Posted in Books

A Strategic Approach to Talent Acquisition

A Strategic Approach to Talent Acquisition


While ‘Strategy’ is a word that is usually associated with the future, its link to the past is no less central. Noted Danish philosopher Kierkegaard once observed, ” life is lived forward but understood backward.” His wisdom finds an echo in Henry Mintzberg’ seminal piece on “Crafting Strategy’, where he writes that “Like potters at the wheel, organizations must make sense of the past if they hope to manage the future. Only by coming to recognize the patterns that form in their own behavior do they get to know their capabilities and their potential. Thus crafting strategy, like managing a craft, requires a natural synthesis of the future, present, and the past.” This Book chronicles the interesting journey of an Organization aka ABC group, as it goes about crafting a ‘Game – Changing Talent Acquisition Strategy’, re-orienting its focus from a tactical, reactive process to a strategic program capable of consistently sourcing, recruiting and on-boarding the best talent.

Posted in Strategy

A Blue Ocean Strategy is all about Practice

carnegie hallThere is an old joke that I think is the perfect way to start my piece… The joke begins with the line, ” How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” and then the punch line, which replies, ‘Practice, practice, practice.”

Metaphysically speaking this is how we get to Carnegie Hall which is the equivalent of living the life we are meant to live. In business speak it could be the organizational equivalent of becoming so good that you make the competition irrelevant. A good strategy helps one get started… a blue ocean strategy can help one reach that pinnacle place.

However, let’s face it: The basic principles that make for a blue ocean strategy often get obscured. Sometimes the overriding fixation is a quest for the next new thing – natural in a field that emerged through the steady accumulation of frameworks promising to unlock the secret of competitive advantage. In other cases, the culprit is torrents of data, reams of analysis, and piles of documents that can be more distracting than enlightening.

Ultimately, strategy is a discipline. Like any discipline, you have to believe in it and work at it to become skilled; both mindset and effort are required to make progress and become adept at the strategy. It is a way of thinking and cannot be created through a planning process or by leveraging a set of frameworks. It requires passion, discipline and lots of practicing, all of which I write about in, “A Strategic Approach to Talent Acquisition.”  The book chronicles the transformation journey of a large corporate as it goes about crafting a game – changing TA strategy in response to the challenge of competing for top talent in a fast changing business climate. This is the key insight driving the book as a game-changing strategy in its ultimate analysis is a coherent set of concepts, policies, arguments and action that respond to a high – stakes challenge

Here are some excerpts from my book on how smart companies will arrive at a Blue Ocean with regard to the talent for which they compete.

While ‘Strategy’ is a word that is usually associated with the future, its link to the past is no less central. Noted Danish philosopher Kierkegaard once observed, ” Life is lived forward but understood backward.” His wisdom finds an echo in Henry Mintzberg’ seminal piece on “Crafting Strategy’, where he writes that “Like potters at the wheel, organizations must make sense of the past if they hope to manage the future. Only by coming to recognize the patterns that form in their own behavior do they get to know their capabilities and their potential. Thus crafting strategy, like managing a craft, requires a natural synthesis of the future, present, and the past.” He further writes that “ Crafting Strategy is as different from planning as craft is from mechanization. Craft evokes traditional skill, dedication, perfection through the mastery of detail. What springs to mind is not so much thinking and reason as involvement, a feeling of intimacy and harmony with the materials at hand, developed through long experience and commitment. Formulation and implementation merge into a fluid process of learning through which creative strategies evolve.”

While most companies recognize the importance of strategic talent operations, they usually treat recruitment as a transactional activity, tacitly relegating it to a tactical fire drill instead of a core component of the company’s strategic plan. “People are our most important asset.”: It is the most ubiquitous platitude of corporate life.  The undeniable reality of course, is that the human side of enterprise remains the ultimate backwater and there are just a handful of organizations with the foresight & perspicacity to view recruitment from a vantage position. Lacking a strategic focus and a less than optimal talent acquisition function, organizations end up sacrificing their competitive advantage and find themselves unable to create leadership capital.

When we think of it, a combination of current operating needs and the long–term business plan is integral to shaping the overall talent acquisition program. A misalignment here only ensures that the organization loses out to its competitors in the “War for Talent.” Clearly, organizations need to take a serious look at the challenges facing them and approach hiring from a rigorous, strategic and objective point of view. This necessitates the ability and willingness to make choices – a strategy mindset that views business life as not entirely random; stochastic but not random. A strategy is part art and part science; a heuristic, not an algorithm. As with most heuristics, organizations can learn to make educated guesses, stereotyping without having the certainty of a learn-able formula about how to put them together in a given choice context.

Making choices, both about what you will do and what you won’t, is a critical part of being strategic. It sure is fraught with risks, but the risk of not choosing, of spreading limited resources over too many options, is greater.There is a bit of a F. Scott Fitzgerald here, who once wrote that ” One should… be able to see things that are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.” The mindset of a strategist is to hold that just because some bets turn out to be wrong doesn’t mean that the future is entirely unpredictable. That is why lots of practice and experience is required — it builds up your repertoire of bet analysis and observation. And so the more you practice, the less exposed to chance you’ll be — though it never quite goes away.

It is important to create a ‘map of the organization territory’ – its history, operating structure, internal processes, markets, competitive forces –  to be able to come up with a diagnosis. A good diagnosis simplifies the often overwhelming complexity of reality by identifying certain aspects of the situation as being the critical ones – the pivot points that can multiply the effectiveness of the effort – and then focus and concentrate action and resources on them. Integral to the diagnosis effort is a ‘strategic issue’ that requires a strategy.

This understanding of the efficacy of an organization’s current strategic outlook and the desired future state leads to a clear articulation of the gap areas and the nature of the challenges to be overcome in ensuring a strategic business alignment. A caveat here: The strategy outlook as a consequence of this exercise should aim to focus on few critical things – the strategic issues – drawing upon the precept of the vital few against the trivial many . It should not resemble a scrambled mess of things to accomplish – a dog’s dinner of goals.

A natural advantage of this approach is insights into sources of organization or functional strengths and weakness. It also enables a vuja de perspective of looking at things – of observing familiar, everyday things as if one were seeing it for the first time. Looking at things from a different or a fresh perspective can reveal new realms of advantage and opportunity as well as weakness and threat.

Richard Rumelt’s narrative of the Biblical story of David and Goliath, from his brilliant piece on strategy below, may well have heralded this precept, when David the shepherd boy defeated the warrior Goliath. A list of David’s and Goliath’s apparent strength and weakness would look something like the figure below:

“This mismatch may have been King Saul’s concern as he tried to hold David back, then relented and gave him armor. In the story it is only after the stone is slung that the observer’s viewpoint shifts and one realizes that the boy’s experience with a shepherd’s sling is a strength, as is his youthful quickness. Finally, when the stone strikes Goliath’s forehead, the observer suddenly discovers a critical weakness – Goliath’s armor didn’t cover this vital area. David’s weapon delivered force with precision over a distance, neutering Goliath’s supposed advantages of size and strength. It is a victory of apparent weakness over apparent strength that gives this tale its bite. How someone can see what others have not, or what they have ignored, and thereby discover a pivotal objective and create an advantage, lies at the very edge of our understanding, something glimpsed only out of the corner of our minds. Not every strategy draws on this kind of insight, but those that do generate the extra punch that separates “ordinary excellence” from the extraordinary.”

