As an HR executive there are a number of phrases that cause my ears to perk up when I hear them:
- “We want to fire the supervisor because she has missed too much time while on FMLA.”
- “An employee wants to talk to you about dating her supervisor.”
- “The health plan renewal came back with a 40% increase.”
As bad as those are, no phrase gets more attention from me than “We need to hire some new IT talent.” When uttered in our organization, these words cause panic.
There are a number of reasons why IT recruiting gets such a bad rap in our industry. The first is that most organizations are already understaffed in IT. For that reason, most of the current IT employees would admit to being overwhelmed by what is considered an unreasonable workload and intense pressure to do more with less.
The second has to do with the role that IT plays in the business, particularly in the call center/ARM industry. Organizations count on their IT departments to deliver strong platforms with very little down time, pass client audits, protect information, monitor and maintain internal quality measures and most importantly exceed client, FDCPA, and CFPB regulations with redundant, auditable, and reliable systems. For this reason recruiters are immediately burdened with three very real truths:
- They do not understand what IT people do.
- They will not be able to find the candidates fast enough.
- They have no idea where to begin.
Recruiters are all guilty of waiting for a position to become vacant before they start sourcing. However, when it comes to IT staffing, this strategy will inevitably be the single point of failure.
Recruiters should have a sustainable pipeline for every position, or at least every functional area of the business. But the most pressing need for a pipeline to exists within your IT department. Unless you are a high-tech IT firm, the probability of your recruiter having a strong pipeline full of IT candidates is dismal, and now that you have an opening, the recruiter already feels defeated knowing that the probability of finding the right candidate in a reasonable period of time is also dismal.
Unfortunately, the process of building and maintaining a strong pipeline does not happen overnight. Yet, the sooner the recruiter gets started the better. The question from most recruiters will be, what do I do first? My answer is simple; go hunting.
Consider for a moment that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts by 2016 the overall size of the labor force will decrease significantly due to the retirement of our largest population, the Baby Boomers. Conversely, the computer sciences subgroup of the labor force is forecasted to grow by a rate of nearly 25% by 2016. This means that it is an excellent time to start building your organization’s IT pipeline!
There is more good news. You do not have to re-invent the wheel. The concept of a pipeline has been around for years and the objectives and executional elements to maintaining a strong pipeline have not changed either.
Nearly every Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) organization has a sales force and every sales force has a pipeline. Executive teams and their top level employees are familiar with how the sales force fills the top of the funnel, vets opportunities, cultivates relationships, and eventually seals the deal. We have all seen the graphics associated with the pipeline that look like an ordinary funnel, bigger at the top and much smaller at the bottom. The recruiting pipeline works precisely the same way.
Filling the Pipeline
Dare I say this is the easy part? With nearly 25% growth projected in the computer sciences fields –which include IT job roles like analysts, programmers, developers, architects and administrators–finding these job seekers should be a fairly straightforward task. However the burden of pouring candidates into the top of the funnel cannot rest solely on the recruiter. The organization must support efforts, including allocating resources, to allow the recruiter to network in the right circles and have the freedom to hunt for talent. If you want your recruiter to act like a hunter you have to equip them with the right tools.
- Encourage the recruiter to join IT associations and networking groups at both the national and local level. Often companies will pay for their recruiters to join HR or recruiting organizations, but that does not help build the pipeline. In order to fill the pipeline you have to hunt where the people with the desired skill sets will be gathering.
- Urge the recruiter to attend trade shows and IT conventions.
- Host IT lunch and learn sessions and invite IT professionals from your area. I once told a new boss that I wanted our company to host a session on some of the latest IT trends so that I could get contact information on all the attendees in an attempt to build my IT pipeline. He said, “So you are going to try to poach employed talent away from our competitors.” Having an aversion to the word poach I vehemently objected, “No, I just want to explore the talent in the market and if we can lure them away at the point that we need them, that is their decision.” He said, “There is a war on IT talent, go poach!” Call it what you want, getting 20-100 IT professionals in one room is a skillful way to fill the pipeline. This is a great way to get your current IT staff involved in learning and teaching about the latest and greatest. (We will talk more about how this will help retain current IT staffers later in the series).
- Tout the IT differentiators of the company in every communication with those in the pipeline. Make them salivate over your products, software, or processes. Peddle the fact that you have the newest version of an application. Flaunt your IT leadership and brandish how they can learn and grow.
- Develop strong relationships with tech schools in the area. Recruiters should think of the recruiting pipeline as their book of business. Just like any sales job, they should be making calls to places where large groups of these candidates exist.
- Hold the recruiter(s) accountable. Use pipeline metrics and contact quotas to make sure the recruiter does not lose focus. Your sales teams would never get away with filling the pipeline with contacts then neglecting them. You would be screaming about how the relationships with these contacts are critical to keeping those in the pipeline engaged and relevant. The same must happen with the recruiting pipeline. The HR and IT leaders should be reviewing the pipeline with the recruiter frequently.
- Consider a bonus structure for the recruiter based upon key performance indicators like applicant to hire ratios, time to fill and retention. Most good hunters end up with a meaty reward at the end of the hunt. Contemplate a bonus structure for your recruiters that will motivate and inspire them to be proactive.
Now that you have filled the pipeline what do you do? Your sales force will unanimously and enthusiastically say, cultivate relationships.
We have all seen the expense reports of our sales staff and we often ask ourselves, why do they get to drink wine and eat steak? Resoundingly the answer comes. Breaking bread with someone is one of the easiest ways to cultivate relationships. Do not fret ye gatekeepers of the budget, I am not suggesting that your recruiters take every candidate to a Michelin-star restaurant. I am merely endorsing the hypothesis that cultivating relationships is the next step to having a robust recruiting pipeline strategy.
In part two of this three part series, I will outline some budget friendly ways to cultivate relationships and increase candidates desire’s to join your organization. In the meantime, there is a funnel waiting to be filled.
A Professional of Human Resources (PHR) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Stacy Spradling is a credible source for Business Operations and H/R information. She has spent the last 15 plus years studying human behavior, researching generational diversity, working as a respected human resource leader, employee relations consultant, and call center talent acquisition expert. She is an authority on employee engagement, coaching, development and employee retention. Her career also includes extensive experience in system integration, acquisitions, call center management, leadership, compensation, benefits and compliance. Be sure to review her blogs at www.stacyspradlingconsulting.com. They are packed full of tips, tricks and information on engaging employees and having fun in the workplace.