LEAH DANIELS
LEAH DANIELS, SVP, STRATEGY

Agile Recruiting in the Face of Uncertainty

June 1, 2020 at 03:29 PM — Post

I recently spent some time thinking about how recruiting organizations are undergoing a vast change in compressed time frames as we deal with: unemployment few of us have experienced, and a pandemic that has forced us to reconsider all parts of human capital management, and for those companies still hiring, a whole new world in talent attraction.

As we watch and live through these rapidly unfolding events, the most striking thing is the pace at which things are changing. In fact, things are changing at such a rate that typical data models that we use to make assumptions and decisions are failing us.

If ever there was a time to adopt an agile method for your recruiting organization, today is the day.

At our May 19th webinar, I proposed that recruiting organizations pick up the torch and shift their internal models to an agile methodology that allows for responsive and reactive recruiting techniques. As Winston Churchill famously said, “never let a good crisis go to waste”.  

What Is Agile Recruiting?

We proposed the following definition: Agile recruiting is responsive recruiting that uses data and technology for strategic planning and decision making.

Agile recruiting allows for quick execution, but success depends on deliberate input.

In order to achieve desired outcomes, it is important to:

1)   Plan for flexible contingencies

2)   Use data for direction

3)   Use technology for automation

4)   Use data + technology for real-time decision-making

In order to adopt an agile recruiting methodology, recruiting teams must change the role of recruiting from an execution-based organization to a strategic partner who flawlessly executes.  

Historically, recruiting teams have excelled at execution:  X number of hire, Y time to fill, etc.  If you need a barometer for your recruiting business within the corporation, look no further than the definition of success for the team. You know that recruiting is a tactical partner because every metric of success has nothing to do with corporate revenue or EBITA. To be agile, you must be strategic, you must be able to see the larger picture and create adaptive recruiting plans that account for the major possibilities.  

To do this, you have to have a seat at the table.  Never has an opportunity to argue for your seat been presented in a way with the need so clearly behind it.  

So what does this mean strategically and tactically? Let’s address each of these tactics:

  1. Plan for flexible contingencies

While easier with a seat at the table, regardless, you need to have a plan for a number of different scenarios that could occur in the next few months. Depending on your current business needs (hiring freeze, growing, laying off), those needs might change on a dime as states open, as companies get back to business, and you will likely need to consider quite a few ways things could play out.

For many companies, there are some assumptions that executives will be inclined to make which will be rooted in assumptions and are not based on data. For example”

  • Furloughed and laid-off employees will readily return
  • High unemployment means easy hiring across the board
  • Recruiting costs should go down to zero (or close)

As of now, companies are finding that many unemployed people are not incentivized to go back to work, as they are making more on unemployment, have kids at home now, or have safety concerns.

Additionally, due to the unique nature of the current unemployment situation, most people who are unemployed are young, less-skilled, and low-wage workers. This means if the roles you are hiring for are professional or experienced, the unemployment market for that group is much lower than the national average, which means you still have to “recruit” for them. And those costs aren’t going down, they are going up. Those candidates that are currently employed are not raising their hands looking for a new job, the old adage “last-in, first-out” is ringing in many of their ears – better to stay put where you are a known quality than making the jump where you are less knowledgeable, unknown, and less necessary.

Altogether, the data shows us that costs to hire are currently rising, not going down. Without a seat at the table, the directive to execute on these false assumptions would be devastating to a recruiting team.

  1. Use data for direction

With all of these changes happening around us, and the propensity for people, in general, to make educated assumptions (which may very well be wrong), access to data is essential for any team adapting to these change times.  

It’s important to make sure that you are looking at data in a rolling one, two, or at worst four-week manner. Many recruiting teams would argue that they are data-driven because of a process that has been implemented that pulls KPI’s and other relevant data annually or perhaps quarterly. In 10 weeks, the world shifted so dramatically that any data you relied on in February is irrelevant. To be data-driven, timeliness is key. And, now is the time to move to a data-centric model.  

  1. Use technology for automation

Automation should be your end goal. Start by connecting with your vendors, your ATS first, around automated weekly reports, or find out if they provide analytics or analytic dashboards that allow you to get data in smaller segments. Averages lie has never been more true as it is now. Year to date is worthless. In the month of May, the data is far different than from April –  things are changing that rapidly. Seek support from your vendor community for changes to your data consumption to adequately provide you with the trends in a near real-time manner.

If it hasn’t already happened, you are going to be asked to do more with less (again!).  Recruiting is still viewed as a cost center, and a shift away from that mentality is unlikely in the near future (not that you shouldn’t keep trying, and a seat at the table is going to help with that).  Use this time to delve into automation of repetitive tasks, scheduling, and data consumption and modeling.  

  1. Use data + technology for real-time decision making

Note that I didn’t suggest AI. AI inherently has a price tag on it, and while its really cool, I’m of the position that survival is step one right now, and doing more with less can be accomplished easily through automation without artificial intelligence – but that doesn’t mean dumb automation either – you want to consider IA – intelligent automation.

What is intelligent automation? It’s the use of data, automation, and rules (algorithms) to assess available information and make decisions at a rate faster, and more accurately, than a human can.

For example, in the recruiting market, unemployment has skyrocketed, and depending on the industry candidates’ costs are up, down or unchanged. But looking at your own data you may not have enough information available to accurately understand the current market conditions.  Real-time access to market data would be essential to kick-starting your acquisition efforts again (especially if you have been on a hiring freeze for the last 10 weeks or so).

How do you get your arms around this? Get help from your partners. Programmatic platforms have the market data, and your own business data to drive candidate decisions for you, especially if you integrate with your  ATS to focus on quality.  

Now is the time to take stock of features your ATS offers that you aren’t leveraging –  many of which can help automate tasks. Some now have data-centric automation that can help you make decisions on focus, long-term quality, etc.

The times ahead are uncertain, that’s about the only certainty there is. Let’s use this moment to help shore up our walls, adopt better internal practices, and find efficiencies to build recruiting into the strategic business partner it has always needed to be.