It is this insightful diagnosis that not only explains a situation but also defines the domain of action and the future road-map. It may seem to leaders to be a helpful bromide to a struggling organization or a function but needs to be mastered and managed like a discipline. It is hard work. Getting good at it requires significant practice.

The diagnostic exercise should pave the way for a road-map – the overall approach to overcome the challenges highlighted by the diagnosis. A clear road-map  consists of a set of guiding principles or rules – these are not instruction steps, but they are the “guardrails” on what work needs to be done. It defines the domain of actions organizations should take (and not take) and the things they should prioritize (and not prioritize) to achieve desired goals. The strategy construct here must complement and draw upon an organization’s success tenets and exploit the inherent advantages.

It is also important to underscore here  the leadership imperative to negotiate the laid down road-map.  A fundamental dilemma of strategy making is to reconcile the forces for continuity and for change – to focus efforts and gain operating efficiencies on the one hand, yet adapt and maintain currency with a changing business climate on the other. As, Ecclesiastes reminds us, ‘there is a time to sow and a time to reap‘. In laying down the road-map, leaders, as key architects of the strategy development & implementation process, must understand when to exploit an established crop of strategies and when to encourage new strains to displace the old. However, this cannot be done in isolation from decisions concerning the stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, investors) with whom the business will co-create and capture value. The guiding principles must be well communicated and adopted in the organization to generate the desired flow of organizational energy towards the domain of action.

Crafting a game-changing strategy is not about building gossamer cathedrals or esoteric plans but, as Richard Rumelt points out in Good Strategy Bad Strategy, about coherent action.  “Only action has an impact on the situation at hand: influences, shapes, alters that which is. “The kernel of a powerful strategy must be coherent”.  That is the resource deployments, policies and maneuvers that are undertaken should be well optimized to ensure capability maximization. Optimized organizations & functions ensure that resources are leveraged to their best potential to create the unique capabilities. This optimization effort results with the concurrent maximization of resource efficiency, effectiveness and utilization.

The strategic coordination or coherence at the core of the optimization effort is not an adhoc mutual adjustment but about fitting the pieces together so they work as a coherent whole. There is a difference between applying nominal improvements to talent acquisition and truly optimizing the discipline to boost strategic impact. By planning improvement based on a strategy that encompasses all aspects of talent acquisition,organizations can achieve significant results in terms of cost, efficiency, and business impact.

This requires extraordinary commitment, hard discipline and lots of practicing

Recruitment has not changed in terms of a process – a vacancy needs a suitable hire. However, the landscape, tools, technology, behaviors, expectations and generations are changing all around us and continue to accelerate how organizations approach their ability to source and acquire talent. Forward looking companies have been seizing this opportunity to move their capabilities forward and create true competitive advantage in talent sourcing and acquisition. They are focusing on fine-tuning the fundamentals, while devoting increased time and planning to the more strategic areas of talent acquisition, including workforce planning and strategic sourcing.

Their standout recruiting results comes from Blue Ocean Recruiting – game-changing strategies that elevate recruitment from a transactional, short-term focused activity to a strategic, integrated, long-term approach that optimizes their investments in people in a way that makes the competition irrelevant.

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if you enjoyed this post, you may like to check out my book, ” A Strategic Approach to Talent Acquisition”. sa9You can read a free sample chapter here.

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Posted in Talent Acquisition

(Big) Data – Driven Recruiting


There’s much wisdom in the above saying, which has been attributed to Sherlock Holmes from that brilliant story “Adventure of the Copper Beeches”, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and first published in the Strand Magazine in June 1892.

Flash forward to Circa 2015, a new age of strategic recruitment and human resource management has dawned upon us, yet this 19th century Sherlock Holmes speak continues to be germane to the recent digital data explosion of our times. Simply put, from a recruiting perspective, with data ( big or small) the recruiting function can measure, and hence know, radically more about its process internals, and directly translate that knowledge into improved decision making and performance. Put another way it aims to take the guesswork, gut feel and prejudice out of hiring, promotion & career planning decisions.

Data or Big Data if you may have it is the new clay for building the blocks of a high impact recruiting function. For much of the last few years, there was talk of just what big data is, how it would affect talent acquisition and talent management, and how to work with the constant and much larger flow of data slated to have an impact on the Industry. Data, according to most major analysts, is all set to change everything about what we do and why we do it in the near future. Nobody knows for certain what the future holds, but as Neil Griffiths, wrote in his introductory note in a seminal white paper by Dave Mendoza, “It seems the coming years will see the rise of what we call ‘Futurecasting’ – the ability to interrogate big data generated by the increasingly ‘social’ digital world and to begin basing hiring strategies and tactics on the new insights that are created.”

The business world today is grappling with a deluge of data points from myriad sources. This data comes from everywhere: browsers, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, tablets and cell phone to name a few. All this data supposedly offers unprecedented awareness of people’s actions and attitudes. Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone and the number is doubling every 40 months or so.

Given this ocean of data, the prevailing wisdom is centered round the great competitive advantages big data potentially offers because it allows companies to make better predictions and smarter decisions. We can target more effective interventions, and can do so in areas that so far have been dominated by gut and intuition rather than by data and rigor. The potential power of this data-driven approach has its champions. “This is absolutely the way forward,” says Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “Most companies have been flying completely blind.”

Making the Leap to Data – Driven Recruiting

While Analytics and Big Data have created quite a stir in the marketplace, the reality, as a recent Bersin by Deloitte research study findings – shown below- revealed is that most HR organizations fall well short of mastering these capabilities.

The study revealed that a staggering 86% of the surveyed organizations focused primarily on reporting, just 10% had taken the next step towards advanced analytics – helping business leaders solve their talent challenges through data analysis and a mere 4 % of the surveyed organizations were using predictive analytics to predict future talent outcomes. The statistics brings to the fore key issues and challenges organizations are grappling with in their efforts to build a successful data-centric recruiting function.

Data cannot stand in for vision or human judgement. On the contrary, being “big data-driven” requires more qualified human judgment than cloud-enabled machine learning. It moves the efficacy around more sound, more objective, and better decision making. The key to success here is an understanding that (big) data is not about subordinating managerial decisions to automated algorithms, but deciding what kinds of data should enhance or transform user hiring experience.

