These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Resourcing Think Tank (RTT) held on Tuesday 21st May 2013 hosted by Cancer Research UK’s Katie Sparrowhawk (Resourcing Delivery Manager), titled ‘Resource Planning: Recruiting for Future Capabilities’.
The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior Resourcing and HR professionals from leading UK and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.
Recruiting for future capabilities provides the resourcing team a real opportunity to strategically partner with the business, but many organisations seem to be at different stages of the life-cycle when it comes to resource planning. The biggest challenges seem to be knowing where and how to begin, coaching managers to be more transparent and forward thinking about their hiring plans, balancing ad-hoc recruitment-as-usual hires with meeting strategic recruitment needs, and finally measuring the benefits of resource planning.
Finding a Place to Begin
Getting started with Resource Planning is daunting. But it’s worth remembering that a small amount of informed planning is better than none; if after one year 50% of your assumptions become reality then you’re 50% better off and more prepared than 12 months prior. Start thinking more along the lines of glass half full. Resource Planning is more of a hike, which you will likely improve with every new cycle.
The aim of the game is recruiting ahead of the curve, but getting managers to identify that curve and understand what future capabilities they will need is challenging. Most departments will go through some sort of forecasting process, so getting involved in these business conversations early and probing further is essential. It’s about trying to look for individual business unit’s ‘demand signals’ and spotting them early to open up a conversation around what they might need… all the while drilling deep and ensuring the business is articulating skill-sets in detail. Saying there’s going to be a focus on ‘digital’ isn’t enough; is that social media consultant, digital analysts, online marketing execs, content analysts etc?
HR and Resourcing should be in a position whereby access to ‘people data’ isn’t difficult. If you aren’t already, it’s time to start making use of this data to inform the inception of your Resource Plan. Break the statistics down by department and look for trends in retirement age, seasons, repeat / regular hiring patterns, churn, growth etc. Then present this information back to your business units and begin to self populate department based on the gaps which are likely going to arrive over the next 12 months or so.
Resourcing will always have to be reactive to change; it’s the name of the game. But putting processes in place to help make predictions and balance work loads will probably make a difference to your internal recruiters’ blood pressure! Start small in the first instance and tackle the battles you think you can win; where can you save the business money and demonstrate real ROI?
Building your Resource Plan
Strategic planning is separate to recruitment-as-usual hiring, however both can be factored into an overriding Resource Plan and anticipated to a certain degree. There will always be some surprises, but that’s the joy of working with people! When engaging with your individual business units to forecast their future hiring needs, looking along way down the line can be too daunting and the process often loses momentum. In the first instance, try breaking it down into 3, 6, 9 or 12 month phases to start building the picture. Speak to business leaders about performance management, succession planning, growth rates and staff turnover to get an understanding of their anticipated demand.
Every business is different when it comes to calculating and planning for future hiring volumes. Some organisations’ volumes are dictated by Finance and revenue figures. Revenue targets are driven quarter by quarter, and depending on the financial performance of certain areas of the business, head-count volumes will subsequently be affected. This method of working provides Resourcing teams with three months notice to prepare for departmental hiring increases. For other businesses that grow from successfully winning new contracts / business, headcount volumes are often calculated on ‘anticipated new business’. It’s important for Resourcing to work closely with Business Development teams to get good visibility of any deals that are likely to come to fruition; enabling the necessary preparatory steps to be taken
When looking at Resource Planning it is crucial to categorise what you are trying to do and for what purpose. There are arguably five categories to consider:
- Predictable Hires – these hires might reflect seasonal demand such as a retail outlet increasing hiring by x% to support the Christmas sales period
- What if Scenarios – potential hiring increases based on new contracts won and other ‘what if’ factors
- Usual Hires – roles which are frequently recruited for but there is no or little predictability as to when they will be needed
- Succession Planning – hiring for critical roles but also assessing the candidates on their ability to complete the task and their potential to perform at the next level
- Future Capabilities or SWP – what are the skills and capabilities (not specific roles) that will be needed in the next 3-5 years time and will we develop or buy them?
Who owns Resource Planning?
So where does Resource Planning sit within in a business and who ultimately owns it? It seems to vary hugely within most organisations but tends to work effectively when there are individuals responsible (such as HRBPs) for forecasting each business unit and feeding that information back to Resourcing to develop the plan. The only challenge is making sure that the HRBP anticipates any forthcoming pressures from a recruitment perspective and effectively communicates this back to Resourcing.
Another particular challenge when taking ownership of the recruitment processes is preventing hiring managers from deviating from the Internal Sourcing methodology or PSL. Executive Search Agencies often have incredibly strong alliances with senior hiring mangers and can influence them against utilising the expertise of the in-house Resourcing team. If this is the case within your business, measures should be taken to rebuild this trust and demonstrate the true value of the Resourcing Team (either that, or contact IT to have these offending agency’s email addresses and telephone numbers blocked!).
