Recruitment strategy: A call to action

As an HR director, you and your colleagues have a well-defined organisational recruitment strategy in place, which serves to set the tone, the volume and the specifics for new hires. Right?

If you nodded a 'yes' to that question, congratulations - you're ahead of the game. But if you're shifting uneasily in your seat because you don't have a comprehensive recruitment strategy in place, don't worry too much - you're not alone.

While many organisations are forward-thinking enough to seek out the very latest in social media to help their recruitment processes, only a very small minority have ever referred to a specific social media strategy or indeed, to a wider talent acquisition strategy. Simply put, it's the norm.

Recruitment objectives versus recruitment strategy

Most organisations, in our experience, tend to wield a few selected recruitment objectives. They know they want to reduce spend, reduce time to hire, access new recruitment technologies and so on, and these goals may even be mentioned within the overall HR or business strategy.

But there is more often than not a total absence of an over-arching recruitment strategy, which is mystifying. Is it down to pure laziness, or ambiguity over who should be responsible for a recruitment strategy? Is it a simple lack of knowledge as to what a recruitment strategy should look and feel like? For some reason, traditional HR has neglected talent acquisition as a strategic function in its own right, which has to be a critical factor whichever way we look at it.

Without a specific recruitment strategy in place, there can be no real direction for driving sourcing activities, managing processes, or for delivering a world-class recruitment experience. This will often lead to significant and costly inefficiencies and, ultimately, a largely reactive recruitment function, fire-fighting vacancies as they arise ("We need Person A for Role A"). Lou Adler, best-selling author of Hire With Your Head, said: "HR and recruitment departments are stuck in a time warp, circa 1975," and he attributes this largely to a lack of strategy.

Effective recruitment strategy: a brief check list

In short, an effective recruitment strategy should provide a comprehensive blueprint for not only who your organisation should recruit, but also for when, where and how that recruitment should take place. It should of course be aligned very closely to your organisation's overall business strategy, taking into account any planned changes of direction.

Since the recruitment strategy dictates how every element of recruitment is delivered, it's also imperative that organisations communicate it to colleagues. If you design the strategy well, it becomes the cohesive back-bone that coordinates day-to-day activities towards a common goal, as all stakeholders are following a well thought-through plan that's been properly signed off.

So let's get down to brass tacks here. What are the characteristics of an effective recruitment strategy?

Organisational factors, including the design & location of your recruitment team, their exact responsibilities, and the recruitment processes themselves. Rather than being simply reactive, a significant amount of your recruitment should be part of a much wider plan for business growth, new strategic skills or movement into a new sector or area.

You should be able to take a defined, consistent employer brand to the marketplace. Rather than selling merely vacancies, you should be promoting opportunities. Have these messages been defined and communicated to all relevant stakeholders, or is your organisation relying on third-party agencies to communicate your employer brand to its best effect?

Sourcing strategies: various candidate-sourcing channels will have different pros and cons according to your organisation's multiple talent requirements, and your recruitment strategy needs to take full account of this. Where do you have talent 'blind-spots'? Have you got strategic attraction activities in place to meet this demand?

Once the talent is sourced, you need to select the right candidates for your business, as opposed to merely the appropriate ones. Your assessment and selection framework needs to properly support your organisation's talent requirements, and if that isn't happening, this needs re-examining in line with your strategic objectives

Post-offer, there's plenty more to include in your recruitment strategy. Is new talent being safeguarded properly in terms of on-boarding? And are candidates then inducted into the business appropriately and effectively? Do you have effective engagement and retention strategies in place? These will help reduce demand on the recruitment team and allow for a much more pro-active approach to recruitment. And finally, an exit strategy also needs to figure in your recruitment strategy - when people leave, do you get to know why? What is your process for tracking lost talent with a view to potential re-engagement?

On track for the future

With a firm strategy driving all your recruitment processes, you can be pro-active, working to an informed plan, developing platforms to engage talent ahead of requirements, maximising employer brand messages and bringing HR and recruitment much closer to the strategic core of your business. And you'll be part of that small percentage of organisations with a properly defined recruitment strategy, giving you a real competitive edge.

"The future is now," as they say. The world's most forward-thinking recruitment teams are looking at the next generation of online recruitment. In the UK, many organisations are still lacking the cornerstone of a basic recruitment strategy. Now's the time to put one in place and sharpen up your processes to then meet the challenge - and the excitement - of Recruitment 3.0.

Stuart Jones, senior consultant and head of training at resource management services firm, Omni