This scenario necessitates organizations to confront a new philosophy about decision making. For instance, hiring decisions are an interplay of multiple variables, the weighing and interaction of which are rarely obvious. Behavior and achievement are contextually driven, and motivation may or may not change with time. The selection path resembles more like the flight of a bumblebee than a predictable, linear hiring pattern and requires we bring in a nuanced understanding of the process combining the science of analytics with the art of intuition.

This behooves organizations to move away from “What do we think?” approach to “What do we know?” and an enlightened leadership team is key to enabling this culture shift, where senior executives are willing to override their own intuition in favor of reasoning. Fast Company has a great quote from Jeff Bezos: “The great thing about fact-based decisions is that they overrule the hierarchy.” The most junior person in the company can win an argument with the most senior person with a fact-based decision.

The geeks have arrived in HR, avers noted industry analyst and consultant, Josh Bersin. “Statisticians, mathematicians, and engineers have entered the people analytics space. More frequently, big data skills are appearing in job postings for recruiters, HR generalists, comp and benefit specialists, and trainers. ”The advent of the data era means that analyzing large, messy, structured, unstructured data is going to be integral to a recruiter’s work. For organization’s today, more effectively using talent data is a key component of their optimization efforts, one that seeks to improve the function’s role as a true business partner. Companies at the forefront of the data revolution are increasingly integrating workforce and workforce and financial data to align talent investments with business results.

The recruiting function of the future will often be called upon to create innovative data-based recruiting products and services and more proactively develop data-driven insights used to predict turnover, reduce new hire failure rates, and manage persistent poor performers.To thrive in this world, many will require additional skills. An ingenuity to see the (data) picture: one might call this “data literacy”: competence in finding, manipulating, managing, and interpreting data, including not just numbers but also text and images.

Visualization skills are important here, one can have all the data analysis faculty available, but unless one is able to present a coherent picture to the stakeholders, and demonstrate how it will help to improve performance and drive success, there is little value attached. The real win for business comes when the recruiter combines the artistry of wooing top talent in the market with the data acumen to influence the organization’s hiring strategy. The best hiring solutions arise from a willingness to blend art with science, ideas with data, and instinct with analysis.

In the movie “The Matrix” there’s a scene where Laurence Fishburne says to Keanu Reeves, “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work … when you go to church … when you pay your taxes.”

The “Matrix” underscores how sentient our world today has become. With cameras, smartphones, microphones, and other smart devices the human race is giving inanimate objects everywhere eyes, ears, and skin. And with all this observation, we are creating massive layers of data and information deluge every day.

But for all this data ubiquity, data is the lowest level of abstraction from which information is derived, and its ability to enable informed decision making can only be brought to fruition if data aka ‘meaningful data’ is analyzed and interpreted in the right business context.There is a certain danger in not truly understanding what it means to be data-driven and leveraging on the acquired knowledge. Big Data has become a catchall phrase today and despite the much-lauded buzz around data, metrics, and analytics there is little appreciation around the import and value of these terms and most importantly, how they go about creating the background for the right business case. An understanding of this hierarchy of knowledge can go a long way in ensuring consistency in the evaluation and improvement process of our talent acquisition strategy and its consequent bottom-line impact.

So what is the difference? ( And why we should care!)

Metrics and Analytics, as the exhibit below illustrates, are generally fueled by the same data sources, which entwine the two and can be the root cause of confusion sometimes seen against their independent roles.

Metrics, as the above exhibit illustrates, are numerical information points that encompass both financial and non-financial dimensions:

  • Qualitative measures : e.g. Cost to Hire, Time-to-Fill, Cost of Vacancy
  • Quantitative measure: e.g. Quality of Hire (QoH), Hiring Manager Satisfaction, Employer Brand Strength

Although both are different, the common element is the use of data and this is where the lines between metrics and analytics are often blurred, especially as the real value in metrics is seen when they’re using data to feed into decision-making processes. Analytics are the highest level of understanding. They help provide the answers to the many questions that metrics create:

With analytics, a greater understanding can be developed around the metrics being measured, by providing insight and context, which in turn, can be used to truly optimize the recruiting function and boost its strategic impact. Turning these insights into value is the next and probably the biggest hurdle to achieving better use of data, metrics, and predictive analysis by HR and talent acquisition professionals. A fact underscored by a research study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. An excerpt from this HBR survey is presented below:

Creating the right interplay between data, metrics and analytics is critical to ensuring a clear alignment to measurable business outcomes. It is essentially about seeking to answer, “What value matters most, and what marriage of data and algorithms gets us there?”

There are many dimensions to technology. To build a data-driven recruiting function, the technology assets must be in step with the recruitment strategy. The more out-of-sync recruitment and technology are, the more debilitating the impact on the organization’s agility to hire top talent. Investments in technology need to focus on the sources of data, how data is moved around the organization, and how it is handled, either through transactions, reporting, or analytics. The analysis of large data sets (big data) and unstructured data requires new and different technology than the organization probably has today. Even if the organization has already invested in new technologies, management has to figure out how it becomes central to the organization — not just serving as an incubation environment.

The technologies for data enabled recruiting are still fairly new and in some cases exotic. It’s too easy to mistake correlation for causation and to find misleading patterns in the data. The cultural challenges are enormous, and, of course, privacy concerns are only going to become more significant. But the underlying trends, both in the technology and in the business payoff, are unmistakable.The key challenge here is in knowing how to leverage technology in order to marry the right data sets with complex algorithms and optimize on the value proposition.

The above challenges, notwithstanding, the evidence is clear: Data -driven and a scientific approach to recruiting is the way forward. There is a growing realization among the recruiting fraternity at large that overhead functions will not be exempt from the unstoppable business trend toward data enabled decision-making. As the tools and philosophies of big data spread, they will change long-standing ideas about the value of experience, the nature of expertise, and the overall practices in recruiting. Big Data innovation presents talent acquisition with a unique opportunity to raise its profile as a strategic business partner. Strategic sourcing, improved workforce planning, building critical talent pipelines, are just few of the yet many un-researched possibilities presented by applying Big Data principles to the recruitment process.

The Industry is in consensus that the data interplay will change the nuances of recruiting as we understand now, but many are not sure how. The challenges are enormous, yet it is a transition that recruiting must engage with today. The scenario brings to mind the Chinese curse:“May you (recruitment) live in interesting times.”

Posted in Talent Acquisition

The Complexity of Recruiting

21st Century Recruiting – From Transaction to Transformation

Recruitment today is finally moving away from transactional thinking and beginning to understand how to better connect and engage with relevant talent prospects. My perspective in this article delves into the fast changing world of recruitment and throws light on some key trends & emerging practices that will continue to shape the future character and complexion of this discipline.