Effective Talent Pipelining
If managed well, talent pipelining is a great way of preparing for specific recruitment needs and reducing time to hire windows. But, what’s the point of building talent pools if you don’t know what you are pipelining for? Your talent pooling activity should be aligned with your Resource Plan and be very targeted in its approach. Think in terms of priority, volume rates, the roles that take the most time to fill, the skills that add most value to your organisation and the empty vacancies that keep your Leadership team awake at night.
An incredibly popular analogy for developing an effective talent pipelining solution involves the creation of talent lakes, ponds and puddles. As you’d expect, lakes are your broadest talent pools ending with puddles; essentially more of a shortlist of assessed candidates.
Stage 1: Lake – starting broad, identify everyone with the general skills required for a particular job type. These people will not be informed that they are in your ‘lake’ but might receive very basic communication familiarising them with your brand.
Stage 2: Pond – these are more specific groups (seniority, experience and skills) which sit around the lake(s). These candidates will receive a little more engagement but will only be told of their talent pool status should they be progressed to the Puddle.
Stage 3: Puddle – these are small groups of talent who are being spoken to and engaged with about a hypothetical opportunity within your organisation – there is no promise of a job. They will be assessed at this stage all the while with the expectation that there is no start date. If candidates are unsuccessful they are removed from the puddle and go back into the lake.
So, how do you start populating your talent ‘lakes’ aside from relying on LinkedIn? For businesses that don’t have an extensive ATS or CRM full of candidates, a great way of collating talent is utilising the CV databases on the job boards you already pay for. In most cases you’re able to export these candidates from the sites, however make sure you have the technology to support the management of their details. Another way of building these ‘lakes’ is by enlisting the services of a market mapping business to compile name lists of individuals with the specific skills you require – this data can often provide a solid foundation for several years.
The Pros and Cons of Talent Pipelining
It goes without saying that in order for talent pipelining to be effective, it has to be meaningful. And when it is, it can go along way to relieve pressure on internal recruiters, help build good market intel, enhance the business’s confidence in the recruitment function, as well as significantly reducing time to hire windows (as much 50% in some cases). In order to reap these benefits, it’s advisable to have a dedicated team of ‘Talent Poolers’ to ensure that the integrity of the pools are upheld and business as usual hiring doesn’t take priority.
So, what’s the downside? To be honest it’s mostly positive but it’s definitely worth being aware of the risks of disengaging prospective candidates. During your talent pooling activities, ensure you clearly set expectations and don’t over promise and under deliver; you will end up driving talent into the arms of competitors. And finally, be aware of the legalities around holding candidate data when operating in different countries. For example in the UK you wouldn’t need to tell someone you were holding their data, whereas in the USA you would.
Headhunting Internally – Can it be done?
The thought of headhunting internally undoubtedly rings alarm bells for many businesses. Understandably, recruitment does not want to be seen as poachers ‘stealing’ talent from well performing teams and managers. However, if it’s made easier for employees to self-select then it cannot be seen as ‘poaching’. Perhaps it’s worth creating internal talent pools (similar to the lake, pond and puddle analogy) whereby employees are given the opportunity to throw their hate in the ring if they possess certain skills. But when should employees be expected to tell managers of their involvement in a potential internal move? It’s arguably best to make managers aware if the employee has been selected for an interview or if they have been put in a talent pool. Moreover, within many organisations employees are often only eligible for internal moves if they sit within the top right-hand corner of the 9-box grid. Where possible, performance appraisals should be more transparent so individuals have a better understanding of their chances of making an internal move. Perhaps these individuals should also be notified of new internal opportunities prior to the role going live to give them a head start with the application process.
What’s prevalent is the need for Talent Acquisition / Resourcing to be considered both an internal and external facing resource. However, it’s crucial to maintain a balance between positively contributing to internal mobility whilst not being considered a personal tool to move certain employees around the business.
- Clearly define the key areas of responsibility for Resource Planning – where does it sit, who is accountable and how will it be measured?
- Be clear about what you can feasibly deliver given your level of resource – never over promise and under deliver
- Break down talent pipelining into subgroups to make ‘pools’ more meaningful and useable when recruiting (lake, pond and puddle analogy)
- When implementing Resource Planning, start small and on a shorter term basis to avoid overwhelming the participating business units / departments
- Find out if, where and when your business units are holding forecasting conversations and make sure you are involved in them in the early stages
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew – pick your battles and be specific around what you are trying to achieve, why you are doing it and when it will be done by
- Build quality relationships with the wider business so recruitment is more included in the planning and forecasting process
- Take advantage of HR data – analyse the statistics to help inform your forecasting predictions
- Having the bones of a Resource Plan is better than not having one at all. The process generally takes a few cycles and years of data to get right – you have to start somewhere and at least you’ve started!
- Everyone requires a slightly different solution – the information is there to enable it to work, but it’s up to resourcing to pull together the pieces
- You will never get it 100% right – after all it’s forecasting. You will however be in a far better place to cope with what’s round the corner.