I thought it would be interesting to explore the concept of “strategic” when it comes to hiring. Both in terms of positioning hiring within the context of the organisation and when undertaking hiring itself.
One of the challenges when hiring is to move it from a tactical activity, reluctantly undertaken when a vacancy arises, to a strategic activity that contributes to organisational excellence. Until hiring is firmly positioned as a key strategic activity, organisations will face problems such as weak talent pipeline, significant opportunity costs, higher hiring errors (it is worth taking the time to work out the cost of hiring errors), business stagnation and eroded organisational value. Additionally, ambitious business leaders will not invest sufficient time, early enough in their careers, to learning and honing their hiring skills. I have, over the years, worked with many great leaders (visionary, decisive, strategic, charismatic, brilliant) who simply cannot hire well. Yet, hiring the right or wrong people will have a huge impact on the organisation. Recruitment is both an art and a science and organisational leaders need to master both elements
In terms of hiring itself, I would suggest that you need to approach the activity strategically. Namely, to think longer term and put it in a broader context. This will enable you to build organisational capability and bench strength and develop the organisation for longer term growth. Thus, by taking a more strategic approach to recruitment you can recruit for the future at least as much as for the present. By this I mean that you can start to plan the skills and competencies you will need to be successful in the future. It also allows you to hire people today that you can develop into the roles you will need in the future which reduces the amount of ‘crisis’ hiring you need to do which is risky, expensive and can reduce motivation of more junior staff with high potential. I believe that a certain amount of external hiring (rather than all internal promotion) is healthy for an organisation but it needs to be intentional and not forced upon you due to the lack of well-developed internal staff.
Hiring needs to be part of an integrated talent management framework. This sounds complicated and clearly, for very large organisations, it can be, but even with much smaller organisations these elements should be in place: Planning the resources that you need, investing in resourcing (i.e. finding the talent), job design and organisation design (you may need to flex the organisation to allow people to grow and develop), management hiring and selection skills, staff engagement and retention, staff and management development. In my experience, large organisation can lose sight of the ‘why’ and become lost in the systems and infrastructure. They focus on developing complex processes but not deriving real value from them, or even worse, ignoring them when faced with decisions such as a senior promotion. And smaller organisations do not always think broadly enough and can make short term hiring decisions. In my experience, one of the main causes of slow growth in smaller organisations is that they do not hire early enough, or strategically enough.
About the Author
Lisette Howlett is author of The Right Hire: Attract And Retain The Best People, a licensed Sandler Trainer located in London Central, and she has fifteen years of global change leadership and business development experience. Howlett is called upon by business owners of small and medium-sized companies for strategy and business development. Her experience includes financial services, technology, pharma/biotech, manufacturing, IT, media, recruitment and professional services.
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