Talent Spotting

As the business environment becomes more volatile and ambiguous, and the market for top drawer talent gets tighter, the business of recruiting and sourcing is probably undergoing a paradigm shift. The biggest challenge for today’s recruiter is that the job of finding talent has become more complex. In his ground breaking book It’s Not the How or the What but the Who, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz succinctly traces the shifting paradigms of Talent spotting, from the era of focus on physical attributes, moving on to IQ – verbal, analytical, mathematical, and logical cleverness – to the ‘competency & skills’ movement we see today.

He further argues that in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment of today, competency-based appraisals and appointments are increasingly insufficient and organizations must navigate to a new era of Talent spotting – one in which our evaluations of one another are based not on brawn, brains, experience or competencies, but on potential. Geopolitics, business, industries, and jobs are changing so rapidly that we can’t predict the competencies needed to succeed even a few years out.

The lesson: Recruitment models of today must factor this new imperative & identify and on-board people by moving into the deeper waters of understanding a potential hire(s) psychology and motivation

Data Driven Recruitment

Big Data in recent times has been increasingly gaining a foothold in the lexicon of Talent decision makers. For much of 2012 there was talk of just what Big Data is, how it would affect talent acquisition and talent management, and how to work with the constant and much larger flow of data slated to have an impact on the Industry. Big Data, according to most major analysts, is all set to change everything about what we do and why we do it in the near future. Nobody knows for certain what the future holds, but as Neil Griffiths, wrote in his introductory note in a seminal White paper by Dave Mendoza; ‘it seems the coming years will see the rise of what we call Futurecasting: the ability to interrogate ‘big data’ generated by the increasingly ‘social’ digital world, and to begin basing hiring strategies and tactics on the new insights that are created.’ The business world today is grappling with a deluge of data points from myriad sources. However, data is the lowest level of abstraction from which information is derived and its ability to enable informed decision making can only be brought to fruition if data aka ‘meaningful data’ is analysed and interpreted in the right business context. This innovation presents Talent Acquisition with a unique opportunity to raise its profile as a strategic business partner. Strategic sourcing, improved workforce planning, building critical talent pipelines, are just few of the yet many un-researched possibilities presented by applying Big Data principles to the talent acquisition process. The Industry is in a consensus that the Data interplay will change the nuances of recruiting as we understand now, but many are not sure how. The scenario brings to mind the Chinese curse: “May you (talent acquisition) live in interesting times.”

The Digitization of Recruitment

There was a time, not so long ago, when recruiting was very much simpler. You had an approved opening and you filled it. The technology tools at our disposal included a phone, a rolodex, and a notebook. Quality candidates were plentiful and sourcing meant calling people on that rolodex, searching through one’s privately maintained databases and maybe getting the word out about open positions through print publications. The recruiters ‘world of data’ largely revolved around the holy grail metric – Cost per Hire and a company’s ‘recruitment strategy’ meant knowing when to step down on its in-house efforts and call in the third-party brigade. Hireology, a leading Talent Assessment firm in the US, recently released an [INFOGRAPHIC] titled “The Evolution of Finding Candidates”, which provides an interesting account of how recruitment and selection has evolved over time. Starting with employee referrals dating back to ancient Rome, the infographic includes statistics and facts about how the industry has changed and where it is headed. Back in those ‘dark ages’, candidates snail-mailed typewritten resumes in response to these print ads. An early innovation here was the ‘fax machine’ which allowed candidates to digitally send resumes to employers. But the real game-changers were the desktop computers and the advent of the internet which completely democratized recruiting. Flash Forward to Circa 2014… Times have certainly changed. Today, there are multiple layers of technologies, tools, partners and services embedded in the recruiting processes, that are unmatched in complexity and sophistication from the days of yore. This interplay of social media tools, video, big data, analytics, cloud based products and mobile recruiting platforms is creating an interesting potpourri of resources geared to enhance the recruiters’ ability to more efficiently match job seekers with the right opportunities. However, digital convenience comes at the expense of meaningful engagement as digital transactions substitute physical interactions – and the trust and relationship capital they build, which is centric to the logic of the recruiting function. The challenge for the recruiting function here is to face the implications of digital change: in particular the loss of control over the candidate relationship, increased competition and threat of commoditization, and the need to engage digitally with all key stakeholders in the recruiting value chain. This rapid pace of digitization and the rise of the millennial generation is re-defining established workforce paradigms and will require the recruitment function to enable innovative efficiencies in its business/operating model, while creating seamless and consistent engagement with all stakeholders.

Recruiting Revisited: The New Recruitment Models

For all the flak the recruitment function receives from Industry experts and business stakeholders, there are a lot of very talented, intelligent, and skilled individuals in the recruiting field. Second, there are some definite, emerging trends in terms of how progressive companies are re-orienting their recruiting teams. And third, there are lessons to be learned from the innovative best practices and operating models of some world-class recruiting organizations. A sneak peek at the new recruiting models of today point to the following trends displayed in a graphical format:

The seismic shifts we are seeing in global business has significantly altered the recruiting landscape. The real challenge – and indeed the real opportunity – for the profession will lie in learning how to unlock the huge potential presented by the emerging tools, techniques and approaches. Recruitment is, and will remain a people centric function but its future promise to provide competitive advantage would lie more at the intersection of people with business, process, technology and organization strategy.


Photo Credits: Zooco ; Nucleartist ; wlablack ; Fotoscool ; Maisei Raman/shuttersock Please click here for a link to the resources cited in this article

Posted in Talent

The Quest for Hiring Excellence – Part I


My Perspective in this article, the first in a two post series examines the elusive quest for excellence in hiring; the complexities in picking the ‘Right Person’ for the ‘Right Job’, often mired in paradoxes and how organizations commonly deal with them.

Why Hiring Excellence eludes us?


Gut-Feel over Job- Fit

The Search Firm was in the closing stage of a difficult selection assignment for a client organization and the best choice candidate who had successfully acquitted himself, over a period of five months, going through a battery of personality, psychometric assessment tests and interactions with key HR functionaries, was invited for the offer stage meeting with the business stakeholders. The candidate went through the motions and was optimistic of the outcome in the affirmative. A few days later the company advised the search firm that it would no longer pursue discussions with the candidate. The only explanation offered was that the company had a lingering concern about ‘fit’. Though puzzled the search firm complied but also sought an audience with the HR Chief, who shared that one of the key business heads felt that the ‘candidate(s) lack of Industry relevant experience could prove detrimental to their business interests.‘ The candidate in question had a well rounded exposure cutting across multiple industries and could have brought a fresh perspective & innovative thinking to the role. Adding weight to this ridiculous screening requirement was the fact that the other two stakeholders had a given a go for the candidate but a 100% consensus was required for the closure – a seemingly improbable proposition.

Lending credence to the above narrative is an article I recently came across at TLNT, titled “Industry Experience Required” Is a Mindset We Need to Get Out Of. The author Ron Thomas, a leading global authority on HR, shares his view on this aspect drawing from his vast HR experience and also cites about the non conventional staffing model of Quantasy, an advertising group, who went outside of their Industry and hired successful people with NO previous ad agency experience – an award winning music executive, a web entrepreneur, a screenwriter, and even a blogger. The insights by their CEO Will Campbell is a must read for anybody involved in HR.

