If we get the wrong employee, the opportunity costs are high.
If we don't hit headcount targets, we answer to the Board.
If we sequence hiring wrong, like in my example, we can set the organization back by months, if not years.
Given the dramatic changes in the way we’re working, thanks to COVID, all these problems compound. Even the smallest mistake in talent acquisition in a fast scaling startup can put the brakes on future plans.
2. There’s no single source of truth, so data is scattered and hard to track.
Talent acquisition leaders need a single source of truth in order to tie together all the relevant data points of the headcount plan. But today, it’s all over the place.
Org leaders have their team set up on a Google doc.
Payroll data is inside an HRIS.
We use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to track open roles, applicants, pipeline, and other hiring metrics.
There’s a separate system for internal transfers, promotions, and attrition.
Finance is operating out of budget planning software and their own set of spreadsheets.
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