These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Resourcing Think Tank (RTT) held on Thursday 23rd October 2014 hosted by Transport for London’s, Charlotte Johns (Head of Recruitment Operations) titled ‘Transforming your Internal Resourcing Function into a Consultative Business Partner’
The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior Resourcing and HR professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.
In this day and age many businesses are expecting increasingly more value to be added to the company from Resourcing, above and beyond filling job roles. Resourcing functions are now expected to provide the business with market insight as well as consult on when talent is needed, who this talent should be and how to get this talent. But with limited time and budget is it possible for Resourcing to become more of a ‘consultative business partner’ without sacrificing the quality of work on filling roles?
Why is the shift to a consultative business function needed?
Supporting / consulting on business objectives
In many businesses, current strategic decisions and future plans are made by directors and senior managers and these are then communicated down to the rest of the business. This includes Resourcing, who are often told ‘we need this many people, by this date’. However, in this new model it is suggested that Resourcing should be present at these strategic, decision making meetings. The Resourcing team should know the market and company inside out and should therefore be able to advise on if changes are possible or will be successful. In order to do this and be seen as credible advisors, recruiters need knowledge in two areas:
- Understand exactly what talent exists in the market right now and how long it will take / if it is possible to hire them
- Are the suggested hires right for the planned areas of the business or would hiring different level roles be more suitable?
To be seen as a consultative business partners it is also crucial to make proactive suggestions rather than just consult on and come up with reactive solutions. Advising from the start of the decision making process would mean that business expectations are more in line with what is actually possible; due to aspects such as talent levels. Being there when first decisions are made is also likely to lead to an improved level of quality of hire due to having the ability to plan.
Giving Resourcing more input in strategic decisions will also help the business adapt to changing environments. At the moment the market is very candidate driven with less people staying in a ‘job for life’. This means businesses are having to utilise marketing knowledge to create an attractive employer brand. Resourcing need to be allowed the responsibility, time and budget to be able to work on projects such as this rather than solely focus on filling roles.
How to implement?
One of the key questions facing organisations is should Resourcing purely focus on filling all roles or should the function focus on the training of and giving advice to line managers who will ultimately make the majority of hires. Or should resourcing be expected do both? The suggestions below, on how to implement a consultative business partner model, may be more relevant depending on the role the business wants Resourcing to play within the company.
- Sitting within the wider business
If the decision is that Resourcing should make the majority of hires, it is essential they fully understand each section of the business and combine this knowledge with hiring plans. The best strategy for this may be for members of the team to sit in each department of the business to truly understand their structure, agenda and hiring needs. Moving these resourcing partners to sit in wider aspects of the business leads to questions about what function Resourcing should sit in. Should it be within HR? What is essential to remember is that no matter what area these consultative business partners sit under, communication between other areas still need to be constant and clear, and especially involving the operational recruitment function.
- Presence in decision making meetings
The resourcing business partner model should encourage a two way relationship between Resourcing and strategic decision makers. This can only be done if these team members are invited to decision making meetings and allowed to contribute and feedback. It is crucial that these business partners are not afraid to challenge the business and can do so based on a good level of knowledge and awareness. Knowing things such as the cost of having a role empty and the cost of having line managers use their time on hiring are essential to taking on a more consultative role.
To be a credible consultative business partner, Resourcing should be seen as a ‘go to’ for line managers who are making hires but would like training and solutions to problems they fear they may face. Workshops and meetings can be put in place to help hiring managers with things such as interview skills and on-boarding.
Other initiatives could be organised by Resourcing to encourage line managers to venture into their industries in order to network and find good talent. Open days can be organised to get line managers to speak about business areas. These can either be positioned as recruiting events with ‘meet the team’ scenarios or as industry networking but ultimately lead to managers meeting talent in the industry and attracting them to the business.
- Differing roles in Resourcing teams
For the consultative business partner model to work Resourcing functions may need a new structure. This would involve higher level resourcers who spend less time recruiting and more time in the wider business. These people need to be able to understand and contribute to strategic planning. There may also be a need for junior resourcers who are primarily transactional recruiters; ‘filling jobs’ and feeding back to candidates. The higher level roles could focus on sourcing executives via a consultative approach that may not be needed for lower level roles. Or alternatively these lower level roles could be outsourced.
- Justifying added cost
To transform into a consultative business partner model budget is needed to cover the costs of certain resourcing staff spending less time recruiting and more time in other aspects of the business. The value of this needs to be clearly communicated to the heads of the organisation to gain budget. This is where the higher level resourcers are needed to communicate to the top of the organisation and create a good case for why it is needed. These top level resourcers could be externally sourced or current employees may already have these skills. Other ways to gain budget for the consultative model is to add the cost to current cost per hire or take the cost from the budget of the department the Resourcing team are helping.
Depending on the organisation this consultative model may get full backing and full budget straight away. For other organisations it may be a case of proving the value that can be added bit by bit, in certain areas of the organisation, to get backing and budget for this type of model.
- The Resourcing brand – educating and engaging stakeholders
In previous Think Tanks it has been discussed how Marketing can be utilised to work with Resourcing to create an employer brand which attracts and retains top talent. This is done by developing a communication strategy and then making sure the right people are reached with it. In the consultative business partner model Resourcing should spend more time working alongside marketing to achieve this.
Clear and effective communication is also needed when gaining business and leadership buy in for developing a Resourcing function into a consultative business partner. The wider business needs to see Resourcing for the consultative partner they are and see the value they can add. It is a complex process, which involves an internal perception shift, fostering new business relationships and a clear strategic focus. This can be done through internal communications but also by ensuring Resourcing are trained to understand who they are working with. They need to be able to communicate the benefits that Resourcing are adding in a way that whoever they are speaking to will understand. Do senior managers react better to being told about how to avoid pain or create gain?
How to build the Resourcing brand
- Think of Resourcing as a separate business unit with its own identity, mission and values
- Understand the audience and mirror them to communicate the value proposition best
- Use extended marketing mix: people, process and physical evidence approach to help position you
- People: skilled, trained, credible business people, provide thought leadership
- Process: have simple easy to follow processes and structures in place (hard to do in complex organisations)
- Physical evidence: Provide training, produce relevant regular ‘comms’ for the business on what Resourcing are delivering beyond filling roles
- Network internally and externally
- Develop resourcing “ambassadors”/”champions”/”advocates” internal representatives you invest time with who understand the value Resourcing adds and disseminate this message
How to measure success
Benchmarking can be used to compare year-on-year performance against industry peers and competitors to see how effective the companies’ resourcing is. This is key in having that added knowledge that is needed. Currently many businesses focus on the cost per hire and time to hire. These are important measurements but data should also include more long term factors to determine success, such as quality of the talent; assessed by analysing role longevity and how quickly the employee progressed through the ranks. It is often seen as extremely hard to measure quality but all of these metrics could be used alongside appraisal ratings.
When consulting with line managers on hiring, one way that was suggested to measure the success of a hire was to make both the line manager and new recruit take part in expectation interviews when the role first starts. This helps Resourcing advise line managers on how the hire is going in six months time compared to how the manager had expected it to; providing the added value and knowledge that is needed from a consultative business partner.
Another form of measurement could be engagement levels of consultative resourcers – eg. how many meetings attended or how many times did they go into different areas of the business.
Overall if a consultative business partner model can be implemented correctly and supported throughout the company it should benefit the business in developing more educated and realistic strategies, as well as improving the effectiveness of Resourcing and strengthening the business’s competitive edge. However, the role that Resourcing is expected to play within the organisation needs to be clearly defined and budget needs to be adjusted accordingly to make this model possible.