The ‘War for Talent’ notwithstanding should organizations allow themselves to be stuck in this one-industry corral?. In my view, our myopic approaches akin to an auto-da-fé might be turning away a lot of talented people whose true abilities surpass the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ fitment cues implicit in preposterous hiring requirements. Organizations need to reflect here if they are missing out on the talent thing.


The Myth of the Purple Squirrel

Organizations struggle to take measure of the irregularly shaped openings into which candidates must fit. They wrestle with whether to hire for the company they plan to become, the company they wish they were, or the company that they actually are. Unable or unwilling to acknowledge the ‘work-in-progress’ that they are, organizations hold up idealized representations against which they evaluate candidates. Invariably, the skills required to navigate from the idealized to the actual state are assumed to be the responsibility of the candidate. The interplay of these factors complemented by the hard reality of a slow growing economy and high unemployment rates has only perpetuated the myth of the purple squirrel. However, much like purple squirrels in nature, the perfect candidate remains more myth than reality. The reality of this myth is that for every purple squirrel hire out there, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of open, unfilled job openings. Staffing and hiring experts say most employers know that purple squirrels do not exist, but they also say many employers keep looking for them. And, for job aspirants, that is a frustrating problem

Ironically, savvy job – seeking executives use this knowledge to their advantage feeding a cycle of poor decision making for all concerned. They fabricate, shape and sell the narrative by which they want to be defined or to fit the zeitgeist of the stakeholders on the other side of the table. If the stories resonate with the interviewer as plausible they are viewed as true. The overall candidate assessment therefore is less a function of how much information we have than the quality of the story we are able to construct.


Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who won a Nobel Prize for pioneering the field of behavioural economics argues, in his thought provoking book Thinking, Fast and Slow, that “if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action. In the economy of action, effort is a cost, and the acquisition of skill is driven by the balance of benefits and costs. Laziness is built deep into our nature”. Our adaptive unconscious has been shaped by evolution to make quick assessments in order to distinguish friend from foe and to sense imminent danger. As Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book Blink, “the giant computer that is our unconscious silently crunches all of the data it can from the experiences we’ve had, the people we’ve met, the lessons we’ve learned, the books we’ve read, the movies we’ve seen and so on, and it forms an opinion.”

This type of subconscious gauging enables us to navigate through life’ countless daily encounters and people. Unfortunately, it is highly suspect for some applications. For example, hiring decisions are an interplay of multiple variables, the weighing and interaction of which are rarely obvious. Behavior and achievement are contextually driven, and motivation may or may not change with time. The subconscious finds itself over-matched to answer the question at hand~ is the candidate good for the position in question? But rather than hand the job over to its rational better half, the subconscious simply substitutes a more addressable question, in this instance, does the person look good for the position in question? It substitutes how we feel about the person for what we think about the person. It substitutes how well the candidate performs in the interview for how well they will likely perform in the job. Having observed a candidate in an interview our subconscious extrapolates to draw conclusions on how well they will do in a job and it has no difficulty saying no or yes based on such weak evidence. We deem the cost of the talent selection process too high for the marginal improvement it promises over our intuitive abilities. However, findings below of a research study by a group of academics from the University of Minnesota prove otherwise that in hiring, algorithms beat instinct


Once upon a time there was a clever young financial professional called Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Of Lebanese – or, as he preferred, Levantine – descent but working in New York, he was an option trader and quantitative analyst. Best known for his groundbreaking work The Black Swan, one of Taleb’s great examples of “non-linearity”, or Black Swan behaviour, his book had many useful insights to offer. One such insight is woven around the “narrative fallacy”, the way past information is used to analyse the causes of events when so much history is actually “silent”. It is the silence – the gap – the missing energy in the historical system, which produces the black swan. Imagine, says Taleb, the problem of turkeys – exhibited in the figure above: “Every single feeding will firm up the bird’s belief that it is the general rule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race ‘looking out for its best interests’, as a politician will say. On the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the turkey. It will incur a revision of belief.

As Nassim Taleb writes:”The narrative fallacy addresses our limited ability to look at sequences of facts without weaving an explanation into them, or, equivalently, forcing a logical link, an arrow of relationship upon them. Explanations bind facts together. They make them all the more easily remembered; they help them make more sense. Where this propensity can go wrong is when it increases our impression of understanding.”

We model the future mostly on a narrative of the past – and the notion of narrative fallacy suggests that our narrative of the past is, more often than not, flawed. Applied to hiring, one doesn’t have to construct a ‘best hire’ narrative based on the success on observations of the past. At the same time, just because the past is not a template for the future, it doesn’t mean one has to go about building a template for the future that is deliberately different from the past. The message here is that It can be misleading, fallacious to build a general rule or draw a factual conclusion from observations based on flawed historical narratives alone.


Simplicity Sells and Complexity Languishes

Jack Welch, when he commented “What could possibly be more important than who gets hired”, probably had in mind the high risks organizations carry, when they retreat to the comfort of expediency and simplicity, in place of the required objectivity in assessing & selecting the right candidate.

The hiring process takes knowledge, effort and time to plan, as well as rigor to execute and refine. With much at stake and the complexity involved, hiring begs thoughtful and purposeful approaches. But as someone famously remarked, simplicity sells and complexity languishes. With the law of least effort at work, organizations end up probing generic strengths, weaknesses and career aspirations. The hiring manager’ gut feel, hunches, trick questions and likeability triumph over job-fit. Armed with some Extra Sensory Perception – like abilities, based on lagging indicators, the organizations sum and substance of their ‘selection decision’ resembles something like the algorithm below:

Hiring Excellence Index = F [{√(objective inputs) + (subjective inputs) ²} × intuition ]

Interestingly. fitting a regression model in the above equation revealed, R-Sq (adj) & Standard Error of regression values of 93.7% & 136% respectively.

In plain-speak the non-random pattern in the residual plots below indicate, that the predictor variables (specifically the intuition centric inputs) are not capturing any explanatory or meaningful information which would qualify the best hire fitment. The model instead explains a lot of response variability around the ‘objective input’- predictor variable and its predictive value to quantify excellence in selection. It is a moot point that the best predictive analytics and behavioural assessment tools would be at odds in deciphering any kernel of hiring excellence using this algorithm.


Though hiring begrudges the stature of a science, perception based, gut driven and subjective inputs continue to figure as important predictor variables in the hiring equation of organizations. In the absence of unifying laws in hiring, unlike those that distinguish the physical sciences, there is little consensus on the attributes that predict success in strategic roles or how they interact and are optimally weighted in importance.

