Overwhelmed with Work, Technology and Candidates? Four-steps to Make it Better.

Recruiters are by and large some of the hardest working people I know. They toil away at finding candidates, scheduling interviews, meeting with hiring managers, inputting data into the applicant tracking system, posting jobs on job boards and corporate web sites, and assessing candidates for fit.

They never seem to have time to do the stuff people like myself suggest they do. Experts suggest they focus on using social media better, developing better metrics, leveraging technology, and being more ethical. Yet, who has the time?

This is the classic struggle between doing the day-to-day tactical work and thinking longer term and strategically. Most of us struggle with the proper balance and err in favor of the tactical. Why? Because we are rewarded for short-term success and feel the pressure from candidates and hiring managers to move faster.

Strategic things take time and the reward is much further away. Rarely are compensation schemes based on the longer term – except perhaps for senior executives —  and we ask ourselves if we’ll even be at the same company when the fruit of any strategic effort start to ripen.

Is there any way to break this cycle? I would suggest that tactics are always just the methods we use to carry out a strategy. Whether or not the strategy is explicit – written down and communicated widely – it is exemplified and carried out by the tactics you are applying to your work.

Most recruiters are, therefore, following an implicit strategy that says filling requisitions and responding to the organization’s hierarchy without question is the right thing to do. This worked reasonably well when we had a plentiful talent supply. But with a smaller supply, both the strategy and tactics will have to change.

Here are 4 ways to change how you work:

Tip#1  – Plan and learn one day a month

By setting aside one day each month as a planning and ‘trying out new things’ day you can make solid progress in changing how you work. Use the time to bring in an outside expert, to expose yourself to new technology or attend a conference such as the ATC. Each month that day can be used to further build skills, explore new ideas, benchmark another company, or just think. One day is not a lot, but  used wisely can make a major difference in your career.

Tip#2  – Set the stage with your boss and stakeholders

Acting without support and understanding from those you work with will usually result in failure.  Find opportunities to discuss your ideas with your boss and with hiring managers. Stress the benefits and advantages this will bring to them.  You will have to lay out a business-oriented case for making changes.It is critical to identify and explain what benefits they will get from supporting your efforts, and also talk them through some of the consequences that might result from implementing these changes.

Tip#3 – Move Slowly, but Steadily

The next step is to actually begin doing things differently, even on a small scale. Find an ally on your team and introduce a change or two. Some argue that big, quickly introduced changes are the best way to make things happen. If you are in a culture that is supportive of that approach, go for it.  However, in my experience it is often more practical and more acceptable to move in incremental ways. By introducing small changes over time you can get more lasting and better-accepted results than by making big changes and moving quickly.

Tip#4 – Reward those who move forward often

And, rather than punish those who do not support your changes efforts, reward those who do.  The rewards don’t have to be bonuses or salary increases, although those are fine.  You can also offer time off, a dinner, or some other small tangible reward.  Or, you can simply make sure they get recognized publicly and often for their contribution.  We are all eager to be liked and recognized for what we do.

The organizations that lead are those that have employees who do these things on a regular basis. They are always experimenting, trying small changes, and tweaking what they do. Incremental change is something you can do no matter what resources you have. All you need is the commitment to do things differently.

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