An interesting twist here is the multitude of tools at our disposal today which have made the selection process vastly more sophisticated than it ever was before. Social Sourcing, Big Data, Analytics and Assessment Science are all part of the lexicon of today’s talent decision makers, however our ability to find great people has only dwindled and the results have hardly improved since the days of I Love Lucy and The Three Stooges Show

Photo Credits:Malchev/shutterstock; IQoncept/shutterstock; Andrew J Catanzariti;

Reference: Thinking, Fast & Slow, Daniel Kahneman; The Stonewood Perspective


Posted in Talent Acquisition

Design Thinking in Talent Acquisition


The Wikipedia defines design thinking as a style of thinking which combines empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and the rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context.

While design thinking has become part of popular lexicon in contemporary design and engineering practice its principles can be seamlessly applied across multiple disciplines and industries. The premise is that by knowing about the process and the methods that designers use to ideate and by understanding how designers approach problem solving, individuals and businesses will be better able to connect with and invigorate their ideation processes in order to take innovation to a higher level. The hope is to create sustainable competitive advantage in today’s volatile global economy which has increasingly become knowledge – based

Principles of Service Design Thinking

Marc Stickdorn in his seminal work This is Service Design Thinking talks about ‘How to design and market services to create outstanding customer experiences’. He lays down 5 basic principles


Can Design Thinking Principles be applied to Optimize the Talent Acquisition discipline?

This article throws light on the changing contours of the Talent Acquisition function, and how a design thinking methodology can help optimize the function to enhance its strategic impact

E & Y in its “Global HR Risk Survey” findings concluded that Talent Acquisition & management was seen as the HR risk considered to have the greatest impact on the organization and the most likely to occur. Justifiably so the last few years has seen an incredible shift in how organizations source and hire for talent. The recruiting methodologies and approaches that businesses used in the past are being replaced by new strategies, tools and metrics that are measurably generating high quality candidates. The Exhibit below captures key elements of a Talent Acquisition framework gaining foothold in the lexicon of Talent decision makers


Using Ulrich’s terms, the talent war today represents the drive to find, develop, and retain individuals, wherever they are located in the world. The key challenge here is to evolve recruitment models which can connect with Talent at large and achieve significant results in terms of cost, efficiency & business impact.

Design Thinking – a human centric interdisciplinary approach towards innovation can help enable such a model

Design Thinking Applied to Talent Acquisition

design3Let us examine the connotation each of the 5 design principles have in relation to an organization’s Talent Acquisition Strategy

design4Customers define talent’s value and have always paid talent’s way. But customers do not necessarily value what talent provides; and they have seldom had direct control over it. The value provided by the “Organization Man” for example, was mostly for internal organization exchange and consumption. This insulation of talent from customer value is changing in the era of customer strategies. The most successful businesses have distinguished themselves by coming to terms with the important but unsettling reality that customers and markets do not care about companies and barely care about the products and services companies sell. In the customer seat, products and services only have visibility and value if they improve customers’ lives or contribute to customer success – that is they solve the problems that prompt customers to seek products and services in the first place. The Container Store, a Dallas based specialty retailer of home and office storage solutions, demonstrates talent value to customers through its substantial investment in new sales employee education. The retailer delivers 235 hours to new full-time employees during their first year, education that includes point of sale processes, sales skills, product knowledge, and inventory management. By contrast, the norm for the retail industry is approximately 7 hours annually. The example demonstrates how the desired customer values were translated into employee performance requirement which is a function of the ‘right talent mix’ to ensure business success. When we think of it, employers ultimately do not want employees. Instead they want the correct and timely mix of talent who can either supply products or services customers value immediately or, in the long term, do one or more of the following:

A. Increase customer use and value perception of existing products, services
B. Develop or find new customers for existing products and services
This presupposes a service-oriented mindset. It means listening well to the client, rethinking every communication and interaction no matter how mundane and an attention to detail, an attitude, that is essential if one has to find the self-discipline to handle client servicing with empathy.
Making the connection between what customers value and what talent provides is a recurring new reality
design5Application of the co-creation principle to Talent Acquisition (TA) is to underscore the importance of integrating TA and TM in organizations as the need for – and the scarcity of- specialized talent becomes more critical. Although the two functions have the same overall goals – ensuring the organization has the best talent – the two roles just don’t intersect in most organizations. In many organizations, a wall of separation has existed between the TA and TM functions for years. TA operates on its own, separate from HR and TM, while bemoaning the fact that no one gets what they do. At the same time HR business partners and OD professionals often wonder, “What do these recruiters do? How hard can recruiting be?” However the importance of integrating TA and TM is something organizations today can ignore at their own peril as hiring manager’s demand faster, higher quality talent acquisition and employees demand to know what options exist for them to learn and grow in their career. Technology advances, economic pressures for resource efficiency are all driving the need for a closer integration between the TA & TM roles. The scenario implies defining new roles, processes, trainings and tools. Such changes will require increasing collaboration among all the constituents in the HR value chain within organizations to deliver deeper, more sustainable value for the company and employees
design6The purpose of any Recruitment process is to ‘predict’ which person will be the most successful in a given role, responsibility area within the ambit of a defined Talent Profile. The more structured the process the better is the qualified success or the quality of the hire. Sequencing essentially is about applying the ‘Science’ to people decisions which ensures a consistent, more predictable quality of hire outcome for the hiring manager, customer. This is about the ‘Science of Fit Research’ The process examines the various job roles at work within an organization and diagnose the skills, knowledge, personality traits and experience somebody needs to succeed on these roles. The combination of assessment tools carefully developed, sequenced and executed is critical for the success of any high-performing Talent Acquisition program
design7” In God we trust. All others must bring data.”- Edwards Deming
What gets measured gets improved and by not measuring, the recruiting organization misses an opportunity to learn from its own processes – what it is doing well and how it is adding value to the organization. The final shortlist presentation of a list of prospects to the hiring manager culminating in a ‘hire’ may be the end of the process but making visible the myriad ‘behind the scenes’ recruiting activities through ‘metrics and analytics’- the Big Data fueled hiring- is what can measure the true value creation process in Talent Acquisition and its impact on business results. It is imperative that the function provides some form of artifact to remind the customer that an outcome was established. Reliable measures linking people to business strategy can impact decision making and investment decisionTs
There is nothing more satisfying than providing a service and demonstrating its value with systematically collected data
design8The logic of the Talent Acquisition function is based on building a sustainable relationship capital with the end consumers or client(s) or key stakeholders of the service. For Organizations committed to improving the efficiency of their staffing function this represents a significant point of intelligence. That is successful recruiting ultimately depends on people. Relationships with candidates, hiring managers and HR business partners and the ability to improve the experience of all the constituents at all the touch points in the talent acquisition relationship cycle ultimately drives the success of the staffing function. Companies have come to realize that it can be five to ten times more profitable to build an existing customer relationship to try and create a new one when a customer leaves. It is the same with talent. Despite the shifts in recruiting tactics brought about by e-cruiting, the key to the development of a predictable talent flow is having preexisting and enduring relationships that can be readily converted into work relationships

Relationship building however takes time and focus. It operates on different rhythms and thinking than the direct approach. This means keeping the feelings of the customer in mind at all the “touch-points” in the relationship journey.Among the companies adopting this approach is Electronic Arts Inc., a large video game company. It maintains a pipeline of over thirty thousand individual relationships assembled using a web-based ATS, which stores custom talent profiles instead of resumes. The profile data fields capture contact information, information about prospect backgrounds, career aspirations, and geographic preferences. If prospect interests and capabilities match a current opening, the system immediately notifies the hiring manager and encourages the candidate to apply. This process of developing talent relationships forces managers to develop a more outward-looking view, stay on top of cutting-edge trends, building their company’s image and staying in sync with customer expectations.

This is but the essence of the design thinking methodology – taking insights from people at the various stages, touch points of the process and build from the outside-in rather than from the inside-out

Posted in Talent Acquisition

What Can Talent Acquisition Learn from Eli Goldratt

This third and the last post in the series draws insights from one of the foremost management thinkers of our times, who created and developed a framework, which applied to Talent Acquisition can help realize the economic impact of the function with dramatic results

eli1Eli Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints and the Recruitment Goal


The photograph above, of a group of clouds shaped as a linked chain being broken through by a hot air balloon, is symbolic of a freedom metaphor of breaking against a constraint, and rising above to achieve a goal. The Big Idea behind this unassuming portray is a methodology made famous by Dr Eliyahu Goldratt, who conceived the Theory of Constraints and introduced it to a wide audience through his bestselling 1984 novel, The Goal.

The similarities of the manufacturing plant, in this fictional story by Eli Goldratt, and many corporate recruitment departments are striking, and its relevance endures even thirty years after it was written.

Basics of the Theory of Constraints applied to Talent Acquisition

Shortly after the turn of the century, when bento boxes had become Japan’s best known contribution to the culinary world, came the widely popular conveyor belt sushi restaurants. Also known as sushi-go-rounds, the customers, once in, could simply pick little portions of fresh sushi and sashimi of their choice from a moving conveyor belt. The final bill would be calculated based on the number and the type of sushi portions consumed. The idea combined Japanese minimalism and their loathing for wastage.

The Theory of Constraints (TOC) thinking process similarly draws upon this minimalist approach & is built around the core that every process has a single constraint, and that total process throughput – the rate at which the system makes money through sales, can only be improved when the constraint is improved. A very important corollary to this is that spending time optimizing non-constraints will not provide significant benefits; only improvements to the constraint will further the goal – achieving more profit.

Thus, TOC seeks to provide precise and sustained focus on improving the current constraint until it no longer limits throughput, at which point the focus moves to the next constraint. The underlying power of TOC flows from its ability to generate a strong focus towards a single goal and to removing the principal impediment (the constraint) to achieving more of that goal.

This concept when applied to recruitment helps us understand the goal to be:

eli3To maximize the number of quality hires/month for the organization ~Eli Goldratt calls this ‘Throughput’

and that there is a fixed amount of Time, Money & Resource – ‘constraints’ that need to be optimized


A staffing supply chain when viewed through the lens of ‘Throughput and Constraints’ changes the perspective of the function from being transactional driven to relationship driven. It shifts the focus from the ‘more is better’ philosophy to how efficient we are with the ‘candidate activity we put into the staffing supply chain funnel’, and helps organizations evaluate the quality of their hires versus focusing on quantity and cost containment. The quality of hire and not the quantity should help guide the talent acquisition strategy and tell the story of recruiting effectiveness at both the pre-hire & post-hire level

The Throughput is a great TA metric for these very reasons. Most importantly, it illustrates the efficiency of the entire recruiting process by focusing on cradle to grave hiring ratios and help identify low & high performance process zones as exhibited below:


With these data points at display, there is no room for inefficiency, old school recruiting or MacGyver- style selection methods. With Throughput everyone sees the value of having a defined role and all stakeholders have a skin in the game

Focus is the essence of TOC and using the right metrics, recruiters will be encouraged to focus their behaviors on the causes and not the symptoms of recruitment success.

Dr. Eli Goldratt could not have summarized this better when he said:

“Focusing on everything is synonymous with not focusing on anything. Can we condense all of TOC in one single sentence? I think it is possible to condense it to a single word – focus.”

Photo Credits: Sigrid Klop; Karen Roach/shutterstock,

Posted in Talent Acquisition

What Can Talent Acquisition Learn from Walter Shewhart

This article is the first in a series of three posts. They focus around seminal insights gleaned from the contributions of three distinguished practitioners from the academe & the business world, and its implications for the discipline of talent acquisition. Efficiency within talent acquisition coupled with increased customer satisfaction and cost savings are key objectives, now more than ever. Leveraging these learnings could help solidify its reputation as a true strategic business partner

walter 1walter 2The original notions of Total Quality Management and continuous improvement trace back to a former Bell Telephone employee named Walter Shewhart. One of W. Edwards Deming’s teachers, he preached the importance of adapting management processes to create profitable situations for both businesses and consumers. A non–obvious contribution of quality management has been the focus on reducing variation as a way to improve quality. When the ancients built their temples they needed squared stones that would fit together. In a high quality car the doors and the frame match with precision. Customers of talent acquisition would expect such a talent fit and as a recent global study by PwC reveals Talent mismatch costs global economy US$ 150 billion

Walter Shewhart pioneered a method of innovation known as the Shewhart cycle, more popularly known in the business world as the PDCA or the PDSA cycle. The cycle contains four continuous steps: Plan, Do, Check & Act and draws its structure from the notion that constant evaluation of management practices – as well as the willingness of management to adopt and disregard unsupported ideas – are keys to the evolution of a successful enterprise or a function. PDCA is an iterative problem–solving process which starts off small to test potential effects on processes, and gradually leads to larger and more targeted change

walter3The Exhibit below presents the key drivers of Recruitment ‘performance & business impact’ & how the PDCA cycle can be applied to optimize the recruitment function to achieve significant results around cost, efficiency & bottom-line impact


Plan: As with any improvement effort, a recruitment deployment plan must begin with clarifying the hiring objectives in consultation with the key stakeholders. An objective assessment of the current state of the Talent Operations – around the key drivers outlined above – to understand the gaps that can be addressed, is a key deliverable of this stage

Do: The plan must include clear steps, responsibilities and timelines to enable effective execution of the recruitment plan

Check: Understanding whether the recruitment plan is progressing on schedule, as well as their effectiveness in enabling the stated objectives to be met are necessary to keep the transformation effort on course

Act: Based on the results of the Check step, the plan continues as designed or adjustments are made to address the gaps, areas of concern. The precondition for the success is the standardization of the changes to improve the process and their implementation into the new plan

Creating & Measuring Value to the Business – The PDCA Way

Like any improvement effort, talent acquisition optimization is a continuous process, which if executed with a strategic mindset can deliver real value to business in sustainable terms. By assessing the function through the framework of the PDCA cycle, one can establish a strategy that will deliver continuous improvement in talent quality, recruiting process efficiency, recruiter productivity and cost optimization. This continuous improvement will be essential, because in a market where talent, given the right talent practices, is an “appreciating asset” talent acquisition is more than an overhead function, it is a critical capability to drive the success of the business as a whole

Photo: Tomas Florian/;Bevan Von Weichardtshutterstock

Reference: Walter A Shewhart, 1924, and the Hawthorne Factory: M Best & D Neuhauser

Posted in Human Resources, Talent Management

Why HR Needs to shed its Toby Flenderson image?

tobyRemember Toby Wyatt Flenderson, the HR Manager on the U.S. comedy television series, “The Office” ?
Toby represents the archetypal Human Resource Manager: soft-spoken, easy to be with and generally of good disposition who seems to spend most of his time telling people what not to do. In the increasingly VUCA times we find ourselves in, is this the type of image we want associated with the HR profession?
Absolutely Not
Is the profession today then at a crossroads?
Absolutely Yes
HR Futurist, Jay Jamrog couldn’t have put this more succinctly when he said “Human Resources is crippled with educated incapacity”
In views drawn from my own experience & following the footprints of some great HR practitioners , this has more to do with the challenges that beset the HR profession today and how the function is still caught between its evolving role from an arbiter of Human Relations to one of managing the resource supply chain. The rapidly changing business environment necessitates that HR grow out of its “soft touch” mode prone to providing ‘sugar and honey’ solutions and instead get more business aligned, financially oriented & accountable to provide greater business value. The real value of HR comes not from its role as an internal people operations team but more from its role in Talent Management. This value creation must happen in concert with the CEO of the organization. When we think of it “Talent Management” is a business process, not an HR process – and if the key architects of the corporate topography don’t “own it”, it cannot be forced down. The ‘license” from the top can be a big enabler for HR to live up to its true reputation of a Strategic Partner.

Another challenge that confronts HR is the ‘difficulty of aligning HR Strategy to business strategy, as business strategy has a dynamic character and it is difficult to tweak a compensation strategy or performance management program to keep up’. The scenario necessitates that HR professionals operate out of a set of principles and personal values. It requires stepping up to the issues that are centric to the organization bottom line and not get too bogged down with administrivia, which is seeing an increasing trend of being outsourced. The job of HR is not about being a ‘do- gooder’ but more about attracting the best and brightest people and raising the value of the enterprise

It is unfortunate that HR is one of the overhead functions that gets downsized when times get tough, either through a reduction in its budgets or by reducing its staff. All administrative support functions are increasingly coming under pressure to demonstrate their value & HR today needs to take some radical steps that will improve and impact the credibility of the function if it has to be seen as a corporate leader that can influence senior management regarding the importance of people issues. It must respond by becoming more financially oriented and accountable focusing on outcomes and less on the activity subset.
We as HR leaders have to figure out how to meet the future needs of business and lead organizational change not wait to be told, when and how. The vagaries of the economic scene today make it implicit for HR to acquire a new set of tools and skills. The ‘new’ HR professional must be strong in business and finance (metrics driven), have a strong technology background and be a risk taker. While HR professionals generally are adept at relationship building, they need to become more business –centric today. Some possible changes to the HR function in the near future would include:
■ Greater focus on metrics and return on investment methodologies
■ Reduction in focus on generalist HR roles to more specialist roles covering recruitments, assessments, learning & development, analytics
■ Increased focus on people productivity, performance metrics and coaching
■ Transaction roles, activities within HR domain to be increasingly outsourced

Yes HR, is and will remain a people centric business, but its future promise to provide competitive advantage would lie more at the intersection of people with business, process, technology & organization strategy

Photo: Balqis Amran/shutterstock


Posted in Millennials

Generational Diversity at the Workplace




For the first time in this decade we are seeing four generations co-existing in the workplace at the same time – all with their unique set of values, attitudes, beliefs and aspiration mix. As a result, an organization’s ability to attract, motivate and retain key employees rests on how well managers understand what is driving the behaviors of each generational cohort. In this age of “Employee Consumerism” Organizations are waking up to the fact that ‘people assets’ are their only source of competitive advantage and that they must be flexible enough to meet individual needs.

Some observers reject the idea of applying the idea of applying identifying tags to entire generations of people. They feel it’s detrimental to society when we buy into labels such as “Baby Busters” and “Baby Boomers” because those tags imply there is a single group of people who share exactly the same values and attitudes. On the other side of the argument are those who say that each generation does in fact demonstrate certain tendencies, a collective personality of sorts. The pertinent issue here is that as long we understand that these collective attitudes and behaviors represent an overall generational zeitgeist that is true for individuals in varying degrees, then generational designations can provide a useful framework to engender collaboration and a harmonic convergence towards organization goals and objectives than being a source of conflict

                                                                Generational Markers

Gen Y

Managing the Millennials

The retirement of the U.S. “baby boomer” generation, the globalization of markets and operations across all industries, and the shortage of talent in critical areas such as engineering, healthcare, IT & leadership and the rising financial cost of turnover are all important drivers and add to the complexity of attracting and managing talent effectively. Advancement in technologies has resulted in ‘follow the sun models’, which dictates that work does never stops. Old business and hiring structures as a consequence are being replaced by a global sourcing model that places emphasis on doing the work where it makes most sense, sourcing resources from where they are the cheapest and of the best quality, and delivering where there is best client interface. This has led to the formation of a global workforce that collaborates seamlessly to create profit for the host country and the country where the organization is headquartered. As companies seek talent and talent seeks global companies there is a dramatic change waiting to happen in the way we work. These changes in behavior, technology, demographic, resources and global competition are forcing businesses to strategically adapt to new ways of filling talent scarcity gaps. HR, in this changing paradigms in business, has its task well cut out. Organizations today are realizing that loyalty isn’t exactly dead but it has evolved. The workforce of today especially the Gen- Y are more likely to be loyal to their professions, to the projects they are working on than to the Employer per se. HR, as the custodian of the organizations human capital is increasingly faced with a challenge of creating a work environment that allows people to grow and develop. While every organization is faced with its unique challenges the following precepts are gaining currency in creating and retaining a loyal and committed workforce. The one-size-fits–all approach no longer works

1. increase employee employability
2. provide challenging work
3. provide task variety
4. create a culture that values intellectual stimulation
5. recognize that compensation, by itself will not be enough to retain people
6. make sure the work environment motivates
7. pay attention to work/life issues
8. make their experience transferable
9. create teams carefully


With some insights from ‘The Changing Nature of the Work Force’: An HCI Survey